Veteran journalism experts and two former NBC News presidents are urging CNBC to remove senior contributor Larry Kudlow from the channel as he lays the groundwork for a potential campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Kudlow has said he is "moving toward" a Senate run in Connecticut with no apparent action from the network.
Among Kudlow's steps are interviewing potential campaign staff, creating strategy, and promoting "a test-the-water committee, which would become the campaign." At the same time, CNBC has allowed Kudlow to use its platform to attack potential Democratic opponent Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
In 2010, when Kudlow was also rumored to be weighing a run for office, CNBC said it would "change" Kudlow's status with the network if he started "seriously considering" running.
Asked about Kudlow's latest apparent political aspirations, a CNBC spokesperson told Media Matters on Monday, "Larry Kudlow is not a CNBC employee and no longer anchors a show and hasn't since March 28, 2014. He is now a senior contributor."
CNBC offered the same response to the Washington Examiner when the paper asked about Kudlow in September. The Examiner noted at the time, "Kudlow is, however, under contract with CNBC. The spokesperson would not comment on the terms of that arrangement, Kudlow's compensation, or when exactly CNBC would make a decision on its relationship with him as he considers a run for public office."
In a press release announcing its October 2015 Republican debate coverage, CNBC called Kudlow one of its "top" contributors and touted his involvement in the network's "special programming" surrounding the debate. He has recently been covering the Republican primary for the network from Iowa and New Hampshire.
In comments to Media Matters, news veterans criticized Kudlow and the network.
"If I were still there I would not allow it," said William Small, who served as NBC News president from 1979-1982. "It's a misuse of a news division, a news division is not supposed to take sides. There are a lot of people, especially at Fox, who do, but it never happened on my shift. That's a conflict of interest. I'm surprised that CNBC would allow that."
Richard Wald, a former NBC News president from 1972-1977, said CNBC should make Kudlow clarify what he is doing and act accordingly by taking him off the air if he is running.
"The first step is for the management of the network to sit down with Mr. Kudlow and find out his intentions and his timing. They should not skirt the ethical positions by deliberately not knowing," Wald said via email. "He can't use the network for political advantage if he is going into electoral politics. If the network finds that he is about to join the contest, or will do so on a date certain, then they should be prepared -- as you say they have stated before -- to take him off the air until the election is over."
Several former network news reporters agreed.
"Anchors/reporters/'contributors' should not -- and should not be allowed -- to use a network to advance their political ambitions," Marvin Kalb, a 30-year Washington reporter and former host of Meet the Press, said via email. "This is done regularly on Fox, and it should not now spread to CNBC. If anyone, Kudlow included, wants to prepare a campaign for political office, it should not be from his or her perch atop a network."
Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington correspondent and current director of the School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University, said Kudlow's actions are a "very bright red flag" for CNBC management.
"The network cannot, should not, doesn't want to be used as a crass launching pad for someone's political future," Sesno said. "If he hasn't had meetings with network executives, if he hasn't he's overdue. If he hasn't crossed the line, he's very, very close to it. This is not hard, if you are the head of the network you call the guy in and ask if he is running, if he says 'yes,' he is off the air. If he says 'no,' he goes back to work."
Kelly McBride, ethics instructor the Poynter Institute, echoed that view.
"CNBC should step in here and tell Larry he can't use his on-air platform as an exploratory committee because that's not in the best interests of the network and its audience," she said. "They should force him to make his decision and get on with it, now that he's already mentioned it. At the very least, he shouldn't talk about it on air again."
Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, said CNBC's problem is that anything Kudlow says, especially related to financial interests that might be funding his campaign down the road, is tainted.
"It is a straight-up conflict of interest," Wasserman said. "The reality is that he cannot help but filter and decide what he is going to put on the air in light of how it's going to serve that ambition. And once he's done that, he is a classic conflict of interest, his judgment is impaired by a classic outside entanglement."
Fox News host Megyn Kelly invited Republican pollster Frank Luntz on her show to attack a negative ad targeting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) without disclosing his financial ties to the presidential candidate.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly brought Luntz on the February 2 edition of The Kelly File to discuss Rubio's third place finish in the Iowa caucus. Luntz offered glowing praise for the candidate, arguing that "Rubio is in perfect position" to do well in upcoming primaries. When asked about a negative ad targeting Rubio created by a pro-Jeb Bush Super PAC, Luntz called it "crap," saying that "all of these ads have failed" and "that money has been wasted":
FRANK LUNTZ: Jeb Bush will spend when this is all over one hundred million dollars. Unprecedented for a Super PAC. And that money has been wasted. If I was a donor, if I was one of these people who contributed half a million, I would demand my money back with interest. ;All of these ads have failed. They've got another one with Marco's boots and it's done to Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking." It's crap. I don't know any other way. It's not persuasive. It doesn't turn voters. I cleaned up my language for you. I do not want to get thrown off the air. But when I play these ads to these focus groups they use the actual word to describe their reaction. It's a waste of money and it actually helps Rubio and it hurts Bush at the same time.
MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Oh really? So it has the reverse effect of that intended?
LUNTZ: Because it makes people angry. They're angry at the person who hosts the ads. You heard the end of that. It says Jeb Bush is a leader. What people hear is Jeb Bush is running a negative ad against his friend, Marco Rubio, and they hate it.
The Wall Street Journal reported in January 2012 that Luntz was hired by Rubio to assist in writing his "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future," which Luntz and host Megyn Kelly failed to disclose.
Fox News and Megyn Kelly have failed to divulge Luntz's ties with Rubio while inviting him to provide political commentary on several other occasions. During a January 28 appearance on The Kelly File, Luntz lauded Rubio's performance in a GOP debate without any financial disclosure, touting "how well he did on immigration." Similarly, during a January 7 appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto, Luntz praised Rubio without disclosure, calling him "the most optimistic, the most focused on the American dream of any of the candidates" and "what the public needs right now."
From the January 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox's Chris Stirewalt deflected concerns raised in a New York Times report that GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) allegedly received two loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank during his 2012 Senate campaign that were not disclosed properly.
On January 13 The New York Times reported that Cruz "put 'personal funds' totaling $960,000 into his Senate campaign. Two months later, shortly before a scheduled runoff election, he added more, bringing the total to $1.2 million." However, The Times reported that the Cruzes' took out "two bank loans, each valued at $250,000 to $500,000" from Goldman Sachs and Citibank during the first half of 2012 and that "[n]either loan appears in the reports the Ted Cruz for Senate Committee filed with the Federal Election Commission."
On the January 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News' digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt tried to downplay the lack of disclosure on Cruz's 2012 FEC form by saying that the loans were "essentially a loan from the Cruzes to themselves" and that Cruz had reported the loan on other documents:
CHRIS STIREWALT: Ted Cruz is right, this is stuff he did disclose. If he didn't disclose it on the FEC, he disclosed it on the ethics forms. But most importantly here, this was essentially a loan from the Cruzes to themselves. They borrowed against their investments so that they could take that, dump the money into the Senate campaign, and then pay it back later. So this was not money from somebody else. This was not favorable treatment from somebody else. This is in a way, like somebody borrowing against their 401k so they can take out a mortgage loan.
While The New York Times report does admit that "there would have been nothing improper about Mr. Cruz obtaining bank loans for his campaign, as long as they were disclosed," he could be violating campaign finance laws by failing to disclose the sources of the loans -- Goldman Sachs and Citibank -- on the FEC form. Importantly, "other campaigns have been investigated and fined for failing to make such disclosures." Even though Cruz disclosed these loans on other forms -- which Stirewalt points to in defense of Cruz -- as campaign finance law expert and former election commission lawyer Ken Gross explained in The New York Times report, that would not be enough to satisfy the FEC requirement:
Kenneth A. Gross, a former election commission lawyer who specializes in campaign finance law, said that listing a bank loan in an annual Senate ethics report -- which deals only with personal finances -- would not satisfy the requirement that it be promptly disclosed to election officials during a campaign.
"They're two different reporting regimes," he said. "The law says if you get a loan for the purpose of funding a campaign, you have to show the original source of the loan, the terms of the loan and you even have to provide a copy of the loan document to the Federal Election Commission."
The New York Times speculates that to disclose these big bank loans "might have conveyed the wrong impression for [Cruz's] candidacy," as Cruz had spoken out about "the political clout of Goldman Sachs in particular" when he said, "Like many other players on Wall Street and big business, they seek out and get special favors from government."
Fox News host Neil Cavuto invited Republican pollster Frank Luntz on his show to offer praise for GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) without disclosing Luntz' past ties to Rubio.
During a January 7, appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Neil Cavuto discussed recent turmoil in the stock market and asked Luntz to respond to how he believed the economy could affect the presidential race. Luntz responded that Marco Rubio would be the best political candidate for the economy claiming that he "is the most optimistic, the most focused on the American dream of any of the candidates" and "what the public needs right now":
FRANK LUNTZ: Marco Rubio is the most optimistic, the most focused on the American dream of any of the candidates, and Rubio's intense passion about making America great again, to use Trump's slogan, it really applies to Marco Rubio because he is the one who talks about how his father and mother came from Cuba with very limited means and now look at what's happened to him. The guy is a United States senator, leading presidential candidate.
Rubio's message is the most optimistic, the most forward thinking of them all and that's what the public needs right now when they have the greatest concern, the greatest anxiety, based on what's happening on the Wall Street and the markets across the globe.
A January 2012 Wall Street Journal article reported that Rubio hired Luntz to assist in writing his "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future," which Cavuto failed to disclose.
This is not the first time news networks have failed to disclose Luntz' ties with Republican politicians when asking him on for political commentary. In June 2014, CBS came under fire from veteran ethicists and observers for failing to disclose Luntz had received more than $15,000 in consulting fees from Rep. Eric Cantor's (R-VA) congressional campaign. In March 2013 on Fox's Fox & Friends Luntz praised his former clients Marco Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) without disclosing his past work for the politicians, and during an October 2015 appearance on CBS in which Luntz pushed Ryan for the role of Speaker of the House, Luntz and CBS failed to disclose the $100,000 he had received from Ryan since 2012.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly lost what little journalistic credibility he still had in 2015 as journalists, colleagues, and media observers dismantled many of the fabrications he told about his journalism career and in his books. Media Matters looks back at O'Reilly's horrible year.
In his latest column repeating his clients' attacks on climate change policies, lobbyist and Washington Post writer Ed Rogers finally disclosed to readers that his lobbying firm "represents interests in the fossil fuel [industry]." Rogers is the chairman of BGR Group, a top lobbying firm that has received more than $700,000 from the energy industry in 2015. Rogers has personally lobbied this year for Southern Company, one of the largest electric utility companies in the U.S. -- and one of the biggest opponents of the most significant U.S. policy to combat climate change.
Rogers' disclosure, which was placed in a parenthetical in the middle of his December 17 column, could help Post readers recognize that they should take his opinions on the United Nations' historic Paris climate agreement with a grain of salt (he says it's a "sham"). And it marks a stark contrast from Rogers' past columns, in which the Post allowed him to dismiss the scientific consensus on climate change and echo his client's attacks on climate policies without disclosing his firm's fossil fuel ties.
The Post's past failure to require Rogers to disclose his lobbying firm's clients -- both fossil fuel and otherwise -- drew criticism from media ethicists. Among them was Ed Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, who said it's clear that "someone else is paying" Rogers to write his columns and urged the Post to provide "specific disclosure" of Rogers' clients rather than a "blanket description of him as a lobbyist," in order to make plain that he "has a horse to back" in his columns.
From Rogers' December 17 column for The Washington Post's PostPartisan blog (emphasis added):
The [Conference of Parties] 21 conference in Paris was the most predictable event of 2015. Of course an agreement was going to be reached, and of course that agreement is a sham, but it all fits perfectly with what the climate issue has become. The topic of climate change has become manna for exhausted liberals who have nothing much to say and policy failures on almost every front. (Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.) And let's face it, global warming is an issue that perfectly suits Obama as he warms up for retirement. He doesn't really have to do anything, there is never any day of reckoning and it lends itself to sanctimonious moralizing and generally lecturing everybody about how they should live.
A House hearing called out witness Newt Gingrich for his shady financial dealings seeking to undermine the work of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Gingrich, who works as a Fox News contributor and Washington Times columnist, appeared as a witness before a December 16 House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing entitled, "Examining the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Mass Data Collection Program." During the hearing, Gingrich attacked the pro-consumer bureau for purportedly being "dictatorial" in its collection of consumer data.
Gingrich has worked as a paid adviser for the U.S. Consumer Coalition, a secretive group that is attempting to dismantle the CFPB. Gingrich is also a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition. (Gingrich acknowledged his connections to both groups during the hearing.)
While Gingrich claimed during the hearing that he wasn't trying to be secretive about his anti-CFPB financial connections, that wasn't the case this summer. Gingrich wrote a July 1 Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the CFPB and promoting the U.S. Consumer Coalition. The op-ed did not disclose any of his financial ties, simply identifying Gingrich as a former House speaker. Following criticism by Media Matters and The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, the Journal issued an "amplification" that he is "a paid adviser to Wise Public Affairs, whose clients include the U.S. Consumer Coalition, which opposes some policies of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau."
Mother Jones had previously reported that the staffers at Wise "do double duty at the Consumer Coalition" and "Setting up groups like the Consumer Coalition seems to be a big part of what Wise Public Affairs offers its customers." However, it's difficult to decipher who is funding Gingrich and the campaign against consumer protections. Mother Jones noted that the "group's true funders may never be known. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Consumer Coalition is permanently exempt from revealing its donors."
That shady funding came into focus during the hearing, when Gingrich was asked by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) about who funds the U.S. Consumer Coalition. Gingrich -- a "US Consumer Coalition Senior Advisor" -- professed to not know anything about the group's funding.
During the hearing, Rep. Al Green (D-TX) cited Media Matters' research and criticized Gingrich for initially failing to disclose during the hearing that he was "a paid adviser to the Wise Public Affairs group."
He noted that it's "very interesting that there seems to be a sort of a stealth campaign that's taking place under the radar, entities that can't be properly identified" that want "to make sure that the CFPB is emasculated and eviscerated if possible. This is unbelievable."
Rep. Green added: "The people of this country are absolutely being fed bad information. Yes, they are intelligent. Yes, they're smart. Yes, they can sift through the sand and find pearls -- pearls of information -- but they can't do it if you're getting bad information. And that's what this is all about, which is why we have put so much emphasis on what has happened with reference to this stealth organization, this mystery organization."
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan explained that "in this particular political season" leading up to the 2016 elections, it has become "more necessary than ever to do rigorous fact-checking ... in real time."
In an election season flooded with GOP lies, media have been tasked with a slew of fact-checks and corrections. Rachel Maddow called fact-checking GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina after the first CNN Republican Primary Debate "like a three alarm fire." Republican candidate Donald Trump has struggled so much with the truth that Washington Post's Glenn Kessler said his lies are "often so absurd that you can instantly find out why it's wrong, and how it's wrong." Even Bill O'Reilly pointed out that a racist tweet by Donald Trump featuring wildly inaccurate murder statistics was "totally wrong."
Unfortunately, as Sullivan points out, "false statements in news articles ... are allowed to go unchallenged." The Washington Post gave Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) a pass on his false claim that gun laws won't work, and media struggled to factually cover former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email server use, adding fuel to a phony scandal.
As The Times' senior editor for politics Carolyn Ryan told Sullivan, "Getting to the truth of political statements, or misstatements, 'is the greatest reader service that we do.'" From the December 15 op-ed:
Here's what makes readers justifiably crazy: false statements in news articles that are allowed to go unchallenged.
In any political season, it's especially important to counter those statements. In this particular political season, it's become more necessary than ever to do rigorous fact-checking -- and to get it done, as much as possible, in real time.
There are some encouraging signs. Last week, in an article about the reaction to Donald J. Trump's plan to ban Muslim immigration into the United States, the candidate's statements were countered right within the text of the news story.
Here is the germane section, with my boldface emphasis added.
"Paris is no longer the same city it was," he said, before adding, without citing any evidence: "They have sections in Paris that are radicalized where the police refuse to go there. They're petrified. The police refuse to go in there. We have places in London and other places that are so radicalized that the police are afraid for their own lives."
Mr. Trump's statement about Paris has no basis in fact: There are no districts there or outside Paris where the police have said they are unwilling to go. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said that Mr. Trump's claim about his city was "complete and utter nonsense."
Getting to the truth of political statements, or misstatements, "is the greatest reader service that we do," Ms. [Carolyn] Ryan [New York Times senior editor for politics] told me. "So we are trying to be relentless and aggressive about it."
The need is great. Angie Drobnic Holan, the editor of PolitiFact, the political fact-checking website, wrote a provocative piece that appeared in The Times over the weekend, rating the presidential candidates for truthfulness -- and it wasn't a pretty picture for several. The title of her article: "All Politicians Lie. Some Lie More Than Others."
During a November 4 interview with Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, Fox & Friends failed to address a front-page investigative report in The Washington Post that detailed Rubio's profitable business dealings that were bolstered by his time as Florida House speaker.
From the November 24 edition of CNN's New Day:
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A series of reports about industrialists Charles and David Koch revealed that the brothers have advocated for decriminalizing white-collar crime, conduct "competitive intelligence" gathering on liberal groups and activists, and donated millions of dollars in 2014 to conservative groups that back Republicans and to anti-choice and anti-gay organizations. How will the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, who have called the billionaires "awesome" and a "godsend," cover these stories?
A newly-released IRS filing reveals that a central group in Charles and David Koch's financial network paid CBS News analyst Frank Luntz's firm roughly $1.5 million in 2014 for messaging work. Luntz recently used his CBS platform to praise Koch donor conference attendees as symbolizing "the American dream," and defend the Kochs' spending -- without disclosing that he's benefited from their largesse.