If Chuck Todd's plans for the new Meet the Press are successful, within a year the show will balance the need to explain the inner workings of Washington to viewers with elevating public concerns that are not getting enough attention in the political sphere.
In the second part of a three-part interview series with Media Matters, Todd lays out his goals for Meet the Press, the struggle for guest diversity on Sunday political shows, and the current state of the media landscape.
Responding to a frequent progressive critique of the Sunday shows -- that they are obsessed with gaffes and spin and not actual issues -- Todd expressed hope that his show would pull off a "balancing act."
"On one hand, we're trying to explain and interpret what Washington is up to for the public," Todd said. "But at the same time, trying to bring the public's concerns and the public's issues and the things that they seem to be worried about to Washington's doorstep."
Asked whether Meet the Press should discuss issues like climate change that are generally under-covered or merely reflect the current discussion in Washington, Todd explained that it's difficult to find time to cover every deserving story, especially when breaking news events like the Ebola outbreak eat into the schedule.
Media Matters has repeatedly highlighted the lack of diversity on the Sunday morning political shows, including on Meet the Press. In 2013, when the show was hosted by David Gregory, a full 62 percent of the guests were white men.
Todd said that it's probably too early to judge his own efforts with regards to diversity but said it is "a front-burner issue for us, not a back-burner issue."
While Todd said he had so far sought to make his weekly roundtables diverse, he warned of challenges in providing a balanced slate of interview subjects.
Todd highlighted how, for instance, "90 percent of the generals and the military experts out there" are white men. "Some of this stuff is out of your control. At the end of the day, you want to put the best people on. You want to put the best, smartest people on," Todd said. "I'd like to think we're doing a better job at making sure that we're reflecting America."
He also pointed to the need for geographical diversity among guests in order to avoid "socioeconomic groupthink," as well as providing diverse ideological voices within both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Todd criticized Fox News' use of straight news reporters to balance conservative commentators on their roundtable panels, saying that it demonstrates the network has an "agenda," adding that Meet the Press doesn't "believe in that." Todd also criticized Fox News for "trying to make everything about media bias."
Despite his criticism of the conservative network, Todd offered that "too many citizens are only getting news from one place and not understanding the other side."
The first part of Todd's interview with Media Matters focused on the media's coverage of scandals and crises. The third and final installment will focus on media coverage of Hillary Clinton's potential 2016 presidential run.
Relevant transcript from Todd's Media Matters interview will be published with each part.
Answers covered in part two are below:
James O'Keefe has recently launched a political advocacy group, Project Veritas Action Fund, but journalists should be aware that O'Keefe has a long history of lies and deceptively edited videos filmed under false pretenses.
Project Veritas Action Fund has so far released videos about Kentucky's U.S. Senate race and Texas' gubernatorial contest. O'Keefe's venture is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, which allows direct involvement in political campaigns. O'Keefe's existing group, Project Veritas, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which is not allowed to be involved in political campaigning.
Cable and broadcast television news networks have repeatedly hosted former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino to comment on Secret Service security lapses, but have often failed to disclose that he is a Republican congressional candidate.
After reports of Secret Service lapses were uncovered by The Washington Post, Bongino has appeared on cable and broadcast news networks more than a dozen times to discuss the security failures. In several of these appearances, the networks did not disclose Bongino's campaign as a Republican for Maryland's 6th Congressional District, which was announced nearly a year ago.
Bongino was featured during the October 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, introduced only as a former Secret Service agent and author of a book based on his career. He used his appearance to criticize the White House staff and management. Bongino also briefly appeared during the October 1 edition of NBC's Nightly News, identified only as a former Secret Service agent, to comment on the resignation of Julia Pierson as director of the Secret Service. An October 1 appearance on MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart also failed to disclose his congressional campaign, and his status as a congressional candidate was also neglected during his September 30 appearance on CNN Newsroom while discussing the congressional hearing on the agency's recent failures.
Fox News has repeatedly allowed political candidates to work as on-air personalities and CNN's failure to disclose former host Newt Gingrich's conflicts of interest recently helped spur the Society of Professional Journalists to overhaul its transparency provisions.
Fox News senior vice president Neil Cavuto told likely presidential candidate Ben Carson that "I think you're running. I think you're running for office now. You're just laying the groundwork as we speak." If Cavuto believes what he says, by Fox's own lax standards, Carson's employment with Fox News should be suspended.
Carson said in September that the "likelihood is strong" that he'll run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The Fox News contributor said he setup the political group USA First PAC to help with infrastructure for a potential campaign.
Fox News hired Carson in 2013 after he drew attention for his National Prayer Breakfast speech attacking President Obama. The conservative network has since turned Carson into a likely presidential candidate.
After the network cut ties with former employees Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in 2011 due to their then-fledgling presidential ambitions, Fox's executive vice president for legal affairs Dianne Brandi told Howard Kurtz that the network didn't suspend the contract of contributor Sarah Palin because she "hasn't done anything herself to show us she has any intention of running right now."
But on the October 1 edition of his Fox Business program, Cavuto suggested Carson has crossed that line -- saying he thinks Carson is "running for office now."
The New York Post has settled a lawsuit about a front page that the paper ran shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing on which it highlighted two "Bag Men" it claimed were being sought authorities.
Weeks after appearing at a VIP dinner for the Koch brothers-backed political group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), George Will devoted his Washington Post column to promoting one of the Kochs' favored political candidates without disclosing the conflict of interest.
Last month, Politico reported on Will's attendance at a private dinner featuring an "exclusive group of major donors and VIPs" as part of AFP's Defending the American Dream summit. Despite repeated attempts by Media Matters, neither Will nor AFP would answer whether he had been paid for the appearance or compensated for his travel expenses. Will has repeatedly devoted column space in the past to promoting Koch-backed candidates and policy issues.
When the journalism group Society of Professional Journalists released its new Code of Ethics in September, the group's ethics chair cited Will's relationship with AFP -- and his refusal to disclose whether he had been paid by the group -- as the type of conflict journalists should try to avoid.
Apparently undeterred, in his September 26 column, Will sang the praises of Republican Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst -- a candidate who has received massive financial support from the Kochs and their political groups -- without disclosing his conflict of interest.
In his column, Will lamented that the contest between Ernst and Democratic challenger Bruce Braley "should not be this close." He dismissed Democrats' "War on Women" narrative and asserted that Braley "is as awkward as Ernst is ebullient when campaigning."
Pointing to spending by outside groups on Braley's behalf, Will classified the Iowa Democrat's "fretting about money in politics" as being "notably selective," and wrote that although "politics is an inherently transactional business," Braley is "operatically indignant about the Koch brothers."
Though Will runs cover for the Koch brothers' Iowa spending, their influence in the race is not so easily shrugged off.
This year, Americans for Prosperity has launched several ad campaigns targeting Braley in Iowa. The Des Moines Register reported earlier this month that another Koch-supported political group, Freedom Partners Action Fund, had also launched a "million-dollar TV ad campaign" targeting Braley.
According to Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein, in June, Ernst appeared at a "secretive conference" held by the Koch brothers, where she heaped praise on the assembled deep-pocketed attendees and credited "the exposure to this group and to this network" for having "really started my trajectory." Citing "figures provided by a Democratic tracker," Stein wrote that four different Koch-funded political groups had "blanketed the airwaves" in Iowa, to the tune of "roughly $3.4 million."
Stein added, "A few days after Ernst's appearance, Charles Koch, his wife, his son and his daughter-in-law each gave the Iowa candidate the legal maximum contribution of $2,600."
Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Dana Perino are giving speeches "sponsored by" major fracking companies while pushing for fracking on Fox.
The conservative commentators spoke at the Shale Insight 2014 conference on September 24-25. The two-day event was organized by the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), an industry lobbying group that advocates for the "development of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale geological formations." MSC members include Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy. The group spent over $900,000 on lobbying in Pennsylvania during the first quarter of this year.
MSC announced at the conference that it's launching an advertising campaign to combat negative connotations about fracking, the controversial method used to extract natural gas from shale rocks. MSC president David J. Spigelmyer said at the conference that "Folks have tried to hijack that word and paint it as something negative ... It's our effort to take that word back."
Both Perino and Hannity's speeches were sponsored by major energy companies.
Fox News contributor Ben Carson now claims that he will likely run for president in 2016, capping off a more than year-long campaign by the network to promote his political ambitions. Carson's potential run continues the seemingly never-ending series of Republicans who have used Fox as a jumping off point for runs for office.
During a September 22 appearance on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Carson told Hewitt that the "likelihood is strong" he will throw his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination in 2016, "unless the American people indicate in November that they like big government intervention in every part of their lives."
While Carson has repeatedly discussed the idea of running in recent months -- often in response to questions about the multi-million dollar "Draft Ben Carson" movement -- his comments to Hewitt seem like the strongest indication that he will seek the nomination. (Hewitt concluded based on the interview that it was "Pretty clear he will be running for president.")
Carson's assertion that he will likely run once again raises questions about Fox News' ongoing unethical arrangement with contributors that are planning bids for office. The network has repeatedly given its contributors a megaphone (and a paycheck) while they openly discuss future political plans, only severing their contracts once the employee-candidates file official paperwork.
It's created a situation where it encourages the network's stable of future candidates to delay a formal announcement while continuing to benefit from Fox News' prominent platform, which can amount to millions of dollars of what is essentially free advertising. This ethically shady setup has previously been criticized by current Fox News media reporter Howard Kurtz, who wrote for the Daily Beast in 2011, "The longer candidates stay in the Fox camp, the longer they can utilize the platform of the country's top-rated cable news channel--and pad their bank accounts to boot."
And while Carson considers a run, Fox News is happy to help stoke the speculation. Fox News and other conservative media are responsible in large part for helping catapult Carson from a career as a renowned neurosurgeon into his current incarnation as a political bombthrower -- with a penchant for spouting nonsense -- following a 2013 speech he gave attacking President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Shortly after that speech, he quickly became a media star, with Fox News figures quickly latching onto the idea he should run for president. The day after he delivered his speech, Sean Hannity hosted Carson on his Fox News show, asked him if he would ever run for president, then announced, "I would vote for you in a heartbeat." The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed titled "Ben Carson for President." A week later, one of Fox's news programs dedicated a segment to one of the day's "top stories," which was the "buzz" that Carson should run for office.
Following several more months of network personalities fawning over Carson, Fox News inevitably announced that it had hired him in October 2013. Since then, Fox News and Carson have continued to work together to build his political brand and promote the idea that he is a viable presidential contender.
National Review Online contributing editor Jim Geraghty suggested that President Obama "set the tone" for high profile leadership scandals including disgraced NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and embattled General Motors CEO Mary Barra who he claimed were influenced by Obama's alleged lack of "accountability."
Geraghty's September 22 National Review Online blog highlighted a number of recent scandals involving "leaders of large organizations" and compared their missteps to the purported example set by Obama, "the unaccountable leader." Geraghty asked, "Does our president just reflect a broad cultural trend in the behavior of leaders, or does he set the tone from the top?" He continued:
Consider some recent examples of leaders of large organizations with important responsibilities, once they find themselves in the public eye:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CBS This Morning he never saw the second tape of Rice striking his wife before Monday. He said, "when we make a decision we want to have all the information that's available. When we met with Ray Rice and his representatives it was ambiguous about what actually happened." Friday afternoon, he announced the league would be making a new effort in dealing with unacceptable player conduct... by forming a special committee.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra, whose company has recalled of 2.6 million cars with defective ignition switches. The faulty parts have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 accidents since 2009 and have led to numerous lawsuits. She said, "I don't really think there was a cover up. I think what we had, and it was covered in the report, there were silos of information, so people had bits and pieces and didn't come forward with the information or didn't act with a sense of urgency, and it simply was unacceptable."
These are all private sector scandals, of course. Every administration and every era has its scandals. What our current moment seems to feature is a bumper crop of (alleged) leaders insisting they can wait out he storm, often displaying a glimpse of indignation at suggestions that they resign because something terrible happened on their watch. Somehow tapes of criminal behavior never reach the folks at the top, nor reports of a defect in ignition switches.
Everybody's got rogue low-level staffers in Cincinnati, it seems.
The message has been sent, far and wide: Accountability is for suckers.
Right-wing media figures continue to misleadingly link Obama to unrelated scandals in order to attack his presidency. Not only have conservatives falsely accused Obama of attempting to help GM cover-up its ignition defect, they have baselessly linked the NFL domestic abuse scandal with the terror attacks in Benghazi, falsely suggesting the Obama administration was insufficiently transparent about the September 2012 attacks.
Former Connecticut Governor and ex-radio host John Rowland (R) was found guilty in federal court of violating campaign finance laws.
The Associated Press reports Rowland was convicted "of all seven counts, including conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission and causing illegal campaign contributions."
The case "centered around a contract between Rowland and a nursing home chain owned by the husband of 2012 congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland's attorneys argued he volunteered for the campaign while receiving $35,000 to consult for her husband's company, but prosecutors said the money was an illegal payment for campaign services."
Rowland was hired in 2010 as radio show host on WTIC-AM, a CBS Radio affiliate in Farmington, CT. Rowland, who was also convicted in 2004 for taking bribes, did not disclose the illegal payment when he attacked Wilson-Foley's primary opponent on WTIC. His radio show ended in April and he was indicted shortly after.
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) are demanding action from Fox News after a host linked all Muslims to terrorists and advocated for violence against practitioners of the faith.
In an August 27 statement, the Asian American Journalist Association condemned Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros for making blanket statements conflating all Muslims to the Islamic State and advocating for violence against them. AAJA called on the network to apologize:
AAJA calls for Tantaros and Fox News to apologize for the irresponsible, inflammatory statements. We also call on Fox News to discourage its journalists from making blanket comments that serve to perpetuate hate and Islamophobia.
Muslims and Islam are not interchangeable terms with terrorists or ISIS. We in the media know better and must be vigilant in our choice of words.
The AAJA joined the Muslim Public Affairs Council in their outrage over the offensive Fox segment. MPAC previously called for the network to fire Tantaros following her inflammatory statements.
The growing call for action from Fox News comes after an August 20 segment of Outnumbered featured co-host Andrea Tantaros discussing the death of journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State. Suggesting that the history of Islam set a precedent for the murder, Tantaros declared that "this isn't a surprise," and that the only way to solve the situation was "with a bullet to the head. It's the only thing these people understand":
Following the arrest of two journalists covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, some conservative media figures are attacking the reporters for being insufficiently deferential to police, doing "the opposite of journalism," and trying to make the story about themselves.
Protests in Ferguson are ongoing following an August 9 incident that resulted in a police officer shooting and killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown. On August 13, Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery were both detained by police in a Ferguson McDonald's.
Initially, both Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and I were asked for identification. I was wearing my lanyard, but Ryan asked why he had to show his ID. They didn't press the point, but one added that if we called 911, no one would answer.
Then they walked away. Moments later, the police reemerged, telling us that we had to leave. I pulled my phone out and began recording video.
An officer with a large weapon came up to me and said, "Stop recording."
I said, "Officer, do I not have the right to record you?"
He backed off but told me to hurry up. So I gathered my notebook and pens with one hand while recording him with the other hand.
As I exited, I saw Ryan to my left, having a similar argument with two officers. I recorded him, too, and that angered the officer. As I made my way toward the door, the officers gave me conflicting information.
One instructed me to exit to my left. As I turned left, another officer emerged, blocking my path.
"Go another way," he said.
As I turned, my backpack, which was slung over one shoulder, began to slip. I said, "Officers, let me just gather my bag." As I did, one of them said, "Okay, let's take him."
Multiple officers grabbed me. I tried to turn my back to them to assist them in arresting me. I dropped the things from my hands.
"My hands are behind my back," I said. "I'm not resisting. I'm not resisting." At which point one officer said: "You're resisting. Stop resisting."
While some conservative media figures have been critical of the arrests, others are responding to the incident by lashing out at the reporters and media coverage of the incident.
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan criticized the paper's decision to publish an article promoting specious allegations of plagiarism against historian Rick Perlstein.
Fox News host Howard Kurtz criticized CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz for failing to disclose during a CBS appearance about a congressional election that Luntz had previously been a paid consultant for the candidate.
"I think you should have," Kurtz said during an August 10 interview with Luntz on his #MediaBuzz media criticism program, "because it just would have been leveling with the audience, hey, this is not some stranger."
Luntz discussed then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-VA) surprise primary defeat on the June 11 edition of CBS This Morning, calling the loss "a blow for conversation" that is "bad for the country" because Cantor was "a pipeline to Americans who just wanted people to get things done." But neither he nor CBS acknowledged that Cantor's campaign had paid Luntz's company more than $15,000 in fees, as Media Matters documented.
Asked by Kurtz about the lack of disclosure, Luntz said that while "People raised that as an issue," he did not think it was necessary because he was introduced by CBS "as a Republican."
Luntz's excuse is consistent with that of a CBS spokesperson who told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple in June that the network had provided sufficient disclosure because Luntz's "work as a strategist for Republicans was disclosed on the broadcast."
But as Wemple noted, "When it comes to getting people to say favorable things about other people, there's nothing like a consultant-client relationship to facilitate things. When money changes hands, journalism ethics must pay heed." Media ethicists agreed in interviews with Media Matters, ripping CBS News for "outrageous" behavior that could be considered "not only bad, but corrupt."
ABC News has reportedly invited former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson to be a part of the roundtable on This Week, creating a potential challenge for other panelists given her history of inaccurate stories and conspiracy theories.