Media outlets downplayed the legal concerns swirling around Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's fundraising for his affiliated super PAC prior to his formal campaign announcement in their reports on the campaign's unprecedented fundraising success.
The Wall Street Journal had to issue an "amplification" to a Newt Gingrich op-ed after it was revealed the paper failed to disclose Gingrich's financial ties to a group involved in the piece's subject. A PR firm associated with Gingrich attempted to defend the lack of disclosure, but their baffling explanation is just further proof the Journal should have included the information in the first place.
As Media Matters originally noted, the Journal published a July 1 op-ed by Gingrich attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and promoting the U.S. Consumer Coalition without disclosing that the anti-CFPB group employs him as a paid adviser. The paper updated the piece this morning with the sentence: "Amplification: Newt Gingrich 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."
Washington Post writer Erik Wemple reported that Brian Wise, head of Wise Public Affairs, claimed that Gingrich has a relationship with his firm, but "'not necessarily a direct relationship with the USCC,' which is a client of Wise Public Affairs. 'The USCC wasn't involved at all in the creation of that article,' says Wise." Wise also reportedly said that Gingrich "has not advised USCC on the CFPB data-mining issue" and didn't see a problem with the WSJ piece.
Wise's response is puzzling, since the USCC states on its website and Facebook page (see here, here, here) that Gingrich is an advisor to the group. Indeed, the group's press release promoting Gingrich's WSJ op-ed identified him as "US Consumer Coalition Senior Advisor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich."
Additionally, Gingrich's op-ed contains similar rhetoric as USCC's anti-CFPB talking points.
From the July 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Newt Gingrich attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and promoting the U.S. Consumer Coalition without disclosing that the anti-CFPB group employs him as a paid adviser. The omission is even more egregious since the Journal itself reported Gingrich's hiring last year.
From the July 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Mainstream media consistently fail to question GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie's self-promotion as a "straight talking" "truth-teller," but he consistently lies and misrepresents his record in interviews and speeches.
Evening news programs on cable and broadcast news channels were completely silent in the immediate aftermath of a Washington Post story about business dealings by Jeb Bush "that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk." Their complete lack of coverage stands in stark contrast to the nearly three hours of coverage by cable and broadcast evening news programs devoted to The New York Times' faulty allegation that Hillary Clinton's State Department was influenced by Clinton Foundation donors when it signed off on the purchase of Uranium One the same day the story came out.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer parroted an erroneous claim that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account is unprecedented, when, in fact, former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a private email account to conduct government business during his time in the Bush administration and did not preserve those records.
The Washington Post is allowing George Will to engage in an "out-and-out conflict of interest" by promoting the work of a conservative advocacy group that's connected to him through financial grants.
Will wrote a June 25 Post piece attacking Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court's recent decision on the Affordable Care Act. For support, Will cited a lawyer for the Institute for Justice (IJ), who claimed that the United States is becoming "a country in which all the branches of government work in tandem to achieve policy outcomes, instead of checking one another to protect individual rights. Besides violating the separation of powers, this approach raises serious issues about whether litigants before the courts are receiving the process that is due to them under the Constitution."
Will and the Post did not disclose that the Institute for Justice is funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, where Will is a member of the board of directors. The foundation notes on its website that it "substantially supports IJ." The Bradley Foundation directly gave IJ over $500,000 from 2011-2013 (the most recent year available), according to its annual reports. It awarded IJ's president, William H. "Chip" Mellor, a 2012 "Bradley Prize" along with a stipend of $250,000. The foundation states that board members are responsible for grant-making decisions.
The lack of disclosure is perplexing given that the Post previously noted Will's financial connections to IJ. A Nexis search for "Institute for Justice" and "Bradley Foundation" in the Post did not return any results except for an August 21, 2009, correction about Will's ties ("he is a board member of the Bradley Foundation, which has contributed funding to the Institute for Justice").
Washington Post writer Erik Wemple has criticized his colleague's "out-and-out conflict of interest" in previously promoting Bradley Foundation recipients, explaining:
Here, Will touted an outlet funded generously by a group he helps to lead. And thanks to the columnist's kind words, WILL [Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty] may have an easier time finding funders outside of the Bradley Foundation. All very cozy, synergistic and, as media critics might say, an out-and-out conflict of interest -- an offense of which Will has been accused before.
Will defended himself regarding his lack of disclosure last year, claiming, in part, that "I see no reason -- no service to readers -- to disclose my several degrees of separation from the program: My tenuous connection has no bearing on what I think about what they do. There comes a point when disclosure of this and that becomes clutter, leaving readers to wonder what the disclosed information has to do with anything."
Media ethicists and journalism veterans have criticized Will for the practice, calling it a breach of journalistic ethics. As Media Matters has documented, Will has a long history of ethical misfires despite being long employed by a leading national newspaper.
Fox & Friends uncritically parroted debunked allegations made by Republican activist and strategist Peter Schweizer in his book Clinton Cash in order to falsely suggest wrong-doing at Hillary Clinton's State Department regarding the Uranium One deal that gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines.
During a June 21 interview on WMUR's CloseUP with Josh McElveen, Hillary Clinton shut down Schweizer's false claims made in Clinton Cash that the former secretary of state had pushed through the Uranium One deal after the Clinton Foundation received donations from stakeholders in the deal, noting that the claims had "no basis" behind them. Peter Schweizer responded in a June 22 op-ed for The New York Post, suggesting that Clinton's interview showed "grave incompetence or brazen dishonesty" and doubling-down on his assertion of a quid pro quo in the Russian uranium deal. Schweizer called Clinton's statement "an admission of extreme executive negligence," and said it "strains credulity."
Fox News parroted Schweizer's attacks on Clinton during the June 23 edition of Fox & Friends. Asking whether Clinton's involvement in the Uranium One deal was evidence of "incompetence" or "deceit," host Elisabeth Hasselbeck speculated that donations to the Clinton Foundation may have influenced the outcome of the deal. Reciting Schweizer's talking points, Hasselbeck called into question Clinton's statement that nine government agencies were involved in approving the deal:
ED HENRY: As you can imagine, Peter Schweizer, the author of Clinton Cash, believes that was pointed at him when she said that there was a partisan axe that was dealt here. So he's got an op-ed in the New York Post today.
HASSELBECK: Yeah, and it said this, quote 'The transfer of 20% of U.S. uranium -- the stuff used to build nuclear weapons -- to Vladimir Putin did not rise to the level of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's time and attention? Beyond being an admission of extreme executive negligence on an issue of utmost national security, Hillary's statement strains credulity to the breaking point for at least three other reasons.' And those three are this: at least nine of the investors who profited from that uranium deal collectively donated $145 million to the Clinton Foundation. Okay, one of them happened to go globe trotting with her husband and donated $100 million in pledges there. The second point that would bring up, and his third, is that Clinton said that there were nine government agencies. Okay, so she's correct in saying that who signed off on the deal. She forgets to mention that her State Department was one of the nine and happened to be the only agency whose chief, he states, received $145 million in donations from shareholders in that deal. Who, by the way, brings you back to point one -- who ended up donating to the Clinton Foundation. And by the way, Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a single speech he delivered in Moscow, and she couldn't answer to that either.
FactCheck.org called a common conservative myth -- that the Clinton Foundation spends only a small fraction of its money on charitable works -- "simply wrong." The flimsy statistic has made the rounds on conservative media, and was most recently repeated by Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
The fact-checking organization noted on June 19 that Fiorina had claimed that "'so little' of the charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation 'actually go to charitable works.'" When pressed for more details, a super PAC supporting her campaign* claimed that only 6 percent of the foundation's revenue goes to charitable grants, and for the rest, "there really isn't anything that can be categorized as charitable."
But as FactCheck.org explained, "That just isn't so. The Clinton Foundation does most of its charitable work itself." In fact, an independent philanthropy watchdog found that about 89 percent of Clinton Foundation funding goes to charity, through their in-house work. FactCheck.org concluded the false claim "amounts to a misunderstanding of how public charities work."
This myth surfaced earlier this year thanks to the error-filled anti-Clinton book Clinton Cash, written by discredited Republican activist Peter Schweizer. While promoting his book in May, Schweizer repeatedly claimed the Clinton Foundation gives just "10 percent" of its budget "to other charitable organizations, the rest they keep for themselves."
As Media Matters noted at the time, several other media figures picked up Schweizer's cherry-picked statistic. Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed "85 percent of every dollar donated to the Clinton Foundation ended up either with the Clintons or with their staff." As FactCheck.org noted, Fox Business host Gerri Willis said only 6 percent of the foundation's revenue "went to help people." And on Fox News, The Five co-host Eric Bolling said that "only 10 cents on the dollar went to charitable uses."
But even one of Bolling's Fox News colleagues called this statistic "incredibly misleading." When Fox correspondent Eric Shawn was asked by host Bill O'Reilly about the "accusation ... that there only 10 percent of the money raised -- and it's $2 billion -- goes to grants out to poor people or institutions," Shawn responded:
That sounds really bad but it's actually incredibly misleading, because, the way the charity works, they don't give grants to other charities -- they do most of it themselves. So that, they actually have a rate of spending of about 80 percent, according to the IRS figures, they say 88 percent, you know Bill -- the experts for charity say that's very good.
PolitiFact's PunditFact has also evaluated these claims, and found them to be "mostly false."
*FactCheck.org originally reported that this information came from the Fiorina campaign, but has since corrected its post to note it came from the CARLY for America super PAC. Our language has been updated accordingly.
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Sean Hannity promoted the concealed carrying of handguns during his Fox News interviews with Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Hannity is a paid spokesman for the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), a financial relationship he repeatedly failed to disclose.
During his February 26 program, Hannity asked Walker: "Let's talk about guns. Should law-abiding citizens -- for example, it's very hard to get a carry permit in a state like New York. Should they be allowed to carry weapons if they're law-abiding citizens?" Walker replied, "Absolutely."
Hannity asked Bush during his June 16 Fox News interview: "Should citizens if they are law-abiding, no records, have the right to carry a weapon?" To applause from the audience, Bush replied that people should "absolutely" have that right.
But Hannity's interest in concealed carrying of guns isn't just political -- it's financial.
The United States Concealed Carry Association claims it is "the first & largest member-owned association dedicated to educating, training, and insuring responsibly armed Americans." Hannity is heavily involved with USCCA. The front page of the organization's website features Hannity's endorsement and a "training package" for his fans.
The website HannityForUSCCA.com includes a prominent quote from Hannity professing that he has "peace of mind knowing that if I ever have to use my weapon to save the life of my loved one, they will be in my corner." The Hannity training package features materials with "critical, life-saving information that will better prepare you and your loved ones for a home invasion or violent encounter."
An ad for USCCA featuring Hannity aired during his June 16 radio program -- the day of his Bush interview -- according to a search of TVEyes.com. Hannity stated in the ad that he's a "proud member of the United States Concealed Carry Association" and he's "been working closely with them" to create a "special" training package for his fans.
This isn't the first time Hannity has promoted the interests of his radio sponsors. Last year, Hannity used his Fox News program to promote the fundraising efforts of the Tea Party Patriots.
Hannity is a favorite destination for Republican candidates who have just announced they're officially running for president. Hannity's website has even adopted Politico reporter Dylan Byers' description of him as the "conservative kingmaker" in the Republican primary.
UPDATE: Hannity again pushed concealed carry during his June 17 Fox News interview with Donald Trump. Hannity complained that it's "almost impossible" to get a concealed carry permit in New York City. Trump replied that he's "a huge Second Amendment person."
In a report on the Murdoch restructure of Fox News' parent company, Fox's Howard Kurtz glazed over the 2011 phone hacking controversy that implicated the Murdoch family in England -- a stark contrast to Kurtz's critical reporting of how Fox News avoided coverage of the scandal while he worked for CNN.
Rupert Murdoch is reportedly planning to step down as CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox. According to CNBC, Murdoch's son James will take over as CEO and son Lachlan will assume the role of "executive co-chairman" of the company in coordination with their father. James Murdoch previously resigned his role as the head of News International -- which published several tabloids and newspapers abroad -- amid the widespread scandal over phone hacking at News of the World, a since-shuttered UK tabloid he oversaw. As part of the fallout from that scandal, Murdoch also resigned his position as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
On the June 14 edition of Fox News' Media Buzz, host Howard Kurtz used news of the company restructuring as an opportunity to highlight Rupert Murdoch's career, praising him for bringing "huge changes to the media landscape," including "conquering the world of British newspapers, revolutionizing TV sports here in the states, launching the fourth American broadcast network, and of course building a hugely successful and profitable cable news network." To highlight Murdoch's influence, Kurtz added that "when something goes wrong like the phone hacking scandal at the now defunct News of the World, he gets the blame."
Kurtz's report glazing over Murdoch's involvement in the phone hacking scandal and mentioning it only as a way to highlight the former CEO's influence stands in stark contrast to the way Fox's media critic covered the scandal while working for CNN.
In July 2011, as the host of CNN's Reliable Sources, Kurtz criticized Fox News for underplaying coverage of Murdoch's phone hacking scandal which involved Fox's then-parent company News Corp., and said that news networks that avoid covering their own controversies create "a double standard" and "undermine your credibility":
KURTZ: I feel very strongly about this. I mean, we do it on this program all the time when CNN has controversy, I always cover it. And otherwise, what you're signaling to viewers is there's a double standard. We're only aggressive when some other organization is in trouble. And I think that can undermine your credibility.
Kurtz has made a habit of ignoring controversies related to Fox News during his employment at the network, despite promising to bring an "independent brand of media criticism" to Fox.
From the June 14 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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