Ethics

Issues ››› Ethics
  • CNN: “Near Unanimous Agreement” Among Journalists That AP Botched Its Report On Clinton Meetings

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s senior media reporter Dylan Byers reported that media outlets criticized an “arguably misleading” story by the Associated Press, where an “inaccurate tweet” promoting the story falsely claimed that “more than half” of the people who met Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state had also donated to the Clinton Foundation.

    According to the AP’s original review (the story has since been changed) of State Department calendars released to the organization so far, covering roughly half of Clinton’s tenure at State, “[a]t least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs.” The AP promoted this story on Twitter by proclaiming “[m]ore than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation.”

    Byers explained that other journalists “noted that Clinton had held thousands of meetings with government employees, foreign representatives, civil leaders, journalists and others while Secretary of State that were not accounted for in the AP's report,” but the AP “is still standing by its story and has yet to correct its tweet, despite near unanimous agreement among other journalists that the tweet, at least, was false.” The AP’s story was also criticized for characterizing Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who has been a friend of the Clintons for decades, as little more than a donor asking for help. From Byers’ August 26 report:

    Hillary Clinton is surrounded by suggestions of controversy. Terms like "Clinton Foundation," "email server," and "Benghazi" hover around her like a faint smoke that hints at the existence of fire.

    But finding the fire -- the lie, the misdeed, the unethical act -- is proving to be rather difficult, as evidenced this week by an inaccurate tweet and arguably misleading story from the Associated Press that were quickly rebutted by the Clinton campaign and dismissed by many media outlets.

    Three days later, the Associated Press is still standing by its story and has yet to correct its tweet, despite near unanimous agreement among other journalists that the tweet, at least, was false.

    "The AP's social-media take on the story was seriously flawed," David Boardman, the Dean of the School of Media and Communication at Temple University and former editor of the Seattle Times, told CNNMoney. "It's sloppy, click-grabbing shorthand that is a disservice to the reporting to which it refers."

    [...]

    This "extraordinary" finding, as the AP put it, was deemed less extraordinary by other journalists and pundits who noted that Clinton had held thousands of meetings with government employees, foreign representatives, civil leaders, journalists and others while Secretary of State that were not accounted for in the AP's report.

    [...]

    Meanwhile, other news organizations pilloried the AP's report.

    The Washington Post Fact-Checker wrote that there were "many more nuanced and important details in the story that are being misrepresented — by the AP's own promotional tweet, and by Trump."

    Vox's Matthew Yglesias was more direct: "The AP's big exposé on Hillary meeting with Clinton Foundation donors is a mess," his headline read.

  • The Huge Media Failure Behind The Latest Clinton Global Initiative Pseudo-Scandal

    Despite Reporting, Bahraini Crown Prince Didn’t Give $32 Million To CGI

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Numerous media outlets covering released State Department emails pushed by the conservative group Judicial Watch falsely claimed that Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain gave the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) tens of millions of dollars, which they suggested was linked to him meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, none of the money in question went to the Clinton Global Initiative -- the crown prince made a “Commitment to Action” to fund the scholarship program at a Clinton Global Initiative event, and the money raised from business donors in Bahrain and elsewhere went to the crown prince’s scholarship program to educate Bahraini students.

  • Fox’s Sunday Shows Ignore Reports That Former Chief Roger Ailes Is Advising Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News Sunday and MediaBuzz failed to cover new reporting that Fox News’ former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has assumed an advisory role in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. According to The New York Times, Ailes successfully urged Trump to change his campaign’s leadership and offered guidance on his first series of television campaign ads.

    On August 19, the Times reported that an irate Trump “hastily convened” a group “of paid and unpaid advisers including the pollster Kellyanne Conway, Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News Chairman, and Stephen K. Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News” to address concerns the candidate had with then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The report, which detailed Manafort’s ouster from the “chaotic presidential campaign,” noted that during the August 14 meeting, Ailes “urged Mr. Trump to reconfigure the campaign’s leadership.” Bannon and Conway formally joined the campaign as its chief executive and manager, respectively, on August 17, and Manafort exited just two days later.

    The Trump campaign had previously denied Ailes’ advisory role after reports that Ailes was assisting Trump with preparation for the upcoming presidential debates, and Conway told CNN’s Dana Bash this morning that Ailes “has no formal or informal role with the campaign,” but acknowledged that Trump “speaks to many different people.”

    But while CNN’s State of the Union host asked Conway directly about Ailes’ role in the campaign, and CNN’s Reliable Sources also discussed Ailes’ burgeoning role, Fox News’ Sunday shows ignored this development concerning their departed chairman and CEO. A Fox News Sunday panel discussion, and two MediaBuzz segments, all discussing the shake-up in Trump’s campaign leadership team, failed to even mention Ailes. A SnapStream transcript search of Fox News for “Ailes” showed no results from any other shows on the network from today.

  • Fox News Virtually Silent On NY Times Report Detailing Trump Campaign Chairman’s Ties To Pro-Russian Ukrainian Politicians

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    On August 15 between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m., Fox News offered virtually no coverage of the August 14 New York Times report that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort allegedly received “$12.7 million in undisclosed payments” from former Ukrainian President Viktor “Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012.” CNN has reported extensively on the story. National security experts and foreign affairs and national security journalists are calling the Times’ report “serious” and “staggering,” with one going so far as to say, “This article alone should finish the Trump campaign.”

  • Paid CNN Commentator Corey Lewandowski Is Still Advising The Trump Campaign

    Rumors About Lewandowski's Continued Role With The Campaign Persist Despite His Employment At CNN

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Donald Trump “has increasingly been back in regular contact” with his former campaign manager and current paid CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski, according to U.S. News & World Report. The news comes amid reports of a Trump campaign implosion and CNN coming under increasing criticism for their hiring of Lewandowski.

    As stories have surfaced of turmoil inside the Trump campaign, including reports of an “intervention” to take place between Trump and leading members of the Republican Party, “suicidal” staff members and Campaign Chair Paul Manafort “mailing it in,” Donald Trump is reportedly relying on his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for advice.

    On August 3 U.S. News & World Report wrote that Trump had “gone rogue” and turned to Lewandowski once again for advice:

    The Republican operative familiar with the Trump operation tells U.S. News that Trump has increasingly been back in regular contact with his former campaign manager turned CNN commentator, Corey Lewandowski.

    Lewandowski was ousted in June at the behest of Trump's children, who viewed him as lacking the sophisticated judgment needed to assist their wayward father. A major difference between the reigns of Lewandowski and Manafort is that Lewandowski traveled constantly with Trump, earning his trust and bending his ear. Manafort rarely hits the road and has followed a more typical template by holing up in an office with a phone to his ear and his fingers on a keyboard.

    The Manafort model has its advantages, but it also has created a distance from Trump that has stalled decisions and left the candidate without a reliable rudder when things go awry.

    "He's not satisfied with what he's getting," the Trump staffer says. "So he's basically gone rogue."

    Lewandowski immediately came under fire after becoming a CNN commentator on June 23, with media observers calling the hire “astonishing,” “totally compromised,” and a “sad move.” Lewandowski also faced criticism from CNN staff who questioned his employment, calling Lewandowski’s behavior while Trump campaign manager “inexcusable” and “unprofessional.”

    Since joining CNN, Lewandowski has used his platform to defend Trump and attack his rivals at every opportunity. Most recently, the former campaign manager rehashed Trump’s racist birther attack on President Obama asking whether the president got into Harvard “as a U.S. citizen, or was he brought into Harvard University as a citizen who wasn't from this country?"

    The reports of Lewandowski’s close relationship Trump while being paid by CNN to give his analysis of the campaign confirms the ongoing ethical problems with his employment at the network. On July 1 Lewandowski admitted that he was still doing “the same thing I’ve always been able to do” as an adviser to Trump. Reports surfaced on July 1 that Lewandowski “has not yet transitioned out of his role as a Trump employee, and on July 17 it was reported that Lewandowski was still advising the Republican nominee.

    The disclosure that the Trump campaign was paying Lewandowski “severance” on July 13 led to more criticism and ethical questions for CNN. Further questions have been raised over whether or not Lewandowski is even allowed to criticize Trump as a result of non-disparagement agreements reportedly signed by all Trump campaign staffers. When asked by CNN’s Erin Burnett if he had signed such an agreement, Lewandowski dodged the question and refused to answer.

    Despite the criticism and apparent conflict of interest, CNN has stood behind Lewandowski as a paid CNN contributor, with CNN President Jeff Zucker saying on August 2 that Lewandowski has “done a really nice job.”

  • CNN President Defends Lewandowski Hire As Ethics Disaster Continues For Network

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    CNN president Jeff Zucker defended the network’s hiring of former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a paid commentator at the network. Despite the numerous ethical issues that have been raised about Lewandowski’s CNN role, Zucker said “he’s done a really nice job.”

    As Media Matters has documented, Lewandowski’s hiring prompted widespread criticism. Media experts have called the relationship “profoundly disturbing,” “problematic,” and a “sea of muck” among numerous other concerns. Last month, Media Matters president Bradley Beychok sent a letter to Zucker detailing the numerous ethical concerns surrounding Lewandowski, including questions about the reported non-disparagement agreement he has with the Trump campaign and the disclosure by the network in early July that he was “still receiving severance from the Trump campaign” while working for CNN.

    CNN’s own media reporter Brian Stelter said the network had raised “ethical questions” with its hire of the “controversial” Lewandowski.

    In an interview with Variety, Zucker said he believes “it’s really important to have voices on CNN who are supportive of the Republican nominee,” and, “It’s hard to find a lot of those. Our competitors tried to hire him too.” Before hiring Lewandowski, CNN did not seem to have much trouble finding Trump supporters to put on air. Media Matters compiled over 30 examples of pro-Trump voices on CNN, including network employees Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany.

    The network head also praised Lewandowski, claiming that “he’s done a really nice job,” and “He’s come under a much greater spotlight because of who he is, and the relationship he’s had with the media. As a result, people are going to be more critical.”

    Variety also noted that Zucker "displays a framed tweet by Donald Trump complimenting CNN, written many months ago."

    Lewandowski was hired by CNN just days after he was fired in June by the Trump campaign. Media Matters and others noted that he’s an odd fit for a news network, as his role during the campaign had been tainted by allegations that he had manhandled a reporter, and news outlets reported that he made “unwanted romantic advances” and “sexually suggestive and at times vulgar comments to -- and about -- female journalists.” He had also been accused of pushing a CNN reporter.

    A Politico report indicated that Lewandowski lost a $1.2 million book deal with HarperCollins over concerns about his non-disparagement agreement with the campaign.

    Lewandowski been a staunch defender of Trump’s actions in his on-air appearances, including defending Trump’s attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of a fallen U.S. Army captain this week.

    During his  CNN employment, Lewandowski gave a nominating speech at the Republican National Convention on behalf of the New Hampshire delegation for his “friend” Donald Trump. Reports have also indicated that Lewandowski is still advising Trump on campaign strategy and pitching prospective donors on a pro-Trump super PAC.

    Trump appears to be happy with the arrangement. Despite repeatedly bashing the network, Trump said in a press conference that Lewandowski has “been very loyal and he’s been on CNN and he’s really been fighting for me.”

  • The Trump Campaign Is Paying A Fox News Analyst $13,000 A Month

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Fox News continues to employ contributor Walid Phares while Donald Trump's campaign pays him $13,000 a month. Phares regularly appears on the network to boost Trump on foreign policy issues.

    Two weeks ago, Fox News suspended the contributor contract of Newt Gingrich “due to the intense media speculation about Gingrich’s potential selection” as Trump’s running mate and “to avoid all conflicts of interest that may arise.” It does not appear to be concerned with any “conflicts of interest that may arise” with Phares.

    Fox News states on Phares' biography page that he “joined Fox News in January 2007 and serves as Middle East and terrorism expert.” Trump’s monthly Federal Election Commission report shows that the campaign paid Phares $13,000 in both May and June for “policy consulting.”

    Phares frequently appears on Fox News, where he is introduced as a Fox News analyst and Trump adviser.

    “The Obama administration, unfortunately, has not accepted the principle that we're fighting an ideology,” Phares said on the July 14 broadcast of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren (via Nexis). “That is what Mr. Trump is talking about. Now, to find a policy he needs to be in government not just a candidate.”

    During a June 17 appearance on Hannity, Phares called for an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s finances and said Clinton’s foreign policy “concerns me.” While guesting on the June 23 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Phares responded to developing news about a German theater attack by claiming that if the shooting was “politically motivated terrorism,” it will benefit Trump because it will prove that “terrorism is active in Europe.”

    Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is still receiving severance from the Trump campaign while serving as a CNN analyst. While Lewandowski no longer holds an official spot with the campaign, he “has been pitching his own super PAC to donors,” he has served as a Trump New Hampshire delegate, and he is reportedly still giving advice to Trump. Media ethicists have harshly criticized CNN over Lewandowski’s hiring.

    UPDATE: A spokesperson for Phares responded to this piece by acknowledging that he is compensated by both Fox News and the Trump campaign. The spokesperson denied that there is any conflict of interest with him simultaneously doing work for a news organization and the Trump campaign, and criticized Media Matters for allegedly “misleading the public.” The statement is below:

    In a Media Matters blog post entitled, “The Trump Campaign Is Paying A Fox News Analyst $13,000 A Month,” Eric Hananoki wrote that the Trump campaign is paying Dr. Walid Phares, "a Fox News analyst," clearly implying that the sum was being paid in order to influence Dr. Phares’ opinion in the US Presidential election.

    Dr Phares has been a "contractor" not a staff member at Fox News since 2007. Fox News doesn't pay his taxes. Contractors are not part of the company's body and can be of different political backgrounds. Fox News contracts contributors from Republican, Democratic and Independent affiliations.

    Dr Phares was also an advisor to Presidential candidate and nominee Mitt Romney in 2011-2012. He appeared as a Fox News contributor and his title was announced properly when his position was publicized. He was appointed by Donald Trump as one of his advisors in March 2016. Fox News has been announcing his title every time he appeared since his appointment precisely to inform the audience that he is a Trump advisor. There is no conflict of interest. Fox News employs numerous people to represent Mr. Trump’s and his opponents’ position on various issues as do the other networks.

    Mr. Hananoki's insinuations are baseless and uninformed and aim at misleading the public. Dr Phares can have both statuses as long as it is announced. He has the right to be compensated as are all contributors and all contractors in all campaigns.

  • PolitiFact Debunks Trump’s “Dead Wrong” Smear Of Tim Kaine

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    PolitiFact’s Warren Fiske corrected Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after he erroneously claimed that Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine took more undisclosed personal gifts than former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

    McDonnell and his wife were convicted in 2014 on 11 counts of corruption after being accused of taking “undisclosed” gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams in exchange for connecting him to state officials, including $120,000 in loans, a Rolex watch and the use of Williams’ vacation home. The Supreme Court later overturned the conviction, saying it was unclear that McDonnell had acted inappropriately on Williams’ behalf. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine also took gifts from several companies, including Barr Pharmaceuticals, Dominion Resources and McCandlish Holton PC, but CNN’s Chris Frates explained that Kaine complied with the state law and “disclosed his gifts” while McDonnell did not.   

    PolitiFact noted that, contrary to Trump’s claim, McDonnell actually accepted almost three times as much in gifts as Kaine and that all of Kaine’s gifts were “disclosed as required by state law.” Fiske called Trump’s remark “dead wrong” and gave him PolitiFact’s highest rating of “Pants on Fire.” From the July 24 fact check:  

    Donald Trump welcomed U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., to the Democratic presidential ticket on Sunday by assailing the presumptive vice presidential nominee’s ethics.

    Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump said Kaine accepted more political gifts than former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

    That’s a big claim, because McDonnell, a Republican, stood trial for accepting $177,000 in undisclosed personal gifts from an entrepreneur who was seeking business with the state. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned McDonnell’s bribery convictions in June.

    "Bob McDonnell took a fraction of what Kaine took," said Trump, the GOP presidential nominee. "And I think, to me, it’s a big problem. Now, how do you take all these gifts? Hundreds of thousands of dollars."

    We wondered whether McDonnell’s gift-taking was, in fact, "a fraction" of Kaine’s. Trump’s campaign did not respond to our request for proof. So we set out on our own, comparing gifts Kaine received as lieutenant governor and governor from 2002 to 2010 to those McDonnell accepted as attorney general from 2006 to 2009 and as governor from 2010 to 2014.

    [...]

    Trump, speaking about gift-taking, said, "Bob McDonnell took a fraction of what (Tim) Kaine took."

    Kaine accepted $162,083 in gifts as lieutenant governor and governor, all of which was disclosed as required by state law.

    McDonnell disclosed accepting $275,707 in gifts as attorney general and governor. And there was another $177,000 that he didn’t disclose. That comes to a total of $452,707 in gifts - almost three times Kaine’s total.

    Trump has got this one dead wrong. We rate his statement Pants on Fire.

     
  • Fox Figures React To Roger Ailes Resignation Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations With “Tears”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Following reports that Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes had resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment, Fox News figures reacted with disbelief, “tears,” and calling the decision an example of “the grotesque unfairness of life.”

    In a July 21 statement from Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox, it was announced that Ailes “has resigned from his role effective immediately,” and that Executive Chairman of 21st Century Fox “Rupert Murdoch will assume the role of Chairman and acting CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.” 

    Previously multiple Fox figures came out in support of Ailes and attacked his accuser. Following the news of Ailes’ resignation, Fox personalities responded with support for Ailes: