Broadcast evening news programs on ABC, NBC, and CBS completely ignored likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's questionable delay in announcing his campaign while he sidesteps campaign laws and continues coordinating with his super PAC. Despite increasing scrutiny of a strategy that "tests the legal definition of [a] candidate," the nightly news programs have devoted zero coverage to the matter since The Associated Press (AP) first reported on it in April.
From the June 2 edition of CNN's CNN Tonight:
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A new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck's talk radio shows are more distrusted than trusted among three generations surveyed by Pew.
Pew surveyed millennials, Generation Xers, and baby boomers on political news sources and how each generation trusted them. The study published on June 1 found that "Four sources are distrusted more than trusted by all three: The Glenn Beck Program, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and BuzzFeed." From Pew Research Center:
While most of the Sunday political news shows ignored accusations that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) may be unlawfully coordinating with his super PAC, CBS' Bob Schieffer asked the prospective presidential candidate if he was "violating the spirit of the law."
Bush has recently come under scrutiny for coordinating with his super PAC, Right to Rise. As the Washington Post reported, "Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center -- sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch [on May 27] asking that the Justice Department investigate whether Bush and his PAC 'are engaged in knowing and willful violations of federal campaign finance laws.' The groups are calling on Lynch to appoint an independent Special Counsel to investigate potential violations."
In a May 31 editorial, The New York Times editorial board endorsed the idea and urged the Justice Department to get involved, describing Bush's relationship with Right to Rise as "brazen," and "cynical" and noted that Bush is "obviously" running for president:
Ideally, the F.E.C. should be doing its enforcement job. Given that agency's dereliction, the Justice Department must exercise its authority to enforce the law. The abuses of runaway political money will only grow when candidates believe there's no one to stop them.
During the May 31 edition of Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer questioned Bush over his questionable PAC coordination. Asserting that it was "pretty obvious" that Bush was running for president, Schieffer pointed to criticism and requests for investigation into his dealings with Right to Rise, asking if he thought he "may be just at least violating the spirit of the law" by coordinating with the group. Bush dismissed Schieffer, claiming that he "wouldn't ever do that" and simply was "trying to get a sense of whether [his] candidacy would be viable or not" prior to deciding if he would officially run for president:
The media have largely continuously ignored that likely Republican presidential contenders in 2016 are using dark money and secretive nonprofit groups to sidestep campaign finance laws. Face the Nation was the only Sunday broadcast network political show to even broach the subject.
In March, Bush gave his "tacit endorsement" to Right to Rise Policy Solutions, a nonprofit organization that allows him to side-step campaign finance laws that cap donations from individual donors and require donations to political action committees (PACs) to be publicly reported, permitting "individuals and corporations" to "give as much as they want while remaining anonymous," according to the Post. The news garnered little media attention at the time, with just a scattering of articles and two segments on broadcast and cable news outlining the dark money connections.
The New York Times' public editor Margaret Sullivan has now weighed in on The Times' misleading article advancing baseless industry allegations that the EPA illegally lobbied on behalf of clean water protections. But while Sullivan recognized that the article has some significant problems, she nonetheless defended it as a "solid story" overall.
Those who fault the article for not having its "to be sure" caveats up higher may have a point. And it's possible that the front-page display suggests what [Washington, D.C. reader Ben] Somberg calls a "smoking gun" that doesn't materialize -- though plenty of front-page stories lack that element.
But despite this acknowledgement, Sullivan came to the defense of the reporters who authored the story, declaring that the article "raises important questions" and that it is "a legitimate examination of a worthwhile issue." She also quoted an email from one of the reporters, Eric Lipton, who claimed the premise of the article is justified because "in the view of certain members of Congress, and opponents of the rule, [the EPA's actions] may have violated the Anti-Lobbying Law. That is what the article said."
But there is a major flaw in Lipton's logic -- and it's one that is not addressed in Sullivan's response. Just because opponents of the EPA are claiming the agency violated the Anti-Lobbying Act, that doesn't mean that claim is worthy of a story in The New York Times if it is a completely baseless allegation. And it is a completely baseless allegation.
From the May 21 edition of WXIA-TV's 11 Alive News Tonight:
CNN declined to comment on whether Newt Gingrich is still employed at the network in light of news that he is joining the world's largest law firm.
Gingrich will start working for Dentons in June as a "senior advisor" in its public policy and regulation practice. It's unclear whether Gingrich, who has a history of conflict of interest problems, will simultaneously work for the firm and as a CNN contributor -- the network declined to clarify his current employment status to Media Matters. According to a Nexis search, Gingrich was last on CNN on March 3, 2015. During the appearance, he was identified as a CNN contributor.
While he'll work with lobbyists at Dentons, he will not officially register as one. The Wall Street Journal reported that the firm earned more than $1.275 billion in revenue last year and has "more than 6,600 lawyers and professionals" and "will have 125 offices in more than 50 countries."
Dentons' public policy and regulation practice is involved in dozens of areas such as energy, the environment, health care, and national security. Dentons US banked more than $6.5 million in lobbying income in 2014 from clients like Allstate, Credit Union National Association, Lumara Health, and Time Warner Cable, according to OpenSecrets.org. The firm's chairman stated that Gingrich will "engage and advance the goals of our clients."
Gingrich told the Journal that "he's 'clearing a fair amount of time' to work at Dentons, but he'll continue doing some other projects" such as writing a novel. A request for comment passed along by Dentons to Gingrich's office was not returned.
The firm's large client list and practice areas would create innumerable conflicts for Gingrich as a media commentator.
Gingrich, who previously hosted CNN's now-defunct Crossfire reboot, has shown little concern for adhering to media ethics regarding conflicts of interest. In 2013, CNN drew an onslaught of criticism from reporters for allowing Gingrich to discuss candidates his political action committee gave money to without disclosing it. His media company also received money from the Republican National Committee, but Gingrich did not divulge that while hosting Crossfire.
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Fox News has attacked ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos for participating in Clinton Foundation-affiliated events, calling it a "mistake" that compromises "good coverage." But Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo moderated or participated in at least eight CGI events between 2008 and 2013 while at CNBC.
The Clinton Global Initiative is a nonpartisan initiative of the Clinton Foundation that convenes notable leaders to offer "solutions to the world's most pressing challenges." It holds annual meetings during which participants make charitable commitments. For years, both CGI and the Clinton Foundation were widely praised on a bipartisan basis, with attendees and donors including leading Republican politicians and conservative media moguls. But as Hillary Clinton has emerged as a leading Democratic candidate for president, conservatives have turned on the organization, painting it as a partisan extension of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
Bartiromo has heavily praised President Clinton and CGI, once lauding CGI as "fantastic" and saying Clinton and the foundation have done "so much in terms of raising awareness and money for the AIDS epidemic." Bartiromo was listed as a "member" of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on the program's website.
Bartiromo is the host of Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures and the future host of the Fox Business program Morning Money with Maria Bartiromo. She regularly covers Hillary Clinton on Fox News, according to a search of Nexis.* She moved to Fox from CNBC in January 2014.
The New York Times devoted a front page article on May 19 to advancing baseless industry allegations that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally lobbied on behalf of clean water protections. Buried deep within the article was an acknowledgment that the allegations don't hold up, but The Times ran with the story anyway.
The Times reported that "industry critics said the agency's actions might be violating federal lobbying laws," and that the EPA's efforts to build support for its proposed clean water rule "are now being cited as evidence that the E.P.A. has illegally engaged in so-called grass-roots lobbying."
Yet the very same Times article acknowledged that multiple "experts" -- including an energy industry lobbyist who worked for the EPA under the Bush administration -- "said the agency's actions did not appear to cross a legal line."
Moreover, The Times wrote that "the Justice Department, in a series of legal opinions going back nearly three decades, has told federal agencies that they should not engage in substantial 'grass-roots' lobbying." That led The Times into a discussion of a social media campaign in support of the clean water rule that the EPA conducted "in conjunction with the Sierra Club," while "grass-roots group" Organizing for America "was also pushing the rule." The Times added that "critics said environmental groups had inappropriately influenced the campaign," citing officials from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Home Builders, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who claimed that "[t]here is clear collusion between extreme environmental groups and the Obama administration" on new regulations.
It wasn't until 34 paragraphs after the initial mention of the Justice Department that The Times included this massive caveat (emphasis added):
In its previous opinions to federal agencies, the Justice Department has indicated that "grass-roots" efforts are most clearly prohibited if they are related to legislation pending in Congress and are "substantial," which it defined as costing about $100,000 in today's dollars -- a price tag that the E.P.A.'s efforts on the clean water rule almost certainly did not reach if the salaries of the agency staff members involved are not counted.
Fox News' Chris Wallace cast doubt on the fact that many journalists have donated to the Clinton Foundation, asking to see a list for proof while ignoring the fact that the co-chief operating officer of the parent company of his own network donated money to the Clinton Foundation.
After ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos disclosed charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation "in support of the work they're doing on global AIDS prevention and deforestation," media falsely equated donations to the Foundation with contributions to a Democratic political campaign, ignoring the fact that the Foundation's work is expressly nonpartisan, and has been supported by numerous Republicans and conservative media figures.
On the May 17 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Wallace expressed skepticism that "lots of journalists gave money" to the Clinton Foundation after Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers asserted the Clinton campaign "is making a point of" noting donations made by journalists, adding that he'd "like [to see] that list."
But the non-profit arm of Fox News' then-parent company donated to the Clinton Foundation. The News Corp. Foundation, the charitable arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which at the time was the parent company of Fox News, donated between $500,001 to $1,000,000 to the foundation. James R. Murdoch, the co-chief operating officer of Fox News' current parent company, 21st Century Fox, and son of Rupert Murdoch, donated between $1,000,001 to $5,000,000.
Fox News contributor Karl Rove awkwardly tried to evade his history of failing to disclose his financial and political interests in the 2014 Senate races he repeatedly discussed on Fox News Sunday, calling himself a pundit, "not a journalist."
On the May 17 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday during a discussion of ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos' charitable giving to The Clinton Foundation, host Chris Wallace said that he had "taken some criticism this week," for hosting Karl Rove on his show in 2014 to discuss Senate races he was involved in. Rove responded that he "would talk about" his involvement in Senate races, but then attempted to evade the criticism of his lack of disclosure by saying that he is "not a journalist."
WALLACE: I've taken some criticism this week because we have you on the show in 2014 and you were talking about Senate races, and you're involved in Senate races.
ROVE: And I made those, I would talk about that. In fact, full disclosure, I've contributed to the Bush presidential library. There is no foundation engaged in supporting his lifestyle, but I've given to the Bush presidential library. But I'm not a journalist, I'm a pundit, I'm a commentator, I'm someone with an opinion.
Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume pushed back on Rove's excuse that he is "not a journalist," stating, "Pundits are journalists too. You write a column, right?" (Rove also repeatedly used his column at The Wall Street Journal to analyze elections in 2012 that his political groups had a stake in without disclosing those ties.)
Fox News is outraged that an ABC News anchor waited to disclose charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation, despite the network's marked history of failing to disclosure its pundits' political and financial conflicts of interest.
Fox News dismissed criticism of 2016 presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee's sham product endorsements, suggesting he was merely following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, who appeared in product advertisements during his acting days.
Huckabee, a former Fox News host, has a history of peddling sham-medical cures, conspiracy theories, and financial fraudsters in rented space on his Fox-promoted email list. The GOP contender even promoted a "kitchen-cabinet cure" for diabetes in a recent online ad, a shady product The New York Times described as a "dubious diabetes treatment."
Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade jumped to defend Huckabee's product endorsements on May 11, one day after CBS' Bob Schieffer confronted the candidate about his "diabetes cure" hucksterism. Kilmeade compared Huckabee to former President Reagan, arguing that like Huckabee, Reagan "advertised for a few products in between becoming governor and president and when he was an actor":
KILMEADE: I like to add to this, just to give you color on the Huckabee situation. He was asked a question about some of the products he endorsed, including one for diabetes when he was in between being governor, when he was at Fox, and when he was in between running for president, which is now. I thought he gave a pretty good answer for that. He says I'm not embarrassed to say if something could help you with diabetes, I'm going to support it. Plus you're in the free market. I believe there's guys like Ronald Reagan who advertised for a few products in between becoming governor and president and when he was an actor.
While a Fox News employee, Huckabee profited from renting his MikeHuckabee.com email list to a wide range of shady characters, including a medical quack claiming he knew Alzheimer's disease cures; a for-sale stock pundit that was fired from Fox; a financial firm that was fined by the government for engaging in "deliberate fraud"; and a survival food company that profits off of readers' fears of being "herded into FEMA camps." Fox News helped grow his email list, and in turn, Huckabee used his eponymous program to bolster his own political ambitions, even announcing he was considering a presidential run on his final broadcast.
From the May 10 edition of CBS' Face The Nation:
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