Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Trump Kicks Off General Campaign With Phone Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Donald Trump phoned in to the morning news programs on ABC, MSNBC, NBC, and Fox News for interviews following his victory in the May 3 Indiana primary, which cemented his role as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for the general election. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs -- including CBS’s morning show -- have banned the practice.

    Trump’s most recent round of phone interviews is only the latest example of a newly common type of media malpractice unique to the candidate. The practice of letting a presidential candidate largely eschew on-camera interviews in favor of phoning in is unprecedented in American politics. News networks have overwhelmingly allowed Trump -- and Trump only -- to call in to Sunday morning political talk shows. In total, Trump conducted 69 phone interviews on news programs in the first 69 days of 2016.

    In March, CBS This Morning and NBC’s Meet The Press announced they would no longer allow Trump to phone in for interviews, joining Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday. During that same month, the six major broadcast and cable news networks allowed Trump to phone in for 39 of his 63 interviews. On ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone.

    Media critics and prominent journalists have criticized the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews, noting that the practice "is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump." Trump’s phone interviews have given him an obvious advantage over his rivals, allowing him to ignore hosts' visual cues and body language, dodge or shout over interviewers' questions, and avoid awkward confrontations.

    To sign Media Matters’ petition calling on media outlets to take away Trump’s special phone privilege, click here.

  • After Claiming Carly Fiorina Went “Full Vagina,” Radio Host Steve Deace Touts Her For Ted Cruz VP

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Influential radio host and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) media surrogate Steve Deace praised Ted Cruz's decision to select former GOP candidate Carly Fiorina as his running-mate, claiming Fiorina "might be the best messenger for the party." Deace’s endorsement is a sharp departure from his sexist rhetoric about Fiorina which received heavy criticism from the media and from Fiorina herself.

    Appearing at a rally in Indianapolis on April 27, Republican candidate Ted Cruz named Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running-mate. In a series of tweets after the announcement, Deace lauded Cruz's vice presidential selection, claiming Fiorina "might be the best messenger for the party," and stating "Her presence is a living, daily reminder of Trump's struggles with women."

    Deace has previously appeared as part of Cruz's Iowa leadership team, in promotional videos for Cruz's campaign, and has been described by the Des Moines Register as having "served as an informal, unpaid consultant" to Cruz.

    Deace’s most recent comments are at odds with his prior sexist attacks on Fiorina, including a tweet stating "Fiorina goes full vagina right away" in her opening statement during the December 2015 Republican debate.

    Deace initially defended his criticism of Fiorina, tweeting "I think a GOP presidential candidate's opening statement being all about her gender is disgusting." Deace subsequently apologized for the remarks, claiming his wife told him he had been "too vulgar and need[ed] to apologize."

    Deace received widespread condemnation following his remarks including criticism from Fox News host Megyn Kelly and Fiorina during a December 16 interview on Fox News' The Kelly File. Fiorina rebuked Deace's sexist attacks and position as a prominent campaign surrogate for Ted Cruz, stating "I told my story, just like every other candidate has told their story, [...] it's inexplicable to me why this major surrogate of Ted Cruz thought that was playing the 'V' card." Fiorina continued, saying Deace "is more than a radio show talk host. He is a major surrogate for Ted Cruz and a major endorser, and this is why Ted Cruz cannot possibly beat Hillary Clinton."

  • Donald Trump Praises The Media After A Nearly Year-Long Attack On The Press

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump praised the media in his victory speech and in morning show interviews after sweeping all five April 26 GOP primaries, a sharp shift in his campaign’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets.

    During an April 26 victory speech, Trump said, “I want to thank the media. The media’s really covered me very fair for the last two hours.” Trump continued, “They’ve been really very fair over the last few weeks.” The following morning, Trump made the morning news show circuit, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the show's coverage of him has been "great." (Morning Joe has previously been widely criticized by other members of the media for their soft Trump coverage.) Trump added that hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski had given him a "hard time" in some cases, to which Brzezinski responded, "We gave you a hard time on things we disagreed with, but we always thought your candidacy was successful." On CNN’s New Day, Trump asserted that “CNN’s doing a very good job" of covering the election.

    During the morning of April 27, ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Trump to phone in for interviews. Networks' unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly do phone interviews rather than make in person or satellite appearances offers Trump an advantage against probing and hard-hitting interviews.

    Trump’s tone towards the media is markedly different from his consistent attacks on the press throughout the entirety of his nearly year-long campaign. Trump’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets includes blacklisting multiple reporters from his events, kicking Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of a news conference, and mocking a reporter’s disability after receiving supposedly unfavorable coverage. Multiple reporters and photographers have been reportedly threatened or injured by Trump campaign officials and security. Trump’s favorable comments to CNN directly contrast with his threats last month to skip a March 29 CNN town hall, where he cited “one-sided and unfair reporting” from the network.

    Trump infamously attacked Fox News host Megyn Kelly for months after she asked a question about his history of sexism during the August 6 Fox Republican presidential debate, culminating in his boycott of Fox's January 28 debate. In an interview after the August 6 debate, Trump said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the debate, later retweeted a comment calling Kelly a “bimbo,” and called her “Crazy Megyn.”

    During a February 26 press conference, Trump promised to sue the media for negative stories about him if he’s elected president, saying he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money." The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called those statements a “threat to American democracy” and a “logical extension” of Trump’s attacks on the press.

    In recent weeks several media figures have fallen for claims that Trump has evolved to demonstrate a more "presidential" tone, while other journalists have urged their colleagues not to forget his history of insulting and extreme statements.

  • Donald Trump Returning To Hannity For Another Softball Interview

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News’ Sean Hannity is slated to interview Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on the April 25 edition of his show, for Trump’s reaction “to Kasich and Cruz teaming up against him” in upcoming primary elections. Hannity has received widespread criticism for his relationship with Donald Trump and has repeatedly admitted he gives “soft” interviews to Republican candidates.

    Hannity has received widespread and bipartisan criticism for giving Trump a “friendly outlet” and treating him “in a way that’s gentle in order to get him to come back.” On April 11,ThinkProgress pointed out that Trump has appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show “an astonishing 41 times since he announced his campaign,” giving him a nearly yearlong platform to target GOP voters. Conservative website RedState claimed ThinkProgress' report showed that Hannity “has become, for all intents and purposes, part of Trump’s campaign apparatus.” On April 23, the Associated Press reported that Hannity had a “nasty spat” with Cruz “following criticism from both the left and right about his interviews with Donald Trump" (Hannity will also interview Cruz tonight).

    After being criticized for being a “very soft interviewer,” Hannity defended himself by asserting, “I’m not a journalist, I’m a talk show host.” Hannity doubled down on his radio show, saying he’s not critical of Trump or Cruz because he wants the Republican nominee to win. He has also said he “absolutely plead[s] guilty” to “going soft in interviews on Republicans.”

    Indeed, the neologism "Hannitize" was coined to describe efforts by conservatives "to clean up a messy situation with a softball interview, typically one conducted by Sean Hannity." Trump has frequently appeared on Hannity's program to receive positive treatment for his efforts to rebound from gaffes or scandals.

  • Sean Hannity Goes On Twitter Tirade After Contentious Interview With Ted Cruz

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Radio host Sean Hannity responded to critics on Twitter after his contentious interview with GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) where Cruz called Hannity a Trump supporter for questioning the delegate process.

    On the April 19 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity asked Cruz about his recent election victories and whether his delegate wins raise questions about the "integrity of the election," which received immediate condemnation from Cruz. During the argument, Hannity pushed back against Cruz claiming that "Every time I have you on the air, and I ask a legitimate question, you try to throw this in my face," prompting Cruz to respond that "as I travel the country, nobody is asking me this, other than the Trumpsters and the people repeating it."

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I think the number one question on the minds of Republicans right now is what is going on with the delegates. For example, if you can explain to people that your campaign, that you have every right within the rules, to talk to candidates that are pledged on a first ballot, to Candidate A or Candidate C, you being Candidate B, and that -- tell us what that process is. You are assuming this is going to the convention, you told me that in the last two interviews. So as part of that, you’re hoping to get to a second ballot. In other words, in a second ballot people that support Donald Trump or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, if those delegates are still relevant, can then switch their votes. So you are in the process of talking to delegates and it seems to be very extensive. Can you explain to people what's going on?

    TED CRUZ: Sean, with all respect, that's not what people are concerned about. I'm campaigning every day, people are concerned about bringing jobs back to America. People are concerned about raising wages. People are concerned about getting the federal government off the backs of small businesses, and people are concerned about beating Hillary. And the media loves to obsess about process, this process, and this whining from the Trump campaign, it's all silly. It's very, very simple --

    HANNITY: Senator, I'm -- hang on a second, I'm on social media with millions of people. I have 550 radio stations, and I have the top rated cable show in my hour, all across the board. And I am telling you that people are telling me that they find this whole process confusing. You know, I can read the articles, for example, about -- you know, people want to know about what actually happened in Georgia this weekend, where people that have, I guess, on the first ballot are going to Donald Trump, but representatives of yours talked to them, and are persuading them to vote for you on a second ballot. That is an important question, because I think most of people would like to know how this works, and I'm really am asking you more than a process question. It's an integrity of the election question, and everybody's asking me this question. So I'm giving you an opportunity to explain it.

    CRUZ: Sean, the only people asking this question are the hardcore Donald Trump supporters.

    HANNITY: Why do you -- but senator, why do you do this? Every single time I -- no, you gotta stop. Every time I have you on the air, and I ask a legitimate question, you try to throw this in my face. I'm getting sick of it. I've had you on more than any other candidate, on radio and TV. So if I ask you senator, a legitimate question that would explain to the audience, why wouldn't you just answer it?

    CRUZ: Sean, can I answer your question without being interrupted?

    HANNITY: Go ahead.

    CRUZ: In the last three weeks, there have been five elections in five states. Utah, North Dakota, WIsconsin, Colorado, Wyoming. We've won all five, over 1.3 million people voted in those five states, we won all five. All of this noise and complaining and whining has come from the Trump campaign, because they don't like the fact that they've lost five elections in a row, that Republicans are uniting behind our campaign, so they are screaming on Drudge, and it's getting echoed, this notion of voterless election. It is nonsense that they are making it up. Over 1.3 million people voted, we won landslides in all five. Now, there is a second component beyond the elections, which is the individual delegates are elected by the people. Donald Trump's campaign does not know how to organize on the grassroots.

    [...]

    We are winning election after election after election, and nobody, as I travel the country, nobody is asking me this, other than the Trumpsters and the people repeating it.

    After the interview, Hannity went on a tirade on Twitter explaining his contentious interview to journalists and followers: