Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Will Chris Wallace Let Trump’s Iraq War Lie Slide In The Presidential Debate?

    Flashback: Wallace Has Enabled The Lie Twice Before

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News’ Chris Wallace has previously failed to fact-check Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s brazen lie that he opposed the Iraq War, raising further concerns about how Wallace will moderate the third and final presidential debate.

    Wallace has twice before let Trump lie about his opposition to the Iraq War -- a claim that has been proved false time and time again. On February 21, when Trump appeared on Wallace’s Fox News Sunday, Wallace let the candidate say he “was against” the Iraq War “at the beginning” while offering no pushback; and on March 13, Wallace again let Trump’s claim that he “was against the war in Iraq … I’m one that said don’t go in” go unchallenged.

    Wallace’s complicity in enabling Trump’s lie is troubling given that he has been tapped as moderator for the final debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and that he has said it’s not his “job to be a truth squad” when moderating. Trump took the news that Wallace wouldn’t fact-check the candidates during the debates well, telling Larry King, “I can understand him saying that. … I think that the candidates should police themselves.”

    Wallace’s previous disregard for Trump’s recurrent lie is even more concerning given the conflict of interest tethered to Wallace’s role as a moderator. As Media Matters founder David Brock wrote to the Commission on Presidential Debates, former Fox CEO Roger Ailes’ position advising both Trump and Rupert Murdoch -- the head of Fox’s parent company and Wallace’s boss -- represents a “glaring conflict of interest” that infringes on the credibility of any Fox News moderator. Brock has asked the commission to reconsider Wallace as a moderator.

    Given NBC host Matt Lauer’s heavily criticized, fact-challenged moderation during a national security forum -- where he, too, let Trump lie about his previous Iraq War stance -- it’s crucial that the debate moderators stamp out Trump’s mendacity and ensure a fact-based debate.

  • Fox’s Shepard Smith Rips Journalists Who Refuse To Fact-Check Trump, Days After Chris Wallace Says He Won’t “Truth Squad” Candidates In Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox host Shepard Smith criticized the idea that some media figures refuse to fact-check Donald Trump’s lies, a statement that stands in contrast to his Fox colleague Chris Wallace who said that it isn’t his job to be a “truth squad” while moderating candidates during the presidential debates.

    During an interview about his selection as a debate moderator on September 4, Chris Wallace argued that “I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad” on presidential candidates, “it’s up to the other person to catch them on that.”

    In a discussion of NBC anchor Matt Lauer’s performance as moderator of a September 7 presidential forum, Smith argued that the idea of the media refusing to fact-check lies told by candidates is a “dereliction of duty.” Smith added that the media hasn’t aggressively been fact-checking Trump out of fear “he’ll rip you to shreds”:

    SHEPARD SMITH (HOST): Did it seem to you anybody -- any of the three of them were ready for last night?

    JOHN BUSSEY: Yeah, it was a shaky -- it was a shaky business, and --

    SMITH: Critics are eviscerating --

    BUSSEY: Yes, that's right, and Matt Lauer is getting critiqued for not fact-checking Trump more in his comments. And I think what you did earlier in the broadcast is kind of a reflection of the need to continue to do that. Trump's comments that he was against the war --

    SMITH: When he says things that aren't true and the media does not call him out, that's derelict -- dereliction of duty.

    [...]

    BUSSEY: You will see with Gary Johnson, Clinton, and Trump, the media has to be -- continue to be very aggressive on the fact-checking.

    SMITH: And yet it has not been. It seems -- it's almost as if people are scared to fact check him, because we know the wrath that comes from him when you fact check. If you correct him using the facts, he'll rip you to shreds.

    BUSSEY: Well, I think that the media is getting better at this.

    SMITH: Well, it better get better.

  • Matt Lauer’s Fact-Challenged Moderation Is A Cautionary Tale For Debate Moderators

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Matt Lauer’s widely panned moderation of the NBC News Commander-In-Chief Forum, where he failed to fact-check Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recurrent lie about opposing the Iraq War, shows precisely why it is paramount that moderators for the upcoming presidential debates correct misinformation and hold the candidates to an equal standard of truth-telling.

    Lauer, who moderated the Commander-In Chief Forum hosted by NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) on September 7, let Trump lie twice that he “was totally against the war in Iraq.” Trump’s claim has been proved false time and time again, and because of the audacity of the lie, the media roundly castigated Lauer's slip.

    With the first presidential debate looming, Lauer’s performance is a cautionary tale to the debate moderators, who will give voters one of the last chances to judge the candidates on the substance and breadth of their policy proposals.

    Fox’s Chris Wallace, tapped as the moderator for the final debate, already outrageously conceded that he will not fact-check candidates’ lies, stating, “I do not believe it’s my job to be a truth squad.” With his concession, it’s imperative that the other moderators step up to the challenge of fact-checking candidates, because letting falsehoods go unchallenged is a disservice to voters and a strain on journalistic integrity.

    Challenging mendacity in the presidential debates is paramount for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that Trump’s entire campaign has been grounded in lies and conspiracy theories. PolitiFact found that 71 percent of Trump’s claims are either “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” As Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone explained, failure to fact-check lies in the debates “leaves the viewing public with a ‘he said, she said’ situation when the journalist picked to be onstage could say, decisively, who is right.” This, in turn, enables misinformation -- an injustice to voters -- and normalizes this behavior -- a threat to democratic and journalistic processes. New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor unequivocally said that, moving forward, journalists and reporters have a duty to fact-check lies and inconsistencies:

    I think last night we saw Donald Trump say that he did not support the war in Iraq. Many people have fact-checked him and said that that's a false statement. BuzzFeed broke that big story saying here is him on Howard Stern saying that, that he does support the war. So I think being able to do that as journalists, we have to do that. Even if it's tenuous and we want to move on to the next question and we want to have multiple broad conversations, we have to stop and say, wait, you really need to answer this question.

    Another worry for debate moderators’ passivity in the face of lies is the growing concern that Trump is being “graded on a curve,” where so long as he doesn’t “vomit all over himself and [he gives] a decent” performance, he’ll succeed. Failing to fact-check Trump’s lies during a debate will feed into the growing media tendency to lower the bar for Trump compared to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    As CNN’s John Berman said, “If the bar for Donald Trump is not embarrassing himself, what does that mean heading into the debates?”

    Given that Trump’s accusations of media bias have already seemingly influenced the debate moderator selections, Lauer’s performance will hopefully encourage Lester Holt, Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Wallace to strengthen their fact-checking skills and harden their resolve to ensure the presidential debates are grounded in truth and reality.

  • Fox Business Spends Mere Seconds Reporting On Gretchen Carlson’s Settlement

    CNBC Devoted Significant Resources To The Story, While Bloomberg And Fox Relegated It To Quick Headlines

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox Business devoted a mere 16 seconds of airtime to the eight-figured settlement reached by 21st Century Fox and former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson after she filed a lawsuit against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment and retaliation. Bloomberg and CNBC spent marginally more time on the news, even though Bloomberg relegated the story to quick headlines.

    21st Century Fox announced September 6 that it had reached a $20 million settlement deal with Carlson, who sued Ailes for sexual harassment in July. Fox also released a public apology saying, “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect that she and all our colleagues deserve." CNN reported that the company “also completed settlement deals with a ‘handful’ of other women who accused Ailes of harassing behavior.”

    In the 24 hours after the settlement was announced, Fox Business covered it only once, in a 16-second statement from host Charles Payne. Bloomberg News devoted six segments to the settlement, but they were all short headlines that lasted less than 30 seconds each.

    CNBC was the only business news network to devote substantial coverage to the story, spending 12 minutes and 21 seconds discussing the settlement across six segments. CNBC’s segments also included more substantial coverage of the allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News. In an interview on the September 6 edition of Squawk Alley, Vanity Fair contributing editor Sarah Ellison, who broke the story of the settlement, discussed the “waterfall effect” of women coming forward and speaking up about being sexually harassed at Fox. CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin noted of the settlement that “though there were talks about Ailes covering some of that payment, he is not going to be making any contribution ... despite the fact that Ailes reportedly walked away from Fox with twice what Carlson is being paid, $40 million.”

    Fox News was also hesitant to cover the story when Carlson filed the lawsuit in July, and when the network did report on the issue, it leaned heavily on Ailes’ prepared statement. The network’s first report on the lawsuit came a day after it was filed, and it was almost entirely a recitation of Ailes’ statement. In a piece on FoxNews.com after news of the lawsuit broke, Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz carried water for Ailes by citing his denial before even establishing the facts about the allegations he was denying.

  • Confirmed: Fox News’ Sexual Harassment Investigation Was Just A PR Offensive

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Vanity Fair reported that the internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, launched after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Ailes, has concluded with a $20 million settlement and a public apology, but without examining “the broader culture of Fox News.” This “relatively swift closure to an ugly chapter,” as Vanity Fair put it, shows that the probe was little more than a pseudo-investigation. The magazine noted that in some ways, it "simply got a revenue machine back on track." And that confirms previous concerns about the impartiality of the investigation, which was handled by Fox News’ parent company.

    After Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit on July 6 against then-Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Fox’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, retained the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to lead an internal investigation into the claims.

    Some questioned the “firm's independence” and ability to investigate the allegations with impartiality. As The New York Times reported, describing the Paul, Weiss investigation “as an ‘independent’ review commissioned by the company’s board … is not correct” because “The firm was retained by 21st Century Fox not only to investigate but also to provide legal advice.” The Times noted that a “true independent review would preclude legal advice.”

    As the investigation proceeded behind closed doors, media outlets reported that the “harassment and intimidation” inside Fox News “went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.” New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Fox executives -- including Ailes deputy Bill Shine, who has since been promoted to co-president of Fox News -- were aware of Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment of Fox News employees and said some helped the former network chairman and CEO “cover up” his actions.

    But as news broke that Carlson and 21st Century Fox settled the suit, Vanity Fair reported that “the Paul, Weiss investigation … never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News.” According to Vanity Fair, Paul, Weiss “was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture.”

    The settlement punctuates an important chapter in the Ailes scandal. While the Paul, Weiss investigation interviewed more than 20 women, according to two sources familiar with the process, it never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News. The firm, according to numerous people familiar with the process, was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture. In some ways, according to one person familiar with the process, the Paul, Weiss investigation simply got a revenue machine back on track.

    As New Yorker contributing editor Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote: "“Unlike what reportedly happened around Ailes, neither an employee’s supervisor nor the person being accused of harassment should have any control over an investigation.”

    Given that Fox News has for years cultivated a toxic atmosphere of misogyny and sexism, and given reporting about the widespread culture of sexual harassment at the network that went beyond Ailes, Media Matters launched a petition calling on 21st Century Fox to publicly release the findings of the internal review. Though now those findings may be spurious, given the narrow scope of the investigation.

  • Media Matters President Bradley Beychok Responds To Report That Fox Sought Our Reporter’s Phone Records

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News sought the phone records of Media Matters senior reporter Joe Strupp through “legally questionable means” in order to identify his anonymous network sources, according to a new report.

    New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported in his September 2 cover story on the fall of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes:

    Fox News also obtained the phone records of journalists, by legally questionable means. According to two sources with direct knowledge of the incident, Brandi, Fox’s general counsel, hired a private investigator in late 2010 to obtain the personal home- and cell-phone records of Joe Strupp, a reporter for the liberal watchdog group Media Matters. (Through a spokesperson, Brandi denied this.) In the fall of that year, Strupp had written several articles quoting anonymous Fox sources, and the network wanted to determine who was talking to him. “This was the culture. Getting phone records doesn’t make anybody blink,” one Fox executive told me.

    Media Matters president Bradley Beychok responded to the report:

    From what we witnessed with Rupert Murdoch and News Corp's prior phone hacking scandal, it's critical for an immediate investigation of Roger Ailes and any other current or former Fox News employees who may have been involved in this illegal practice.

    Roger Ailes and Fox News broke the law by hacking into the phone records of Media Matters employees. Anyone involved in the illegal hacking should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and we are considering all legal options.

  • Trump Flies To Mexico, Trump's Traveling Press Corps Left Behind In America

    Trump's Campaign Manager Used The Trip To Bash Clinton's Accessibility To The Press

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media figures criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's "distressing" decision to leave his traveling press corps in the United States as he travels to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump's "alarming" treatment of the press throughout his presidential campaign has included revoking entire outlets' press credentials, taunting and insulting the press at campaign rallies, and promising to "open up our libel laws" if elected.

    The Trump campaign's decision to leave their press behind is inconsistent with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway's claim that a joint press conference she said Trump would hold with Peña Nieto during the trip should be looked at "in direct contrast" to Hillary Clinton. (It was later reported that Trump was "not expected to take questions in Mexico, despite his campaign manager insisting this morning he would.)"

    According to Politico's Hadas Gold, "reporters were 'seething'" on a call with the Trump campaign because "the campaign is leaving the press behind on its big trip to Mexico on Wednesday":

    Just one day after a traveling print pool was put in place for Donald Trump's campaign, the campaign is leaving the press behind on its big trip to Mexico on Wednesday.

    The last-minute trip to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was announced on Tuesday. And while there is a charter plane for the press traveling with Trump, their plane was directed to Phoenix where Trump will later give an immigration speech.

    [...]

    On the daily call with Trump communications director Jason Miller, reporters were "seething," one source on the call, who asked not to be named because the call is off the record, told POLITICO. According to the source, the campaign only told the five-network television pool about the opportunity to cover the meeting around 3 a.m. While some reporters were weighing chartering their own plane to Mexico, they decided against it partly because the campaign did not indicate there would be a press availability until Conway's comments this morning.

    This post has been updated.

  • Megyn Kelly Defends Rush Limbaugh After Radio Host Says He Never Took Trump Seriously On Immigration

    Kelly: "Some In The Republican Party Want To Demonize" Rush Limbaugh And Sean Hannity "For Getting Behind Trump"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 30 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:

    MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Listen, there's been a lot of finger pointing, right, in the GOP and a lot of what feels like a civil war between the people who support Trump in the party and the people who don't. And that was just a reflection of some of that. Your thoughts?

    BRENT BOZELL: Exactly. This isn't about Rush. This is about the fractured nature of the Republican Party, and the fractured nature of the conservative movement. Look, anything Rush says is going to trigger a reaction from someone calling himself a conservative, saying that Rush Limbaugh has betrayed the conservative movement. This is the nature of the politics this year.

    That caller -- if Rush were that impactful in this crazy year, when Rush Limbaugh said that Ted Cruz was the single most conservative candidate in the race, then Ted Cruz would have won the nomination. Look, the Trump people, Rush is absolutely right. The Trump people are lock step with Trump, and the people who aren't with Trump, I think they're going to be with Trump. But right now, like this caller, they're having a very hard time. Rush is caught in the crosshairs.

    KELLY: You tell me -- I mean, there's no question Rush is incredibly powerful and incredibly successful, but he -- he's not omnipotent, and he's not all -- you know, he can't do it all. I know Rush rather well. Back in 2008, he was behind John McCain. Back in 2012, he was behind Mitt Romney. It didn't carry them over the finish line.

    You know, I mean I think some in the Republican Party want to demonize, let's say Rush, or Hannity, or whoever it is for getting behind Trump, or not condemning Trump, just the same as, you know, it's happening the other way as well. People want to condemn the never-Trumpers for not getting behind a party nominee who's obviously extremely controversial.

    BOZELL: And if Rush were to say something critical about Trump, then there would be the furious backlash in the opposite direction about how he is costing the Republicans the election by going after the nominee. This is what I mean, you can't win this year. It is the craziest year ever. And I think what people have to do is take a deep, deep breath and understand Rush was advocating conservative principles long before any caller was calling him.

    KELLY: Mm-hmm. And he is a broadcaster. I mean that's what he is at heart. He's not a campaign manager who needs to get a non-Trumper elected. He's a broadcaster. In any event, the recriminations have only just begun.

    Previously:

    Hannity v. The World: Here Are The People Sean Hannity Has Attacked To Defend Trump (So Far)

    BEDLAM: Hannity, National Review, WSJ Editor Go To War Over Donald Trump

    Hannity: Glenn Beck Is On "A Holy War" Against Me For Supporting Trump

    Sean Hannity Has Given Donald Trump $31 Million In Free Publicity

    Hannity Praises Trump For Using A Teleprompter After Years Of Demonizing Obama For Using Them