Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Report: Trump Campaign Sources Say CNN Contributor Corey Lewandowski Is Still Advising Trump 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York magazine reported that sources inside presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign are concerned that former Trump campaign manager turned CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski “will give Trump hard-edged advice that goes against the campaign’s stated plan to soften and humanize the candidate.” Advisers and allies of Trump are reportedly also concerned Lewandowski “could play a wild-card role” during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

    Last month, CNN hired Lewandowski as a contributor days after he was fired from Trump’s campaign. The move drew sharp criticism from media experts, who questioned the network’s ethical solitude after hiring the former campaign manager who was reported to have a hostile and inappropriate relationship with reporters.

    CNN has failed to answer additional ethical questions surrounding Lewandowski’s hire, declining to address the fact that Lewandowski was simultaneously receiving both severance pay from Trump’s campaign and a salary from the network while appearing on-air to campaign for and defend Trump from media criticism. In an open letter to CNN president Jeff Zucker, Media Matters president Bradley Beychok called on Zucker to publicly address questions regarding the hiring of Lewandowski or suspend him from the network.

    In a July 17 article, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Trump’s “advisers and allies” have grown more concerned about Lewandowski’s role in the campaign. Sherman reported that “although Trump fired Lewandowski last month,” he has continued to lobby and advise Trump, pushing for the Trump to maintain his “off-the-cuff style” and instructing him not to apologize for a widely criticized tweet depicting Hillary Clinton and the Star of David -- a tweet Lewandowski defended using his CNN platform. From New York magazine's report:

    As the Republican Convention gets underway, advisers and allies of Donald Trump are increasingly concerned that ousted campaign-manager-turned-CNN-pundit Corey Lewandowski could play a wild-card role in Cleveland. Their principal worry: Lewandowski will give Trump hard-edged advice that goes against the campaign’s stated plan to soften and humanize the candidate. “He'll be trying to undermine the campaign leadership by giving Trump bad advice,” longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone said. Another source said, “Corey will be working the convention rivalries into a froth.”

    Although Trump fired Lewandowski last month, the power struggle between Lewandowski and campaign chairman Paul Manafort continues, sources close to the campaign say. Lewandowski is said to have lobbied hard for Trump to pick Chris Christie for vice-president. (Manafort’s choice was Mike Pence.) Lewandowski also told Trump not to hire Manafort’s choice for senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, because “he’s a Cruz guy” and would take power away. 

  • CNN Drops Disclosure Of Lewandowski’s Severance Package From Trump Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    CNN host Jake Tapper did not report that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is still being paid severance by Trump’s campaign while simultaneously receiving a salary as a CNN contributor, in Lewandowski’s first appearance since the network’s acknowledgment of the severance package drew criticism.

    CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and host Don Lemon disclosed in July 11 and July 12 segments that Lewandowski is “still receiving severance from the Trump campaign” while he is drawing a salary from the network as a CNN contributor to discuss the candidate on-air. Several media outlets criticized CNN after Media Matters drew attention to that new disclosure in a July 13 post.

    Though Lewandowski was hired by CNN on June 23, it appears the network did not report the severance arrangement for three weeks, which raised a series of ethical questions about the network’s awareness of arrangements between Lewandowski and Trump -- including a non-disclosure and possible non-disparagement agreement --   at the time of Lewandowski’s hiring.

    During the July 17 edition of CNN’s State of the Union -- Lewandowski’s first CNN appearance since the severance package was first disclosed -- host Jake Tapper introduced Lewandowski as “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager,” but did not note the severance package his colleagues reported just five days prior.

    It is unclear whether Lewandowski is still receiving severance from the Trump campaign, but after the severance package was first reported, CNN “did not explain why the new step is being taken,” according to the Associated Press.

    Media observers, including CNN’s own staff, have widely criticized the network over Lewandowski’s hiring, noting the various ethical conflicts surrounding Lewandowski’s likely non-disparagement agreement, an ongoing defamation suit against Lewandowski and Trump, and Lewandowski’s continued role as a Trump adviser while being paid by CNN.

  • Wash. Post's Wemple Calls Out Hannity's Clear Conflict Of Interest Acting As News Host And GOP Campaigner

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out Fox News host Sean Hannity for ignoring clear conflict of interest rules by furnishing a private jet for Donald Trump vice presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. Wemple explained that Hannity’s actions creates a “helpful case in point” for “anyone wishing to make the case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party.”

    In a July 14 column, Wemple wrote that “Hannity apparently considers himself exempt from conflict-of-interest rules binding on the rest of the industry” because he is a “talk show” host. Wemple noted that despite Hannity assertions, Hannity is not exempt from those rules “as long as his employer continues to bill his program” as part of “Fox News.” Wemple concluded, “Anyone wishing to make that case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party just found a helpful case in point”:

    Here come CNN’s Dana Bash and Dylan Byers with an authentic media-oriented exclusive: Newt Gingrich, a vice-presidential short-lister for Donald Trump’s campaign, flew out to Indianapolis on a private jet furnished by Fox News host Sean Hannity, the CNNers report. The purpose of the trip, which took place on Wednesday morning, was a meeting with Trump himself.

    [...]

    Hannity’s colleagues, of course, know full well that when you work for a news outlet, favors for friends who double as possible vice presidents are the entire organization’s business. Having previously protested that he’s a “talk show” host, Hannity apparently considers himself exempt from conflict-of-interest rules binding on the rest of the industry. He’s not, at least not as long as his employer continues to bill his program as depicted below. Focus on the red circle added to the screenshot:

    See? It says “Fox News,” not “Fox Corrupt and Conflicted Talk Shows.” Anyone wishing to make that case that Fox News serves as an organ of the Republican Party just found a helpful case in point.

  • Wash. Post Highlights How Ailes And O'Reilly Save Each Other During Scandals

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted how Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and chairman and CEO Roger Ailes have defended each other during scandals, with O’Reilly defending Ailes against sexual harassment allegations by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson.

    In 2015, Media Matters reported on numerous inconsistent and false stories told by O’Reilly, including his claim that he witnessed a “firefight” in El Salvador and that he heard a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Veteran war reporters asserted that his misleading reports that he covered a riot where “many were killed” during the 1982 Falklands War violated “Journalism 101.” O’Reilly responded to these allegations by claiming that Fox News was under attack for political reasons.

    In a July 13 appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, O’Reilly called Ailes “a target” and called Carlson’s lawsuit -- which alleged that Ailes suggested that Carlson have a “sexual relationship” with him and made “frequent sexually-charged comments” -- a “frivolous lawsuit.”

    Wemple explained that Ailes similarly defended O’Reilly against allegations that he “either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits” uncovered by Media Matters and Mother Jones. As O’Reilly’s past statements were being scrutinized, Ailes issued a statement that he “and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly”:

    [O’Reilly] was saddened by the misfortune of the true victim here: “I’ve worked for Roger Ailes for 20 years. Best boss I’ve ever had. Straight shooter. Always honest with me. And I believe that over the years — he’s been in the business for 50 years — 95 percent of the people who have worked for Roger Ailes would say exactly the same thing I just told you,” said O’Reilly, leaving unanswered just what that other 5 percent might say. “In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target. You’re a target,” he said to Meyers. “I’m a target. Anytime somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that. Until America — and that’s a deplorable situation….adopts the English system of civil law whereby if you file a frivolous lawsuit and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs. Until we adopt that very fair proposition, we’re going to have this out-of-control tabloid society that is tremendously destructive. I stand behind Roger 100 percent.”

    [...]

    It was just last year that O’Reilly’s own career appeared in doubt, as outlets like Mother Jones (disclosure: the wife of the Erik Wemple Blog works there as a staff writer) and Media Matters, among others, documented how O’Reilly had either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits from his extensive career in journalism. The King of Cable News, it turned out, had a knack for placing himself closer to the action than his peers and colleagues recollected. The discrepancies were substantive, serial and damaging.

    Not within Fox News, however. Whereas other network bosses might have fired up an internal investigation and declared that we take these allegations seriously, Ailes plied a different course. “Fox News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly,” asserted a statement from the network.  Behind such defiance — not to mention angry and absurd denials by O’Reilly himself — the network waited out the siege. Media reporters eventually moved on to other topics. O’Reilly stayed in his seat, thanks to Ailes.

    Now, on late-night television, he returns the favor. This is loyalty, Fox News style.

  • Trump's Confidentiality Agreement Likely Means CNN's Lewandowski Cannot Legally Disparage Former Boss

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Buzzfeed News released a non-disclosure agreement “regularly used by the [Trump] campaign” that explicitly forbids former employees from “demean[ing] or disparag[ing]” Trump, his family, or any Trump assets. The agreement further calls into question CNN’s hiring of former Donald Trump campaign manager and now-CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski, who has acted more like a Trump sycophant than an unbiased political commentator since joining the network.

    Lewandowski joined CNN in June, asserting that he was “going to tell it like it is.” During his first interview on the network as a contributor, Lewandowski would not say whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with the Trump campaign, although CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported that it was likely he would have in his capacity as campaign manager.

    Buzzfeed News reported on a copy of a “regularly used” Trump campaign confidentiality agreement revealed as an exhibit in a lawsuit Trump filed against a former campaign consultant. In addition to barring employees from disclosing confidential information about the candidate on TV, films, the internet, or “otherwise, even if fictionalized,” the agreement also stated that employees are not allowed to “demean or disparage publicly the Company, Mr. Trump, any Trump Company, any Family Member, or any Family Member Company,” including after employment termination (emphasis original):

    No Disparagement. During the term of your service and at all times thereafter, you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the Company, Mr. Trump, any Trump Company, any Family Member, or any Family Member Company or any asset any of the foregoing own, or product or service any of the foregoing offer, in each case by or in any of the Restricted Means and Contexts.

    Journalists, including numerous CNN employees, heavily criticized CNN for hiring Lewandowski after numerous incidents of Lewandowski attacking the press, and his signing of a non-disparagement agreement makes it unlikely that he can legally provide honest, unbiased commentary on the Trump campaign. Tom Fiedler, former editor of The Miami Herald, said that if Lewandowski signed a non-disparagement agreement, “He must be perceived as being totally compromised in his commentary -- put bluntly, a Trump shill.”

    During Lewandowski’s appearances on the network since his employment, he has repeatedly used his platform on CNN as a paid contributor to campaign for and defend Trump. Washington Post politics and media reporter Callum Borchers asserted that Lewandowski “has not yet transitioned out of his role as a Trump employee” on CNN and has failed “to contribute meaningful insight and analysis -- even from a pro-Trump perspective.” In addition, new reports indicate that Lewandowski is simultaneously being paid by Trump and CNN as he receives severance from the Trump campaign and still advises Trump as a CNN contributor.

  • Fox’s Hannity Provided Gingrich With Private Jet For Trump VP Audition

    CNN: “Hannity Has Long Argued That He Is Not Subject To Journalistic Ethics Because He Is A Pundit”

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    CNN reported that Trump sycophant and Fox News host Sean Hannity provided former Fox contributor Newt Gingrich with a private jet for travel to a meeting with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during his search for a vice presidential pick.

    On July 13, CNN reported Hannity provided a private jet to Indianapolis for Gingrich as Trump “holds late-stage meetings with his VP finalists.” Trump had previously said he would consult with Hannity on his choice for running mate, and on July 12 Hannity said of the looming choice that, “I wouldn’t be happy with anyone but Newt.” CNN also reported that Trump has been consulting with Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and 21st Century Fox executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch:

    Newt Gingrich, a finalist on Donald Trump's vice presidential shortlist, flew to Indianapolis to meet with Trump on a private jet provided by Fox News host Sean Hannity, two sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

    The Fox News host flew the former House speaker to Indianapolis early Wednesday morning to meet with the Republican nominee as he holds late-stage meetings with his VP finalists, the sources said.

    […]

    The Trump-Gingrich meeting came at the request of the former speaker. Trump has also held meetings and phone calls about the VP post with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

    During this time, Trump has also consulted with both Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox News, and Rupert Murdoch, the 21st Century Fox executive co-chairman.

    On July 12, Fox News announced it suspended Gingrich from his position as a network contributor given the “intense media speculation” surrounding Gingrich as a potential VP pick and to avoid the appearance of “conflicts of interest.” While Fox News cited a conflict of interest as the reason for Gingrich’s suspension, CNN noted that “Hannity has long argued that he is not subject to journalistic ethics because he is a pundit.” Hannity has also entertained the idea of serving in an official capacity in a potential Trump administration.

    UPDATE: Sean Hannity responded to the report on Twitter, stating "Whatever favors I do for my friends is my business."

     

     

     

  • Wash. Post Reporter: CNN’s Lewandowski “Has Not Yet Transitioned Out Of His Role As A Trump Employee”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an article in The Washington Post, politics and media reporter Callum Borchers said recently fired Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was recently hired as a political contributor to CNN, “has not yet transitioned out of his role as a Trump employee.” According to Borchers, “Lewandowski's failure to contribute meaningful insight and analysis — even from a pro-Trump perspective” — in his appearances on CNN “makes his performances truly underwhelming,” and CNN’s “hosts have appeared frustrated, at times, by their inability to get anything useful out of Lewandowski.”

    CNN has faced criticism and “ethical questions” from numerous media experts and analysts. Even Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz called CNN’s choice to bring Lewandowski on as political contributor “a sad move” that doesn’t help “CNN’s credibility in covering Donald Trump.” Moreover, Lewandowski recently lost a book deal with publishing company HarperCollins because of “concerns about Lewandowski’s nondisclosure agreement” with the Trump campaign, a document CNN had reported on prior to hiring Lewandowski.

    Now, in an article titled “Corey Lewandowski’s first week on CNN was just as bad as everyone expected,” Borchers wrote that in his appearances on CNN, Lewandowski often changed “the subject to predetermined talking points” and that he “remains prone to spouting fiction and doesn't stay on-topic, grinding segments to a halt as CNN hosts have to correct his misinformation or interject to steer the conversation back to the point.” From The Washington Post’s July 1 article (emphasis original):

    A week isn't very long to learn a new job, so it's possible Corey Lewandowski will improve in his role as a CNN commentator. But so far, Donald Trump's recently fired campaign manager is just plain bad — and not only for the reasons many anticipated.

    [...]

    Yet it is Lewandowski's failure to contribute meaningful insight and analysis — even from a pro-Trump perspective — that makes his performances truly underwhelming. Here's a representative exchange from "New Day" in which host Alisyn Camerota asked Lewandowski and former New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, a Hillary Clinton supporter, about Trump's recent trip to Scotland.

    [...]

    Lewandowski deflected and pivoted to other subjects, knocking Clinton for a campaign ad and praising Trump for supporting his son's work on a golf course project. By the end, he had somehow invented a scenario in which the question was about criticism of Trump, rather than criticism by Trump.

    This is what a spokesman might do — changing the subject to predetermined talking points. But Lewandowski doesn't work for Trump anymore; he works for CNN. He needs to at least talk about whatever CNN wants to talk about and not try to hijack the conversation. His employer asked him a question and wanted his analysis of it, and he didn't deliver.

    The cable channel's hosts have appeared frustrated, at times, by their inability to get anything useful out of Lewandowski.

    [...]

    For the most part, however, Lewandowski is bad television. He remains prone to spouting fiction and doesn't stay on-topic, grinding segments to a halt as CNN hosts have to correct his misinformation or interject to steer the conversation back to the point.

    In short, Lewandowski has not yet transitioned out of his role as a Trump employee, and it has already reportedly cost him one post-campaign payday. Politico reported this week that HarperCollins rescinded a $1.2 million book offer over concerns that Lewandowski would not provide much insight, partly because of his nondisclosure agreement and partly because he was fired more than four months before Election Day.

    CNN is more willing to give Lewandowski a shot. But right now, he's not enhancing their coverage in the least.