Media Structures & Regulations

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  • WI GOP Operatives Conspired To Use Talk Radio To Push Nonexistent Voter Fraud Claims To Help Ally Of Gov. Scott Walker

    One Day After GOP Operatives Discussed Voter Fraud Myths, Daily Caller Referenced Talk Radio Claims Of “Full Blown Voter Fraud”

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Documents released by The Guardian uncovered emails which purportedly show that GOP operatives in Wisconsin wanted to use “talk radio” to push the idea of voter fraud in a close state supreme court race of an ally of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. A day after the email, an article appeared in The Daily Caller which referenced a local talk radio host claiming voter fraud in the election.

    On September 14, The Guardian published leaked documents pertaining to the “‘John Doe investigation’ into suspected campaign finance violations by [Scott] Walker’s campaign and it’s network.” These previously unreleased emails now show that Wisconsin GOP operatives wanted to use talk radio outlets to push politically motivated claims of “voter fraud” in order to force a recall if Walker's ally lost a 2011 election.

    A series of emails released included one from a “Scott Jensen,” who may have been the Scott Jensen who previously served as Wisconsin Assembly Speaker and previous ALEC State Chair for Wisconsin and went on to become a lobbyist for groups implicated in the investigation. In these emails, GOP operative Steve Baas stated “I obviously think we should” start “messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number.” Jensen responded telling him that “Anything fishy should be highlighted. Stories should be solicited by talk radio hosts”:

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    Interestingly, the day after Jensen and Baas discussed using radio outlets to push voter fraud to challenge the legitimacy of Prosser’s election results, then-Daily Caller reporter Matt Boyle penned an article titled “Election Fraud Allegations Fly In Close Wisconsin Supreme Court Race.”

    In his piece, Boyle cites “Madison and Milwaukee conservative radio host Vicki McKenna,” writing McKenna told the Daily Caller “she spent almost her entire two-hour show taking audience calls, in which listeners detailed what may be considered full-blown voter fraud.”

    Referencing the leaked emails, election law expert Rick Hasen, who has made a career debunking baseless claims of voter fraud, explained "It shows that all this talk of fraud is all about manipulating Republican public opinion to believe that if Democrats won a close Supreme Court race, and the recall went to a recount ,that the election was stolen by Democratic voter fraud. This cynical “messaging” is sadly validating of what many of us have said."

  • New Fox Chief Who Allegedly Covered Up Ailes’ Sexual Harassment Signs Multi-Year Deal

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News

    Fox News announced today that co-president Bill Shine has signed a new multi-year contract. Shine reportedly “played an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment allegations against former chief Roger Ailes, which led critics to point out that Ailes departure did not indicate a change in culture at the network following Shine’s promotion.

    Rupert Murdoch announced the new Shine contract in a September 14 press release in which he praised Shine for his role in the Fox’s “continued dominance in the ratings and historic earnings performance” and said that the deal ensured “stability and leadership to guide the network for years to come.”

    Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson recently settled after suing Ailes last month for sexual harassment. Her lawsuit spurred numerous other women to come forward with similar claims against Ailes and an internal investigation of Ailes’ actions that led to his resignation but reportedly did not examine “the broader culture of Fox News.”

    New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman -- the leading source on the Ailes scandal -- previously reported that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up of these sexual harassment claims,” including “play[ing] a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers.” Sherman also reported that Shine played a key role in the silencing and “smearing” of “Rudi Bakhtiar, who says she was fired from Fox News after complaining about sexual harassment.” Shine also reportedly played a role in the handling of Laurie Luhn, a former booker who reportedly received a $3.15 million severance agreement and was allegedly “sexually harassed and ‘psychologically tortured’ by Roger Ailes for more than 20 years.”

    Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros also filed a lawsuit last month alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Shine, Fox News, and Ailes. According to the complaint, when Tantaros met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Fox News publicist Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’”

    Media Matters President Bradley Beychok released the following statement last month after Fox News announced that the network was promoting Shine to co-president:

    "Fox News has an obligation to take allegations of sexual harassment seriously--  for the sake of its staff, and also for its audience. That is why Media Matters launched a petition calling on the network to release the findings of its internal review. The announcement that Bill Shine, who multiple reporters have linked to Ailes' harassment, will serve as co-president of Fox News is a disappointing signal that 21st Century Fox may not be ready to take serious the allegations and to end its culture of sexism and misogyny."

  • Racist Radio Host David Duke Praises Mike Pence’s "Reject[ion]" Of The Media's Call To Denounce Him

    David Duke: It’s “Good To See An Individual Like Pence And Others Start To Reject This Absolute Controlled Media”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an interview with Buzzfeed News, radio host and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praised Republican Vice President nominee Mike Pence, following Pence’s refusal to call Duke “deplorable” during an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

    Following Pence’s CNN interview, Buzzfeed reported that Duke called it “good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media.” Duke argued that “the Republican Party is a big tent,” and bragged that he “had a perfect Republican voting record”:

    Louisiana Senate candidate and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke says he’s pleased that vice presidential nominee Mike Pence declined to call him “deplorable” in an interview on Monday.

    “It’s good to see an individual like Pence and others start to reject this absolute controlled media,” Duke told BuzzFeed News. “The truth is that the Republican Party in Louisiana — I received the vast majority of Republican votes for United States Senator before and for governor before that in my state. The truth is the Republican Party is big tent. I served in the Republican caucus. I was in the Republican caucus in the legislature. I had a perfect Republican voting record. It’s ridiculous that they attack me because of my involvement in that non-violent klan four decades ago.”

    In an appearance on CNN on Monday, Pence was asked about Duke’s support of his running mate Donald Trump. Pence replied, “We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of the people who think like him.”

    Asked if Duke is “deplorable,” Pence said, “I’m not in the name-calling business.”

  • 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 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.