Media Structures & Regulations

Issues ››› Media Structures & Regulations
  • 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.

  • Wash. Post Media Columnist: CNN’s Hiring Of Lewandowski Plunges The Network “Into A Sea Of Muck”

    Margaret Sullivan: “An Astonishing Reward For Behavior That Should Cause Him To Be Shunned By Respectable Journalistic Organizations”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan slammed CNN’s hiring of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in an article published June 28.

    Sullivan wrote that even in the “highly competitive, ratings-mad” cable news market, networks can cross a “bridge too far” and that CNN “ran blithely across that bridge and plunged into a sea of muck” by hiring Lewandowski to give political commentary on his former boss.

    Sullivan wrote, “Bringing Lewandowski onboard is an astonishing reward for behavior that should cause him to be shunned by respectable journalistic organizations,” and she called into question the value of hiring someone with a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits him from “uttering a negative word about his former boss on air.” These problems became more evident in Lewandowski’s “milquetoast commentary” on Trump’s June 28 speech, in which he spent five minutes campaigning for Trump. From Sullivan’s June 28 column:

    Even in the highly competitive, ratings-mad, hardball-playing world of cable television, there should be a bridge too far.

    In hiring Donald Trump’s fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, CNN ran blithely across that bridge and plunged into a sea of muck.

    Bringing Lewandowski onboard is an astonishing reward for behavior that should cause him to be shunned by respectable journalistic organizations.

    [...]

    In a deeply reported profile in March, Politico depicted Lewandowski as a bully who once called a female colleague a “c---” in front of co-workers at the Washington advocacy group where he once worked. (Lewandowski would not comment to Politico on the altercation with his female colleague.)

    The profile reported that he was “rough with reporters and sexually suggestive with female journalists, while profanely berating conservative officials and co-workers he deemed to be challenging his authority.”

    [...]

    As campaign manager, Lewandowski banned news organizations from rallies and maintained Trump’s media blacklist, which includes The Washington Post, as well as BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Politico, the Des Moines Register and many others. His hostility included CNN at least once. Noah Gray, a CNN producer covering Trump, tweeted last November that as he filmed the crowd’s reaction to a protester at a rally, Lewandowski ordered him “inside the pen or I’ll pull your credentials.”

  • CNN And Fox News’ Sunday Media Criticism Shows Note Ethical Issues With CNN’s Lewandowski Hire

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures on CNN’s Reliable Sources and Fox News’ MediaBuzz criticized CNN’s decision to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Hosts and guests on the two media criticism programs highlighted the various “ethical” and “controversial” issues surrounding Lewandowski’s hiring, including Lewandowski’s history of aggressively handling the press and the ambiguity surrounding his possible non-disparagement agreements with Trump.

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a salaried political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns over the various potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring.

    There are still several unknowns about Lewandowski's new position: whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump, which would preclude Lewandowski from criticizing his former boss; whether Lewandowski’s history of aggressive behavior toward journalists was taken into account during the hiring process; and whether an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski is a conflict of interest for CNN.

    CNN’s Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media criticism program Reliable Sources, said on June 26 that Lewandowski is “the most controversial addition to CNN in several years,” noting that his “hostile” behavior toward reporters and the uncertainty regarding any non-disparagement agreements raise “ethical questions.”

    Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik shamed CNN on Reliable Sources for hiring a “weasel to tell you about” “what’s going on inside the Trump campaign,” and told CNN to “give your money back.”

    Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz also slammed CNN on his program MediaBuzz, calling the decision a “sad move” that doesn’t help “CNN’s credibility in covering Donald Trump.” Kurtz specifically noted Lewandowski’s non-disclosure agreement and “rough relations with some reporters.”

    CNN’s own staff have heavily criticized Lewandowski for his “inexcusable” and “unprofessional” behavior. Media Matters has noted, though, that Lewandowski’s hire is at odds with how the network has responded to previous attacks on employees: in February, Trump ally Roger Stone was banned from the network after he wrote a series of offensive, incendiary tweets attacking CNN media figures.

  • Wash. Post’s Wemple Highlights Yet Another Conflict Of Interest In CNN’s Hiring Of Trump’s Former Campaign Manager

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted that, among the various ethical concerns with CNN’s hiring of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, an ongoing defamation lawsuit involving Trump and Lewandowski could pose “another conflict of interest” for CNN’s new hire. Wemple wrote that Lewandowski’s hiring has “reduced” CNN to a “pitiful reality” in which they must warn viewers “that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.”

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a “salaried” political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns both over potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring and the way Lewandowski has aggressively handled the press in the past.

    Wemple noted possible conflicts of interest in a June 24 Washington Post article writing that an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski by a Republican consultant could be another “possible [source] of taint” for CNN’s arrangement. Wemple highlighted questions which have arisen about whether Trump is “footing the bill” for the both of them, noting how the “entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty” to provide analysis about Trump. Wemple added that this concern, among several others, is forcing other CNN employees interviewing Lewandowski “to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised.” Wemple ultimately wrote that “Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes”:

    In his first appearance as a CNN contributor, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski showed an unsurprising reverence for his ex-boss. Appearing last night with host Erin Burnett, Lewandowski was careful to refer to “Mr. Trump,” the proper honorific for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He leveled no criticisms of the candidate. And he said this, too: “I am fully committed in my private time with my family and my friends and telling everybody that I know that Donald Trump is the only person that is going to save this country for my children and hopefully their children someday.”

    [...]

    The hiring of Lewandowski, accordingly, has reduced CNN to this pitiful reality: A true journalist like Burnett is forced to gore an interviewee not to bring accountability to a campaign, but rather to properly warn CNN viewers that everything they’re about to hear is fatally compromised. Trump is dragging down a network’s standards before viewers’ very eyes.

    Yet there are other possible sources of taint for Lewandowski and his former boss. These two fellows worked together on a presidential campaign for a year, gathering some enemies along the way. One of them is Cheri Jacobus, a Republican consultant and PR adviser.

    [...]

    A defamation suit filed by Jacobus in New York County claims that those representations are false. It was the Trump camp, contends Jacobus’s complaint, that wooed her. She’s seeking $4 million in damages, just for starters.

    Why mention this suit in the context of Lewandowski’s work for CNN? Because both he and Trump are named as defendants in the civil action. And according to court documents, a single law firm — LaRocca Hornik Rosen Greenberg & Blaha — is representing both of these men. Defending a defamation suit can cost significant sums. This blog has asked the Trump campaign as well as Lewandowski how the pay arrangements are proceeding. Is Trump footing the bill? Is Lewandowski? Have there been any changes in how the costs are handled since Lewandowski left the campaign?

    Inquiries to Lewandowski, the Trump campaign, CNN and the law firm haven’t yet fetched a single response.

    Little extrapolation is required to appreciate how this entanglement could inhibit Lewandowski’s umpirely duty to call balls and strikes on CNN. If Trump is paying for legal representation, for instance, why would Lewandowski call a bunch of balls and imperil the arrangement?

    Those considerations stand apart, of course, from another set of considerations: That Lewandowski, with a big assist from his boss, slimed someone who dared to criticize Trump — and comes away with the reward of a CNN contributor gig.

  • Wash. Post Columnist Has Four Questions For CNN Following Hiring Of Former Trump Campaign Manager

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post columnist Eric Wemple posed four questions about CNN’s hire of recently fired Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski that emphasize the ethical and journalistic problems the network faces while paying him to provide political commentary.

    Reporters widely criticized CNN’s hire of former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, highlighting Lewandowski’s alleged physical assault of former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and prior reports of the Trump campaigns hostility to press under Lewandowski’s direction. CNN staff had previously slammed Lewandowski’s behavior as “inexcusable” and called for Trump to fire him from his position as campaign manager..

    CNN reported earlier this week that Lewandowski was likely required to sign a non-disparagement agreement, which would prevent him from criticizing the campaign in any way. When asked about this by CNN’s Erin Burnett, Lewandowski dodged the question by stating “I’m a guy who calls balls and strikes.”

    In his June 23 column, Wemple poses four questions that confront problems within CNN’s newest hire and ask “Is there any dignity or occupational pride at CNN?” From The Washington Post:

    Now we know how to view Corey Lewandowski’s interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on Monday after he was fired from the campaign of Donald Trump: As an audition.

    [...]

    The setup raises a number of questions:

    1) How many Trumpites does CNN need? When the political talk turns to Trump, as it always does, CNN has two political commentators to provide analysis: Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan political director prone to ridiculous invocations of history to defend Trump, and Kayleigh McEnany, whose defenses of the candidate tend to be more conventional, though no more convincing. 

    [...]

    2) How will CNN deal with a clear conflict of interest? In his interview with Bash, Lewandowski said something that should have given pause to CNN executives: He will still serve as the chair of the New Hampshire delegation to the Republican convention. 

    [...]

    3) Openness? Though Lewandowski maintained his composure under questioning by Bash, he didn’t provide a great deal of insight. 

    [...]

    4) Is there any dignity or occupational pride at CNN? Corey Lewandowski is the fellow who grabbed the arm of reporter Michelle Fields and later claimed that she was “delusional” for having claimed as much. Corey Lewandowski is the fellow who yelled at CNN staffer Noah Gray to stay in his media pen or suffer the consequences. Corey Lewandowski also allegedly pushed Gray in a separate dustup. Yet CNN says, Give that man a contract!