Media Structures & Regulations

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  • How Donald Trump Dodged A Media Discussion Over Trump University

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Trump

    Donald Trump used a press conference about millions of dollars in donations he says he raised for veterans’ groups to hijack the cable news discussion and largely avoid coverage of an anticipated document release today as part of  a lawsuit alleging misrepresentation by his now-defunct Trump University business. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News devoted more than five hours to previewing, airing, and discussing Trump’s press conference between 6 am and 4 pm, compared to less than one hour of discussion of the Trump University lawsuit.

    After intense and admirable pressure from the press, Trump last week finally took steps toward personally donating $1 million to a veterans’ charity, four months after he falsely claimed he had done so. Trump had organized a January 28 nationally televised fundraiser as a substitute for appearing at a debate moderated by Fox News, which Trump was feuding with at the time. That night, he claimed to have raised $6 million, including his own gift. He subsequently avoided repeated questions about where the donations had gone.

    Trump’s campaign originally scheduled a press conference for May 30 to discuss the donations. But on May 29, he moved the appearance to today.

    It’s not hard to see why. On May 27, a federal judge ordered the release this week of internal documents from Trump University, a Trump-owned real estate seminar business that is facing several pending fraud and misrepresentation lawsuits brought by former students and by the state of New York. CNN reported that the documents would begin coming out today.

    Donald Trump does not want the media talking about whether he defrauded thousands of people who trusted his company to give them good business advice. By moving his veterans event to today, Trump was able to use what The New York Times has termed his “unrivaled ability to hijack a news cycle,” ensuring that the media would spend the day focusing on his comments rather than coming back from the holiday weekend with a focus on the contents of the pending Trump University lawsuits.

    All three cable news networks broadcast the entirety of Trump’s 40-minute press conference live, and devoted substantial time afterwards discussing his comments, which included both a detailed list of donations he had channeled to veterans and attacks on the press. As Politico noted, Trump “game[d] the media, again.”

    While the cable news coverage of the Trump event was by no means universally flattering, with many journalists criticizing the candidate’s attacks on the press, it did move the subject of that coverage to Trump’s preferred topic. As CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield noted after one such segment, “The question needs to be asked: what about this news conference and what happened, and is it overshadowing another case?”

    It did. While both CNN and MSNBC devoted segments to discussing Trump University -- and CNN’s Jim Acosta used a question during the press conference itself to ask Trump about the lawsuits -- all three networks devoted significantly more time to discussing Trump’s veterans event. (Acosta’s question and Trump’s response during the press conference, and a single 11-second tease on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, represented the entirety of that network’s coverage of Trump University.)

    And that’s exactly what Trump wanted to see happen.

    Research by Rob Savillo and Cydney Hargis, graph by Sarah Wasko.

    Methodology. Media Matters​ reviewed our internal video archive for discussion of Trump's press conference about raising money to donate to veterans’ organizations and discussion of the allegations against Trump University. We reviewed all mentions of "Trump" for these two topics between 6:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC, and we then timed the relevant discussion. Trump's press conference was included in the data, with all discussion related to veterans during the event coded as time devoted to the Trump Veterans Presser and all discussion of Trump University during the event coded as time devoted to Trump University.

  • Telemundo Uses Flawed Poll To Misleadingly Claim Latinos May Be Warming To Trump

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Telemundo uncritically reported on a flawed NBC/SurveyMonkey poll conducted between May 16 and May 22 that showed Latino support for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump at 29 percent, a higher result than what other national polls are reporting.

    On the May 26 edition of Telemundo’s nightly news program, Noticiero Telemundo, news correspondent Cristina Londoño reported on the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll, saying that Trump’s support among Latinos has “now surpassed that of Mitt Romney’s” in 2012 and that Republican analysts are beginning to “confess that a Trump presidency is starting to seem like a real possibility”:

    Translated transcript:

    CRISTINA LONDOÑO (CORRESPONDENT): Today analysts on different sides of the political spectrum are starting to confess that they see a Trump presidency as a real possibility based specifically on how they used to consider his candidacy had such small possibilities. With the nomination almost secured, this analyst predicts that Trump will attempt to close in on Latino voters.

    ROLANDO BONILLA: He is going to make the necessary adjustments, and we are going to see people within the Latino community that are going to end up supporting him.

    LONDOÑO: Nevertheless, this Trump supporter claims that the businessman who just surpassed the support of Latinos that Mitt Romney obtained in 2012 has many secret Latino supporters that are afraid of being attacked.

    But the segment failed to explain that the poll they based their analysis on “did not offer the questionnaire in Spanish -- a key difference from the earlier FIU/Adsmovil and Washington Post/Univision polls.” Despite English proficiency being on the rise among Hispanics, Pew studies show that at least one third don’t speak the language “very well” or claim to “not speak English at all.”

    Telemundo also did not put the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll in context, neglecting to report on other data showing Trump’s high unfavorables among Latinos and reports that increasing naturalization rates among foreign-born Hispanics may be tied to Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Univision’s Jorge Ramos in April put into context Trump’s dismal numbers among Latinos:

  • Politico’s Morning Media: WSJ Editors Reminded To Be “Fair” To Trump

    Reminder Comes After Murdoch Reportedly Becomes “An Official Donald Trump Supporter”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerry Baker instructed editors “to be ‘fair’ to [presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald] Trump” during a recent meeting, according to Politico’s Morning Media tip sheet.

    It was recently reported that Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the Journal’s parent company News Corp., was throwing his full support behind Trump, and that Fox News -- also under the News Corp. umbrella -- “will go easy on Trump.” Murdoch took to Twitter in March to argue the GOP “would be mad not to unify” around the presumptive Republican nominee. And Murdoch’s New York Post was the third newspaper to endorse Trump, following The National Enquirer and The New York Observer (which is owned by Trump’s son-in-law).

    Politico reported that the Journal’s editor-in-chief Gerry Baker “took a couple minutes to remind editors to be ‘fair’ to Trump,” because “no matter what people think of him, Trump’s a serious candidate.” According to Politico, Baker’s comments were taken by some editors “as an insult or admonition,” and opened the argument over whether the Journal, which “is generally seen as impervious” to Murdoch’s influence, will start to signal support for Trump. From Politico’s May 27 Morning Media tip sheet: 

    TRUMP TREATMENT: Now that Rupert Murdoch is reportedly an official Donald Trump supporter (http://nym.ag/1V7TyF5), Murdoch Kremlinologists will be even more hyper-attuned to coverage of the GOP nominee in the News Corp. chairman’s American newspapers. Here’s something that might make their ears perk up: During one of The Wall Street Journal’s recent morning news meetings, editor in chief Gerry Baker took a couple minutes to remind editors to be “fair” to Trump, according to a source with direct knowledge of the remarks, because, Baker said, no matter what people think of him, Trump’s a serious candidate and lots of serious people are going to get behind his White House bid.

    The source described Baker’s Trump talk as a “surreal tangent” in a meeting normally reserved for ironing out the logistics of covering the day’s top stories.The source also said the comments were widely discussed among Journal editors and bureau chiefs, some of whom took them as an insult or admonition. A Journal spokeswoman declined to comment.

    While Murdoch is known for using some of his publications in the U.S., U.K. and Oz to influence politics, the Journal is generally seen as impervious. Plus Murdoch had appeared to be at odds with Trump for much of this election cycle, and Trump has railed against the Journal’s coverage of his campaign. But maybe that’s changing? Last week, the Journal’s right-leaning editorial board—which operates independently of the newsroom—seemed to signal support for Trump’s would-be Supreme Court nominees (http://politi.co/20rZHeK).

  • Rush Limbaugh Silent After Politico Magazine Piece Details His Business Woes

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Rush Limbaugh responded with uncharacteristic silence to the Politico Magazine piece that detailed the business woes of his long-running radio program.

    Limbaugh completely ignored the contents of the May 24 article during the three hours of his show that aired on the same date. According to Politico Magazine, Limbaugh also ignored “multiple interview requests” before the piece was published.

    The news items of the day that he did feel compelled to rant about included a tropical storm forecast piece. The host signed off of his May 24 show saying there had been “absolutely nothing in the news.”

    Politico Magazine says Limbaugh’s radio show is, “as a business proposition, … on shaky ground” because of the ongoing advertiser boycott largely pushed by the Media Matters campaign “Flush Rush,” which came as a response to the radio host’s infamous tirade in which he referred to then-Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut.” Because Limbaugh has been branded with a “scarlet letter among national brand advertisers,” as talk radio consultant Holland Cooke told Politico Magazine, major radio stations have dropped The Rush Limbaugh Show from their lineup in the past year.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • Politico Magazine: “Limbaugh’s Show Is On Shaky Ground”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico Magazine reports that due to an ongoing advertiser boycott organized in part by Media Matters, the business side of Rush Limbaugh’s long-running radio program “is on shaky ground,” crediting the efforts of “Flush Rush” as “the rare boycott that actually worked."

    In a piece for Politico Magazine, Ethan Epstein highlights how in the wake of ongoing fallout over his tirade attacking then-Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut,” Limbaugh has been dumped by “some very powerful” affiliates in major markets like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Epstein explains that even though it’s been four years since Limbaugh’s infamous Fluke comments, “reams of advertisers still won’t touch him” thanks to a successful boycott campaign that Media Matters and independent organizers helped spearhead.

    Limbaugh’s broadcast woes follow a 2015 Wall Street Journal report that cited Limbaugh's Fluke comments to explain increasing reluctance from national advertisers to place ads on talk radio programming, causing the rates for these ads to precipitously drop in recent years while damaging stations’ ad revenues.

    Epstein quotes a talk radio consultant noting that Limbaugh, whose massive $400 million contract expires this summer, now suffers from a “scarlet letter among national brand advertisers.”  

    From Politico Magazine:

    And yet, there are signs that all is not well in the Limbaugh radio empire. Because even as his influence is sky high and his dominance at the top of talk radio remains unchallenged, as a business proposition, Limbaugh’s show is on shaky ground. In recent years, Limbaugh has been dropped by several of his long-time affiliates, including some very powerful ones: He’s gone from WABC in New York, WRKO in Boston and KFI in Los Angeles, for example, and has in many cases been moved onto smaller stations with much weaker signals that cover smaller areas.

    Why? Because four years after Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” on air, spurring a major boycott movement, reams of advertisers still won’t touch him. He suffers from what talk radio consultant Holland Cooke calls a “scarlet letter among national brand advertisers.” And for someone who has said that “confiscatory ad rates” are a key pillar of his business, that spells trouble. (Limbaugh ignored multiple interview requests.)

    […]

    And most consequentially, David Brock’s liberal watchdog Media Matters for America launched a $100,000 (at least) campaign calling for advertisers to refuse to buy time on Limbaugh’s show and for local affiliates to jettison it. The anti-Limbaugh faction came up with the social media-friendly slogan “Flush Rush.” The group’s efforts met considerable success in the months that followed. Dozens of companies, including Netflix, JCPenney and Sears, announced they would boycott Limbaugh’s show. Most have yet to return. And the increasing popularity of platforms like Twitter, which can be used to stoke outrage and promote boycotts, makes it highly unlikely they ever will.

    The Sandra Fluke incident “did a lot of harm to talk radio,” Darryl Parks says. “Thirty-eight percent of revenue disappeared overnight.” And the damage was not limited to Limbaugh; he hurt all of talk radio, including even some liberal hosts. Certain programs—Michael Savage, for example, and in an earlier era, Bob Grant—had always been considered “toxic” by some advertisers, but after the Fluke incident, entire stations—or indeed, the entire format of talk radio—were deemed no-go zones by blue chip brands.

    Advertisers continue to leave and stay away thanks to a dedicated group of independent organizers in the Flush Rush and #StopRush communities. Their participation matters and is having a big effect.

    Onward!

  • WaPo’s The Fix Highlights Journalists “Counseling” Trump Through Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s The Fix highlighted CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s observation that journalists are “counseling [Trump] through interviews,” suggesting answers “instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.”

    Cuomo has noted that during interviews with Donald Trump, interviewers ask questions framed to push him toward a better answer, saying that journalists suggest to Trump, “When you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?” instead of asking open-ended questions. Other journalists such as CNN’s Brian Stelter have criticized media for not pressing Trump hard enough. Stelter said that “we have to address” Trump’s misinformation “head-on as journalists."

    Trump has benefited from countless softball interviews. For example, on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the hosts asked Trump questions such as “Were you right?” following the Brussels terrorist attack. In addition, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly came under fire for her “fluff” interview with Trump on her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents. A May 22 panel on CNN’s Reliable Sources criticized her “softball” interview, repeatedly noting that “she didn’t press him” on a number of issues. Many of her questions directly echoed queries that her colleagues at Fox had asked Trump over the past year.

    In The Washington Post’s The Fix blog, politics and media reporter Callum Borchers highlighted Cuomo’s critique of the way Trump is interviewed and asserted that journalists play an additional role in vetting Donald Trump: “counselors.” Borchers noted that “interviewers do Trump’s job for him -- suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions.” After an analysis of Trump’s interviews on controversial subjects, Borchers said, “Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.” From the May 23 article (emphasis original):

    It's the media's job to vet presidential candidates, so journalists often serve as critics, pointing out inconsistencies and potential weaknesses voters should know about.

    But with Donald Trump, they also play another role, according to CNN's Chris Cuomo: counselors.

    Discussing media coverage on Trump with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Friday, the "New Day" co-host observed what he called "the dynamic of kind of counseling [Trump] through interviews." Cuomo offered a generic example of the kinds questions he's talking about: "Like, when you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?"

    Cuomo's observation is that his fellow interviewers do Trump's job for him — suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.

    A review of Trump interviews on controversial subjects suggests Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.

    Trump, of course, doesn't always take the hint or doesn't care. And it's possible — or perhaps even likely — that reporters aren't so much trying to protect him as simply reacting with disbelief to the often-unprecedented and surprising things he's saying.

    Whatever the cause, the result is that questions to Trump often come with the "right" answer built in. And this habit of throwing him a line could help explain why some voters believe the media have been too soft on the real estate magnate.

    [...]

    The challenge for journalists is to suppress their shock and let Trump speak for himself. Are you endorsing internment camps? Was the Heidi Cruz retweet a mistake? Do you want the KKK's support?

  • Stinging Himself: The Latest Embarrassment For Conservative Media Darling James O'Keefe

    James O’Keefe Accidentally Details Plans To Infiltrate Progressive Philanthropist’s Organization On Its Own Voicemail

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Conservative media darling James O’Keefe accidentally detailed his plans to infiltrate and smear progressive organizations on the voicemail of Dana Geraghty, an employee of liberal philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, continuing a string of embarrassing missteps in his attempts at undercover stings.

    After leaving Geraghty a voicemail claiming to be “Victor Kesh,” a “Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation,” O’Keefe held “a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros,” unaware that his phone was still connected to Geraghty’s voicemail. During the call, O’Keefe outlined plans to send an “undercover” operative posing as a potential donor to the foundation in a project he named “Discover the Networks.” O’Keefe’s plot involved using an English orthopedic surgeon with “a real heavy British accent” to secretly film Soros-linked progressive organizations. He later admitted that “some of us just forget to hang up the phone.The New Yorker continued:

    The accidental recording reached farcical proportions when Kesh announced that he was opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page on his computer. He planned to check her résumé and leverage the information to penetrate the Soros “octopus.” Kesh said, “She’s probably going to call me back, and if she doesn’t I can create other points of entry.” Suddenly, Kesh realized that by opening Geraghty’s LinkedIn page he had accidentally revealed his own LinkedIn identity to her. (LinkedIn can let users see who has looked at their pages.) “Whoa!” an accomplice warned. “Log out!” The men anxiously reassured one another that no one checks their LinkedIn account anyway. “It was a little chilling to hear this group of men talking about me as a ‘point of entry,’ ” Geraghty says. “But—not to sound ageist—it was clear that these people were not used to the technology.”

    Though O’Keefe’s latest smear attempt has already failed, it continues his tradition of trying -- and failing -- to use deceptive tactics and edited undercover videos to dishonestly attack progressives. O’Keefe previously targeted the Clinton campaign for legally selling a t-shirt, which he described as money laundering. O’Keefe also attempted to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau onto a boat with “props” like a “condom jar, dildos, posters and paintings of naked women, [and] fuzzy handcuffs” and previously pled guilty to “misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses in connection with an attempted video sting at the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.”

    O’Keefe is best known for his “sting” videos of ACORN, in which he claimed his highly edited tapes were a “nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation” that implicated ACORN employees. Three separate investigations cleared ACORN workers of criminal wrongdoing, and in 2013, O’Keefe and his video partner Hannah Giles agreed to pay an ACORN employee they had smeared a $150,000 settlement.

    Media outlets should consider O’Keefe’s latest botched attack on progressives before they consider promoting his future work.

  • Trump Called NYT Story About His Treatment Of Women “Libelous” But Hasn't Officially Requested A Retraction

    Erik Wemple: This Is “More Corroboration That The Trump Campaign Is Running A Media-Obsessed, Substance-Averse Campaign”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump’s campaign has not asked The New York Times for a correction following its feature on Trump’s behavior with women, according to The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.

    Trump’s campaign highly criticized a New York Timesfeature, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private,” which highlighted multiple women who revealed “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” from the Republican presidential frontrunner. Trump responded to the story, tweeting that the Times “lied” and wrote a “malicious & libelous story” on him. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “They need to do a retraction and they need to actually be fair, because they’re destroying their paper.”

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote on May 20 that campaigns “that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing,” noting that “no such letter has issued from the Trump camp.” Wemple continued that the campaign’s public response and lack of an official request to the Times was “more corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign”:

    Campaigns, celebrities, companies and institutions that seek a retraction from a news organization generally lay out their case in writing. Anyone in media is familiar with this species of communication — stern, scolding and sometimes nasty in tone, the letters explain the alleged lapses in reporting, the impact of the alleged lapses in reporting, and the request: A full retraction of the story’s central thesis. Or something along those lines.

    No such letter has issued from the Trump camp, according to the New York Times. “Since the story was published, we have not received any direct communication from the Trump people*. They did not seek a correction or initiate any other action,” writes New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha in an email to the Erik Wemple Blog.

    More corroboration that the Trump campaign is running a media-obsessed, substance-averse campaign. Were the Trump people authentically interested in securing a correction or retraction from the New York Times, they would have sent a letter and sought a meeting. Such an effort would have been a slog, for sure: The New York Times has stood by its story and even issued a statement rebuffing Brewer Lane’s complaints. “Ms. Brewer Lane was quoted fairly, accurately and at length,” noted the statement, in part. As this blog wrote this week, the Trump case against the women story was weak. Yet campaigns that put their gripes in written form can reap significant benefits, as the Clinton campaign demonstrated last summer in blasting the New York Times for its story about Hillary Clinton’s email.

    Perhaps Trump didn’t have the time to muster a retraction request, after all. He may have been too busy calling into a CNN control room to orchestrate favorable media coverage.

    *After this story was published, the New York Times sent a clarification of the circumstances: “A lawyer in Trump’s office called [Executive Editor] Dean Baquet earlier this week. The lawyer did not seek a correction or dispute any facts or quotes in the story. The Times has received no formal requests for a correction or any other action.” The headline was amended to account for this change.