Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Report: “Existential Crisis” At Fox News As Sexual Harassment Investigation Spreads Beyond Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vanity Fair reported that Fox News staffers have expressed growing fears about the network’s future following allegations that former Fox News CEO and current Rupert Murdoch “consultant” Roger Ailes sexually harassed at least 20 women.

    In July, former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit that alleged Ailes fired her after she declined his sexual advances. Since Carlson filed the suit, at least 25 additional women, including Fox host Megyn Kelly and former host Andrea Tantaros, have made similar claims against the former CEO. On July 21, Ailes was forced to resign his position amid an investigation into the claims by parent company 21st Century Fox. Ailes is currently working as a consultant to News Corp. Executive Co-Chairman Rupert Murdoch during a “transition period.”

    An August 8 article by Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison reports that Fox News staffers fear the network’s future is facing “an existential crisis” following Ailes departure and that employees are “anxious to distance themselves” from their former boss, despite the fact they may soon lose their jobs. Ellison reports that sources say some women alleging sexual harassment claim the issue spread to “individuals beyond Roger Ailes” who were “nonetheless enablers.” From Vanity Fair:

    One staffer expressed to me an even greater fear: that, without [Roger] Ailes, Fox News’s future is in an existential crisis.


    A sale of Fox News, which generates some $1 billion in annual profit, seems unlikely. A massive culture change, however, seems probable. Some Ailes loyalists who remain affiliated with Fox News find themselves in a particularly difficult spot. They are anxious to distance themselves from him, even as they anticipate their own ouster from the network, a Fox source told me. Several of them, who worked for Ailes in a personal capacity but were on Fox’s payroll, were dismissed last week, according to one senior Fox employee.

    But perhaps the biggest object of curiosity in the newsroom these days is the internal investigation currently being conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss. The investigation originally focused exclusively on Ailes, but as allegations from at least 20 women have mounted—including Gabriel Sherman’s revelation that Fox paid Laurie Luhn, a former booker, $3.15 million in a settlement agreement—it has expanded to other Fox News executives. “A number of the women raised serious issues about individuals beyond Roger Ailes, who, while not as crass as Ailes, were nonetheless enablers,” said one individual briefed on the investigation. “There can be fairly raised a question: whether the atmosphere at Fox is welcoming to women absent wholesale changes in senior leadership.”

  • Fox's Media Critic Wants The Press To Be Tough On Trump Until The Moment They Are

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz believes that if Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “makes misstatements, if he gets involved in self-destructive fights, if he appears to be ignorant on certain issues,” then journalists should “go after that aggressively.” But recently Kurtz has criticized his media colleagues for doing just that.

    Kurtz railed against the "obvious distaste, bordering on disgust, that many journalists as well as commentators have for Donald Trump,” pointing to “the last 10 days” of allegedly negative news coverage of Trump as evidence that “it’s almost like the press put out a mob hit on Donald Trump.” He added that the “imbalance is so overwhelming on almost every media site and outlet that it can no longer be denied.” From the August 8 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    But Kurtz also conceded that “if Trump makes misstatements, if he gets involved in self-destructive fights, if he appears to be ignorant on certain issues, then you go after that aggressively.”

    Trump’s last 10 days have featured a number of stumbles and unforced errors that even conservatives have called out, including his multi-day feud with a Gold Star family, his suggestion that women who are sexually harassed at work should change jobs, and his claims that the 2016 election is “rigged.”

    Accordingly, media have, at least for now, dropped the typical “Both Sides” style of journalism that is often peppered with false equivalencies and instead have begun to routinely fact-check Trump and spotlight the disarray in his campaign.

    Though Kurtz said on August 7 that Trump “has made mistakes and those should be covered,” he nonetheless criticized journalists for Trump “getting hammered for just about everything.”

    On August 1, he highlighted the “enormous media attention” paid to Khizr Khan’s speech denouncing Trump, claiming that the media's negative attitude about Trump's proposed Muslim ban "seems to show in the coverage” of Khan's speech.

    And on Kurtz’ own August 7 show, he repeatedly referenced a “titanic tidal wave of negative coverage” and asked panelists if they saw a “flat-out media bias” in the coverage of Trump failing to endorse Paul Ryan, saying he always wanted a Purple Heart, and feuding with the Khan family.

    But if Kurtz believes that Trump’s “misstatements,” “self-destructive fights” and ignorance “on certain issues” warrant aggressive media coverage, why did he spend a week sneering at his media colleagues for providing just that sort of reporting?

  • Breitbart Caught Passing Off Photo Of Cleveland’s NBA Championship Parade As Image Of Trump's Jacksonville Rally

    Breitbart Subsequently Changed Image, But Did Not Issue Correction

    UPDATE: Breitbart Issues Correction Blaming "Social Media"

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    In an August 3 tweet, Washington Examiner staff correspondent T. Becket Adams highlighted attempting to pass off a picture of Cleveland Cavaliers fans as an image of a Trump rally.

    In an article hyping “Trump’s Jacksonville Rally Draws 15,000,” Breitbart News used a photo titled “Cleveland parade celebrates NBA title,” taken from a June 23 CNN report. Breitbart News has changed the image without issuing a correction, the original photo remains in a Google cache of the write-up.



    Breitbart's deceptive use of an image displaying celebratory NBA fans is consistent with their non-existent editorial practices, as previously seen when they attempted to attack Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and instead devoted an article to attacking a woman of an entirely different race. Breitbart later admitted this error, writing ‘[t]he Loretta Lynch identified earlier as the Whitewater attorney was, in fact, a different attorney.”

    [h/t T. Becket Adams]

    UPDATE: Breitbart issued the following correction: "A photograph that was incorrectly attributed on social media to the rally in Jacksonville has been removed."

  • Paid CNN Commentator Corey Lewandowski Is Still Advising The Trump Campaign

    Rumors About Lewandowski's Continued Role With The Campaign Persist Despite His Employment At CNN

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Donald Trump “has increasingly been back in regular contact” with his former campaign manager and current paid CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski, according to U.S. News & World Report. The news comes amid reports of a Trump campaign implosion and CNN coming under increasing criticism for their hiring of Lewandowski.

    As stories have surfaced of turmoil inside the Trump campaign, including reports of an “intervention” to take place between Trump and leading members of the Republican Party, “suicidal” staff members and Campaign Chair Paul Manafort “mailing it in,” Donald Trump is reportedly relying on his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for advice.

    On August 3 U.S. News & World Report wrote that Trump had “gone rogue” and turned to Lewandowski once again for advice:

    The Republican operative familiar with the Trump operation tells U.S. News that Trump has increasingly been back in regular contact with his former campaign manager turned CNN commentator, Corey Lewandowski.

    Lewandowski was ousted in June at the behest of Trump's children, who viewed him as lacking the sophisticated judgment needed to assist their wayward father. A major difference between the reigns of Lewandowski and Manafort is that Lewandowski traveled constantly with Trump, earning his trust and bending his ear. Manafort rarely hits the road and has followed a more typical template by holing up in an office with a phone to his ear and his fingers on a keyboard.

    The Manafort model has its advantages, but it also has created a distance from Trump that has stalled decisions and left the candidate without a reliable rudder when things go awry.

    "He's not satisfied with what he's getting," the Trump staffer says. "So he's basically gone rogue."

    Lewandowski immediately came under fire after becoming a CNN commentator on June 23, with media observers calling the hire “astonishing,” “totally compromised,” and a “sad move.” Lewandowski also faced criticism from CNN staff who questioned his employment, calling Lewandowski’s behavior while Trump campaign manager “inexcusable” and “unprofessional.”

    Since joining CNN, Lewandowski has used his platform to defend Trump and attack his rivals at every opportunity. Most recently, the former campaign manager rehashed Trump’s racist birther attack on President Obama asking whether the president got into Harvard “as a U.S. citizen, or was he brought into Harvard University as a citizen who wasn't from this country?"

    The reports of Lewandowski’s close relationship Trump while being paid by CNN to give his analysis of the campaign confirms the ongoing ethical problems with his employment at the network. On July 1 Lewandowski admitted that he was still doing “the same thing I’ve always been able to do” as an adviser to Trump. Reports surfaced on July 1 that Lewandowski “has not yet transitioned out of his role as a Trump employee, and on July 17 it was reported that Lewandowski was still advising the Republican nominee.

    The disclosure that the Trump campaign was paying Lewandowski “severance” on July 13 led to more criticism and ethical questions for CNN. Further questions have been raised over whether or not Lewandowski is even allowed to criticize Trump as a result of non-disparagement agreements reportedly signed by all Trump campaign staffers. When asked by CNN’s Erin Burnett if he had signed such an agreement, Lewandowski dodged the question and refused to answer.

    Despite the criticism and apparent conflict of interest, CNN has stood behind Lewandowski as a paid CNN contributor, with CNN President Jeff Zucker saying on August 2 that Lewandowski has “done a really nice job.”

  • What’s Behind Donald Trump’s New Local TV Interview Strategy

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    With his campaign floundering, Donald Trump appears to be adopting a new media strategy: minimizing exposure from cable and national broadcast networks while still reaching millions of viewers by granting interviews to major local broadcast providers that will provide the footage to affiliates across the country.

    Since the beginning of the general election campaign in June, Trump’s campaign has deliberately reduced his appearances on national broadcast and cable news shows. The one exception has been Fox News, where the GOP nominee regularly appears for softball interviews. According to Fox News’ Howard Kurtz, the shift came because a faction of the Trump campaign was convinced that “constant rounds of interviews entail too much risk of the candidate making mistakes or fanning minor controversies.” Indeed, a rare interview on ABC’s This Week this past Sunday generated a wave of criticism after Trump attacked the parents of an American Muslim soldier killed fighting in Iraq.

    But a Fox-only strategy brings its own challenge: Trump is able to speak only to those who already support him. He needs a different strategy in order to reach the rest of the country while avoiding the pitfalls of national broadcast or cable interviewers.  

    On August 2, Trump sat for interviews with Sinclair Broadcast Group and Gray Television Group that will air on their local broadcast affiliates throughout the country. Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has come under fire in the past for their conservative slant and for ordering their stations in 2004 to preempt regular programming in order to air an anti-John Kerry ad, boasts on their website that they control 173 television stations in 81 markets. Gray Television Group claims “180 program streams” in 51 markets nationwide.

    Sinclair Broadcasting
    Sinclair Broadcast Group Station Map

    Gray Television Group Station Map

    Trump’s campaign has taken a dismal turn as Hillary Clinton opens a sizable lead in national polling amid a flurry of Trump controversies. In order to turn things around, he is seeking to skip the national media gatekeepers while still reaching a national audience.

  • Fox's Fumbled Response To Khan Speech: Why Wasn't Benghazi Covered Like This?

    Fox Was Only Cable News Network Not To Air Khan, Benghazi Speeches During Conventions

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News anchors Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade erroneously claimed that “no networks covered” the Republican National Convention speech from Patricia Smith, whose son was killed in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. In fact, Fox News was the only cable news network not to carry Pat Smith’s speech live, yet the hosts alleged that “there is a double standard” because the “mainstream media is paying all the attention” to Khizr Khan’s Democratic convention speech.

    On July 18, the first night of the Republican National Convention, Patricia Smith -- the mother of a victim of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya -- attacked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, blaming Clinton for her son’s death.

    MSNBC and CNN both carried Smith’s speech live. Fox News did not, opting instead for a live phone interview with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    Yet on August 1, Doocy and Kilmeade lamented that “no networks” covered Smith’s remarks live. The hosts bemoaned that “the mainstream media is paying all the attention to the Khan family” -- parents of a fallen U.S. Army captain who spoke on July 28 at the Democratic National Convention and criticized Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. Fox News was the only news cable network not to carry Khan’s speech, instead airing a Benghazi attack ad over the speech during commercial. Yet Kilmeade asserted “Nobody covered [Smith’s] remarks live but almost everybody covered Mr. Khan's remarks live”:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): [The Khan family] lost their son, but there is a double standard. The mainstream media is paying all the attention to the Khan family and yet not so much to the Smith family. Sean Smith lost his life in Benghazi and it was one week earlier at the Republican convention where Pat Smith directly and personally blamed Hillary Clinton for her son getting killed. And why isn't this getting coverage?


    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Meanwhile, I was on the floor for that. I did not know that no networks covered her. Nobody covered those remarks live but almost everybody covered Khan's, Mr. Khan's remarks live.

    DOOCY: There is a double standard it seems.

    Doocy and Kilmeade should take up their complaints of a “double standard” with their own network, which has long pushed the debunked myth and oft-repeated smear that Clinton deliberately lied about the cause of the Benghazi attacks.

  • NY Times: After Ailes’ Departure, An “Icy” Split Inside Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times reported that following the departure of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes amid a sexual harassment lawsuit, “there is a continuing split inside the network” between “one camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists” who are defending Ailes -- and are “resentful” toward those “cooperating with lawyers” -- and “another contingent” who are “dismayed” by Ailes’ defenders.  

    Earlier this month, former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit that alleged Roger Ailes fired her from the network after she declined his sexual advances. Since Carlson’s lawsuit, an additional 25 women came forward to make similar claims, including Fox host Megyn Kelly. On July 19, media reported that Ailes would leave Fox News as a result of the allegations, which has created a rift within the network that Fox media analyst Howard Kurtz called “painful and embarrassing.”

    In a July 27 article, Times reporters Michael M. Grynbaum and Emily Steel, reported that “nearly a dozen Fox News employees” described an “icy” atmosphere amid the “continuing split inside the network.” The explained the split as between two camps. One of which is a “camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists” who are upset at Ailes’ “ouster” and are “resentful toward [network anchor Megyn] Kelly for cooperating with lawyers brought in by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to investigate Mr. Ailes’s behavior.” The other is “dismayed by the responses of stars like Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greta Van Susteren and Jeanine Pirro, who were quick to publicly defend Mr. Ailes after he was accused of harassment.” From the article: 

    The Fox News skybox here turns into a hive of activity as the network’s star anchors analyze the Democratic National Convention for millions of viewers.

    When the cameras blink off, however, the banter has been replaced by something rarely heard in the television news business: silence.

    Megyn Kelly and her co-hosts, including Bret Baier and Brit Hume, have not been speaking during commercial breaks, according to two people with direct knowledge of the anchors’ interactions, who described the on-set atmosphere at Fox News as icy. During ads, the hosts are often absorbed with their smartphones.

    Even as Fox News goes about broadcasting as usual, scoring its highest convention ratings in 20 years, interviews this week with network employees show an organization grappling with internal division after the abrupt exit of Roger Ailes, the once-omnipotent chairman at the center of a sexual harassment investigation.

    Nearly a dozen Fox News employees, who work in front of and behind the camera, were granted anonymity to speak candidly about highly sensitive matters inside a network where privacy is still prized.

    The hosts’ on-set interactions have improved slightly since last week’s shows at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which were broadcast immediately after Mr. Ailes’s departure.

    Still, employees say there is a continuing split inside the network, with one camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists — some of whom owe their careers to Mr. Ailes — upset at his ouster. Some are resentful toward Ms. Kelly for cooperating with lawyers brought in by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to investigate Mr. Ailes’s behavior.

  • Forbes Highlights Roger Ailes’ Use Of “Sex Appeal” And “Objectification Of Women” To Boost Fox News’ Ratings

    Forbes, Citing Former Fox Anchor, Reports Ailes Stipulated Female Contributor “Remain A Size Four”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Former Fox News president Roger Ailes exploited female employees' “sex appeal” and instituted a “culture of objectification of women” to boost ratings, according to Forbes. Reportedly among the “sexually charged culture fostered by Ailes” was a condition in a female Fox contributor's contract that “required her to remain a size four.”

    Ailes had a long and sordid history of rampant sexism and misogyny during his time as Fox News’ chief. Since former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, dozens of women have reportedly come forward to make claims of similar harassment.

    Amid fallout from the allegations and Ailes’ ouster, media reports unearthed a culture of sexual harassment and intimidation at Fox that went beyond Ailes and suggested a “broader problem in the workplace.”

    Forbes’ Madeline Berg, citing “former Fox employees,” wrote that Ailes “fostered” a “sexually charged culture” at Fox News that rested upon the “objectification of women” and “sex appeal.” Ailes frequently relied on showing “a thin blonde, often large-chested, invariably heavily made up, wearing a fitted and brightly colored dress or skirt, visible through the transparent desk” as a “formula for boosting ratings,” according to the article. Berg quoted a “former anchor” who said a female contributor “claimed her contract required her to remain a size four,” and a "former producer" who said "skirts were a 'requirement'" for female employees. From the July 27 Forbes article:

    These “second floor” recommendations reflect one of many examples of the sexually charged culture fostered by Ailes at Fox News and Fox Business News, the two networks he created and ran for the parent company 21st Century Fox.

    Following a lawsuit filed against Ailes earlier this month by former anchor Gretchen Carlson alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, FORBES spoke to a number of former Fox employees to get a sense of what went on behind the scenes during the Ailes era.

    21st Century Fox declined to comment on the story. Representatives for Ailes did not respond to requests for comments. But the former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described a culture of objectification of women and an unwillingness to stand up to superiors, including the authoritarian and god-like Ailes, who earned an extraordinary degree of autonomy from his notoriously hands-on boss, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, due to the unprecedented success he brought to 21st Century Fox.


    One part of Ailes’ formula for boosting ratings: sex appeal.

    A look at almost any show on the network often shows a thin blonde, often large-chested, invariably heavily made up, wearing a fitted and brightly colored dress or skirt, visible through the transparent desk.


    A former anchor recalled a contributor who claimed her contract required her to remain a size four—very thin, especially considering she was 5’9’’.

    And a former contributor and guest host said that he even knew female anchors who chose to wore (sic) waterbras to enhance their cleavage due to pressure to look a certain way.