Media Structures & Regulations

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  • Mark Halperin’s Donald Trump Interview Even Fails The Mark Halperin Test

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Mark Halperin’s widely panned interview with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was obsequious and didn’t yield any news, as many critics have pointed out. But it also failed Halperin’s own requirement that journalists who interview Trump ask him about his unprecedented refusal to release his tax returns in order to pressure him to follow presidential election norms.

    Halperin, the host of Bloomberg News’ With All Due Respect (which also airs on MSNBC) and Showtime’s The Circus, interviewed Trump following the candidate’s October 26 publicity event for his new hotel in Washington, D.C. After portions of the interview aired on his Bloomberg show, critics called Halperin’s questions “truly laughable,” compared him unfavorably to Sean Hannity, and suggested he was seeking a job on Trump TV.

    The full interview, later published on the YouTube channel for The Circus, does nothing to bolster that initial assessment. Halperin had a rare opportunity, for a mainstream journalist, to ask tough questions of the GOP nominee. Instead, questions included:

    • “But how does a building connect to your presidential aspirations and your qualities?”

    • “You’d be surprised to hear that Hillary Clinton’s already criticized the hotel?”

    • “But people who say this was a great Trump speech, as far as you’re concerned, they’re all great or?”

    • “You’ve redefined how candidates talk about polls. Some polls now you’re winning, some you’re behind. We’ve got a new poll where you’re up in Florida. What’s your general sense of where you are in the battleground states?”

     

     

    Halperin’s questions not only fail as journalism, but they also fail the standard that Halperin himself has laid down for Trump interviews.

    In May, Halperin declared that journalists are “obligated” to keep pushing Trump until he releases his “full [tax] returns” just like every nominee has done for decades. He specifically stated that “we have to all keep asking, as many of us have asked. I've asked him several times about it -- he gives roughly the same answer. He's going to have to put out the returns, I’m almost certain, and we should demand full returns, not just the summary.” His co-host John Heilemann has also suggested that journalists “try every time we sit in front of him make it clear to him that it's not OK that he violate what has become a norm in American elections over the past 30 or 40 years.”

    The New York Times on October 1 produced three pages from Trump’s 1995 tax returns, which showed that he had declared a $916 million loss that “could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.” Yet Trump has continued to offer a series of excuses for why he won’t release any tax returns.

    Halperin had the opportunity to follow his own standard and press Trump on his refusal to follow a decades-old requirement for presidential nominees. Instead, he asked the candidate if he agreed with the “people” who supposedly said that “this was a great Trump speech.”

  • NY Times Executive Editor: CNN And Fox Campaign Coverage Is “Bad For Democracy And Those Institutions”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet condemned U.S. cable news -- particularly CNN and Fox News -- for their “ridiculous” presidential campaign coverage in an interview with the Financial Times, accusing the networks of, as the paper described it, “blurring the line between entertainment and news and pandering to partisan viewers.”

    In the interview, Baquet criticized CNN’s hiring of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, saying, “I’m sorry, that is outrageous. I cannot fathom that,” and calling Lewandowski “a political shill.” CNN created an ethical nightmare for the network when it hired Lewandowski, who still advises the Trump campaign, probably cannot legally disparage his former boss, and was paid simultaneously by CNN and the Trump campaign for months. CNN has also paid surrogates to go on air and defend Trump’s many false and offensive statements at almost any length.

    Baquet was “most critical of Fox News” in his interview, the Financial Times reported, noting that the network “‘at its heart is not a journalistic institution.’” Baquet described Fox’s coverage as “‘some weird mix of a little bit of journalism, a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of pandering to a particular audience.’” Fox served as a safe space for Trump for weeks before the first presidential debate as he managed to almost entirely avoid being interviewed on other networks, and during the Republican primaries, Fox gave Trump more than double the airtime of any other Republican candidate. In addition, Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity endorsed Trump following the primaries, has given Trump more than $31 million in free publicity, serves as an informal adviser to Trump, and has defended his softball coverage of Trump by asserting that he’s “not a journalist.”

    Baquet concluded that the two networks’ conduct is “in the long run, bad for democracy and those institutions,” noting that Trump is “a product of that world.” From the October 28 Financial Times interview:

    US cable news networks have played a “ridiculous” role in the presidential campaign by blurring the line between entertainment and news and pandering to partisan viewers, Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, has said.

    Mr Baquet said CNN had been wrong to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, as a commentator and was in danger of damaging both itself and democracy. “I’m sorry, that is outrageous. I cannot fathom that,” he said of Mr Lewandowski’s onscreen role, describing him as “a political shill”.

    Mr Baquet, in an interview in London to mark the New York Times’ digital expansion internationally, was most critical of Fox News, the rightwing news network owned by 21st Century Fox, and its former chairman Roger Ailes. Mr Ailes resigned in July following accusations that he sexually harassed female staff, which he denies.

    “Fox News at its heart is not a journalistic institution. Megyn Kelly [a Fox presenter] is a great journalist, Chris Wallace is a great journalist, but it is some weird mix of a little bit of journalism, a little bit of entertainment, a little bit of pandering to a particular audience … I don’t think Roger Ailes will go down as one of the great journalists of his time.”

    Mr Baquet described the conduct of Fox News and CNN as “in the long run, bad for democracy and those institutions … This mix of entertainment and news, and news masquerading as entertainment, is kind of funny except that we now have a guy who is a product of that world nominated as Republican presidential candidate.” 

  • Despite Widespread Condemnation From Jewish Leaders, Curt Schilling Continues To Defend His Bigoted Statements

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an October 27 appearance on Newsmax’s America Talks Live, newly-hired Breitbart radio host Curt Schilling refused to apologize for asking CNN’s Jake Tapper to account for Jewish Americans' support of the “so clearly anti-Jewish Israel” Democratic Party.

    After the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish leaders criticized Breitbart radio host Curt Schilling for his “bigoted” and “tone-deaf” questioning of CNN’s Jake Tapper, who is of Jewish heritage, Schilling agreed with Newsmax host Steve Malzberg’s claim he “didn’t say anything wrong to Tapper.”

    Defending his widely criticized remarks, Schilling blamed the media, claiming “the narrative’s getting skewed” and “the media has no accountability”:

    STEVE MALZBERG (HOST): You've come under fire also from some Jewish groups -- now, I'm Jewish, and I saw the interview you did with Jake Tapper, and all you said to him is what people say to me all the time, and Curt, what I say to my Jewish friends all the time -- "How the heck could you, as a Jew, support Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party?"

    And you would have thought, you know, you -- you were praising Hitler. They're all after you now. Why?

    CURT SCHILLING: First of all, I don't say "Jew." Saying "Jew" makes me feel uncomfortable. I asked Jake Tapper "As a man of Jewish faith, why in his" -- and he clearly made it clear to me that he doesn't vote in the presidential elections, which I didn't know, but I always have found -- I have a neighbor who lives right down the street, who's a brilliantly smart guy.

    And I asked -- I talked to him a lot about the history of the Jewish state, and the history, the plight of the Jewish people, and I like to understand why things happen, so instead of relying on a media which is clearly askew and in the tank for liberal ideas and liberal narratives, I felt like asking someone of the Jewish faith why -- why they vote -- why they have voted considerably more Democrat.

    And it's been forever, I didn't realize it was as huge of a lean as it was, number one, and how long it's been that Jewish people -- people of Jewish faith -- because the Democratic Party is, you know -- this is the party that founded the KKK. they are anti-Israel. This administration, the only real reason I feel like they've done anything with Israel is because there were agreements in place before Obama got in, because I don't think he would have carried out any of that, had he not already been kind of handcuffed to it.

    But this -- this party has been anti-Israel, you know they call it ISIL, the Levant of ISIL. The L in ISIL is Levant, includes Israel which is why they say it. It's a -- I think it's a slight at Israel to begin with.

    [...]

    MALZBERG: So you were -- Curt, Curt so you don't get this though, do you? I mean, you don't -- you didn't say anything wrong to Tapper. I don't think you did.

    SCHILLING: No, no no no, and here's the thing, any time you start to become something in the media that you're not, you realize the narrative's getting skewed. I'm starting to understand and feel a little bit of what it might be like to run for political office.

    The media has no accountability, they get to say and do whatever they feel like saying and -- listen, how many times have you heard Ivanka Trump had to answer for her father's comments? And on the other flip -- on the other side of the coin, how many times have you heard Chelsea Clinton been asked about her father being a rapist, or a sexual assaulter?

    MALZBERG: Never. Never, never, never, never, never.

    SCHILLING: Because that's not how the game works for them.

    Schilling had previously defended his questioning of Tapper by telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that “I’m not going to play the victim game because I’m a white male Christian, which apparently makes me a racist.”

    Schilling’s continued defense of his widely condemned remarks continue his tradition of bigoted social media posts, and fits Breitbart News’ history of promoting anti-semitic speech within the confines of its media outlets.

  • Report: Trump's Campaign Resources Could Help Him Launch A Media Outlet "To Carry On His Movement"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A Bloomberg Businessweek report brought to light the possibility that if Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump loses the election, he could capitalize on his campaign resources and partner with Breitbart News to launch a Trump TV network using his list of supporters to “gain a platform from which to carry on his movement” and strengthen the global “cross-pollination of right-wing populist media and politics.”  

    Trump’s campaign has constantly lashed out against the media, even Fox News, despite his retreat to the network and their efforts to rehabilitate his image. The Trump campaign also announced proposals to “break up” media companies that Trump disapproves of, and “open up our libel laws” to make it easier to sue outlets and journalists. At the same time, Trump has also parroted anti-Semitic talking points from white nationalist “alt-right” media, including Breitbart News, which is the website of his campaign CEO Stephen Bannon. Recently, the Trump campaign launched a nightly Facebook Live show “to circumvent mainstream media,” an effort many journalists understood as “a Trump TV dry run.”

    The October 27 Bloomberg Businessweek article explained that Trump is uniquely positioned to launch his own TV network -- which reportedly began as a threat to Fox News’ Roger Ailes to gain more favorable coverage of the candidate -- given his readymade audience of the campaign supporters he paid for, who will “buy into his claim that the election was rigged and stolen from him.” As the report noted,  “the easiest move would be for Trump to partner with Bannon’s global Breitbart News Network” to launch “a platform from which to carry on his movement.” The report  also noted that “this cross-pollination of right-wing populist media and politics” is already happening in Great Britain, where Raheem Kassam -- editor-in-chief of Bannon’s Breitbart London -- is a candidate to become the leader of the UK Independence Party, with the slogan “Make UKIP Great Again.” From the article:

    According to a source close to Trump, the idea of a Trump TV network originated during the Republican primaries as a threat [Trump’s son-in-law Jared] Kushner issued to Roger Ailes when Trump’s inner circle was unhappy with the tenor of Fox News’s coverage. The warring factions eventually reconciled. But Trump became enamored by the power of his draw after five media companies expressed interest. “One thing Jared always tells Donald is that if the New York Times and cable news mattered, he would be at 1 percent in the polls,” says the source. “Trump supporters really don’t have a media outlet where they feel they’re represented—CNN has gone fully against Trump, MSNBC is assumed to be against Trump, and Fox is somewhere in the middle. What we found is that our people have organized incredibly well on the web. Reddit literally had to change their rules because it was becoming all Trump. Growing the digital footprint has really allowed us to take his message directly to the people.”

    It’s not clear how much of this digital audience will remain in Trump’s thrall if he loses. But the number should be substantial. “Trump will get 40 percent of the vote, and half that number at least will buy into his claim that the election was rigged and stolen from him,” says Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign chief and an outspoken Trump critic. “That is more than enough people to support a multibillion-dollar media business and a powerful presence in American politics.”

    Digital strategists typically value contact lists at $3 to $8 per e-mail, which would price Trump’s list of supporters anywhere from $36 million to $112 million. The Trump enterprise could benefit from it in any number of ways. The easiest move would be for Trump to partner with Bannon’s global Breitbart News Network, which already has a grip on the rising generation of populist Republicans. Along with a new venture, Trump would gain a platform from which to carry on his movement, built upon the millions of names housed in Project Alamo. “This is the pipe that makes the connection between Trump and the people,” says Bannon. “He has an apparatus that connects him to an ever-expanding audience of followers.”

    As it happens, this cross-pollination of right-wing populist media and politics is already occurring overseas—and Trump’s influence on it is unmistakable. In early October, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart London, Raheem Kassam, a former adviser to Nigel Farage, announced he would run for leader of UKIP. His slogan: “Make UKIP Great Again.”

  • Will Media Be Fooled By Another Trump Hotel Event?

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    When Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fooled media into giving him free airtime to tout his new hotel by promising a major address on his racist birther crusade (a promise he didn’t deliver on), the derision directed at cable news was swift and embarrassing. Now, as Trump takes a break from the campaign trail less than two weeks before Election Day to host a ribbon cutting ceremony for his hotel in Washington, D.C., will media once again be duped?

    Last month, Trump promised to hold a major address about his role in the birther conspiracy against President Obama at his new hotel in Washington, D.C., on September 16, leading to high-intensity punditry all morning about what Trump might say to “put it to bed” and “move on.” Yet once all the cable news feeds began broadcasting the event, Trump pulled a striking bait and switch, instead showcasing a series of endorsements and plugging his new hotel. The shame directed at cable news by print reporters and other political commentators was widespread, with even cable hosts admitting after the event that they “got played -- again” by Trump: 

     

    On October 26, Trump will again return to his hotel -- which is already underperforming even before the grand opening -- to host a “ribbon cutting event.” Media can request access to the event on Trump’s campaign website.

    According to The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro, Trump long ago “figured out that media attention was free advertising for his new hotels and golf courses." Media have showered Trump with an unprecedented amount of free airtime for campaign events, but there is nothing to suggest that his ribbon cutting ceremony is related to the election. Thus there is seemingly no reason for cable news outlets to affix their cameras on Pennsylvania Avenue to broadcast his event.

    Given the ubiquitous ridicule cable news networks drew for essentially “taking the Trump hotel commercial live” a month ago, will producers draw on those lessons and resist the urge to air Trump’s non-campaign event?

    UPDATE: Cable news networks did not cover Trump's October 26 speech live. CNN's Kate Bolduan noted that CNN would only “be listening ... for any campaign news," and will cover accordingly "if that happens." According to Media Matters' analysis, the speech was not broadcast live on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News.