Media Structures & Regulations

Issues ››› Media Structures & Regulations
  • Fox Figures Step Up Participation In Trump's Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The close-knit relationship between Fox News and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has strengthened in recent days, as several Fox figures have stepped up their participation in Trump’s campaign. Fox’s intimacy with the Trump campaign has been central to the candidate’s overwhelming media presence and his propagation of lies.

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who rejoined Fox News as a contributor in August, introduced Trump at a September 19 campaign rally, lauding him as “someone who … can genuinely change history.” Gingrich has long had a foot in both camps, serving at one point as a Fox contributor while under consideration as Trump’s running mate. Gingrich currently serves as a close Trump ally and has been reportedly offered a job in Trump’s potential administration. 

    Fox host and avid Trump supporter Sean Hannity recently appeared in an ad for Trump, listing several reasons why “I’m supporting Donald Trump this year.” Hannity has been one of Trump’s biggest cheerleaders throughout the election, using his prime-time show to openly shill for Trump and advance his lies.

    Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes wasted no time transitioning into the role of a top Trump adviser following his ouster, perhaps the most glaring example of the Fox-Trump lovefest. Ailes is reportedly advising Trump for the presidential debates, Trump has said he “would think about” hiring his “friend” Ailes as a campaign consultant, and the two reportedly “counseled each other in multiple phone calls” during the fallout over Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment. As part of his resignation deal, Ailes also serves as an adviser to Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch. 

    Fox figures’ intimate involvement in the Trump campaign comes as the candidate has limited his media appearances to be almost exclusively on Fox. Trump has retreated “to friendly media ground” to “[limit] the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions,” writes CNN’s Brian Stelter:

    Donald Trump's reputation for being always available to reporters is way out of date.

    Trump is saying "yes" to Fox News almost every day but saying "no" to most other major networks and news organizations -- a highly unusual strategy for a presidential nominee.

    He called into "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning, he is booked on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday night, and he has another town hall with Sean Hannity coming up on Wednesday.

    Even Fox’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, admitted that Trump is “refusing to appear on many television outlets” outside of Fox because those “interviews entail too much risk” for Trump to misstep. 

    The continued Fox-Trump relationship is in keeping with the network's role thus far as a mouthpiece for the Trump campaign: During the Republican primary, Fox gave Trump more than twice as much airtime as the other Republican candidates.

    UPDATE: In a statement to The Washington Post's Erik Wemple, a Fox spokesperson said, "We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this" Trump ad "and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election.”

  • During Interview With Donald Trump, O'Reilly Ignores Ailes’ Role In Debate Preparation

    O'Reilly Attacks Debate Moderators Cooper And Raddatz As "Partisan People;" Praises Fox's Wallace As "Fair"

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET


    While speaking to Donald Trump about upcoming presidential debates, Bill O’Reilly did not ask Trump about reports that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is helping Trump’s campaign with debate preparations.

    Over the course of an interview spanning more than 7 minutes, O’Reilly did not bring up the widely reported claim that Roger Ailes “is advising Donald J. Trump as he begins to prepare for the all-important presidential debates this fall.” Instead, O’Reilly urged Trump to attack upcoming debate moderators Lester Holt, Anderson Cooper, and Martha Raddatz, who he characterized as “kind of partisan people,” and prompted Trump to praise Fox host and debate moderator Chris Wallace:

    BILL O'REILLY (HOST): You have two kind of partisan people though. The next debate you have Martha Raddatz at ABC, who I worked with in Boston. Brilliant journalist, but she is a Democrat. And then Anderson Cooper, I think he does a decent job over there but he is a Democrat, OK? So, you have two Democrats, and you don't -- are you showing up for that, or what are you going to do?

    DONALD TRUMP: And by the way, Lester is a Democrat.

    O'REILLY: I didn't know that.

    TRUMP: Look, it's a phony system. Lester is a Democrat. I mean, they are all Democrats. Okay? It's a very unfair system. I -- look, I've worked pretty well within the system. I guess by a lot of polls I'm leading many of the polls, and most of the polls -- CNN just came out with a poll I'm leading nationwide by two. I'm leading a lot of the states. I'm leading Florida where I am now by three or four. Something just came out. A poll just came out. I'm leading it by three points or four points. And, you know, I think I'm doing well. Leading Ohio, leading in North Carolina. I think we are doing very well.

    O'REILLY: Alright, but after the debate things will change and you will see.

    TRUMP: And the system's a guest --

    O'REILLY: Raddatz and Cooper, you OK with them, or no?

    TRUMP: No, not really. I'm not okay with Anderson Cooper because I think he treats me very unfairly at CNN. I think he is very unfair on CNN. I think CNN, they call it the Clinton News Network that's why the ratings aren't doing very well.

    O'REILLY: Well, they have to compete with MSNBC, that's why they may be doing that. But you say you are not happy with it, but you will show up, you are not going to boycott it like you did the Fox thing.

    TRUMP: No, I will show up. I will show up, they're gaming the ref, that's what they are doing.

    O'REILLY: Right, and the last one is Chris Wallace. He is fair, right?

    TRUMP: He is fair, he is tough. He is fair, and I don't mind as long as he is fair. And I have done a lot of work with Chris, and I have never had a problem with him.

    O’Reilly’s decision to avoid pressing Trump on Ailes’ debate preparation continues Fox’s trend of ignoring Ailes’ role within the Trump campaign. Fox’s Sunday shows have previously ignored reports that Roger Ailes is advising Trump, and Fox News’ Brit Hume recently neglected to ask Trump adviser Newt Gingrich about Ailes’ role in debate preparations.

  • The Trump Birther Headlines Problem

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Scanning media headlines after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statement about his racist birther crusade, one could reasonably come away thinking Trump had fully renounced and apologized for his years-long offensive campaign to delegitimize President Barack Obama. That was not the case -- Trump did not apologize and in fact blatantly lied in his 26-second remarks -- but media’s collective failure to accurately describe the event in their headlines may have left readers thinking Trump shut the door on his birtherism.

    After building “suspense” that he was going to definitively address his racist accusations that President Obama was not born in the United States, Trump used his “circus” of an event to briefly say that “President Obama was born in the United States. Period" and to falsely accuse “‘Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008” of starting “the birther controversy.” Trump also erroneously claimed he had “finished” the controversy by forcing President Obama to release his birth certificate.

    Online and print headlines largely failed to contextualize the event or note Trump’s lie about Clinton:

    The New York Times:

    CNN:

    The Hill:

    The Los Angeles Times:

    The Associated Press:

    The New York Times did eventually change its headline to: “Trump Drops False ‘Birther’ Theory, but Floats a New One: Clinton Started It.”

    Though the original headlines are not technically incorrect, the lack of context -- Trump’s brief comments after taking the media for a ride, his outright lie about Clinton starting birther rumors, and his false assertion that he had “finished” the birther controversy -- likely misled readers.

    Conversely, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post got it right:

    As former senior adviser to President Obama and current CNN contributor Dan Pfeiffer noted:

    The Washington Post’s David Weigel wrote in a September 15 column that Trump, whom he called “the chyron candidate,” has “never failed to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron,” and that although most reporters make key distinctions and include crucial context “in the body of their stories,” context is often “elided” in “headlines or tweets.” Weigel pointed to the issue of the candidates’ disclosures of their medical information as an example:

    That matters. If, like many people, you only glance at the news (yes, we know how long readers spend finishing articles), you come away with the impression that Trump is trading Clinton blow for blow and white paper for white paper. If either candidate released their entire medical history, or Trump revealed his entire tax returns, only a handful of voters might even read them. They'd depend on the press to find the story and the lede. Most coverage of campaigns needs to be shrunk to fit a chyron, anyway; Trump's innovation has been to preshrink the news.

    Headlines matter in a Twitter-driven, fast-paced media landscape. Offering crucial details in articles -- but not in headlines -- may not be enough anymore, particularly in the age of Trump.

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

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

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

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

    Page 8

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Will Chris Wallace Let Trump’s Iraq War Lie Slide In The Presidential Debate?

    Flashback: Wallace Has Enabled The Lie Twice Before

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News’ Chris Wallace has previously failed to fact-check Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s brazen lie that he opposed the Iraq War, raising further concerns about how Wallace will moderate the third and final presidential debate.

    Wallace has twice before let Trump lie about his opposition to the Iraq War -- a claim that has been proved false time and time again. On February 21, when Trump appeared on Wallace’s Fox News Sunday, Wallace let the candidate say he “was against” the Iraq War “at the beginning” while offering no pushback; and on March 13, Wallace again let Trump’s claim that he “was against the war in Iraq … I’m one that said don’t go in” go unchallenged.

    Wallace’s complicity in enabling Trump’s lie is troubling given that he has been tapped as moderator for the final debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and that he has said it’s not his “job to be a truth squad” when moderating. Trump took the news that Wallace wouldn’t fact-check the candidates during the debates well, telling Larry King, “I can understand him saying that. … I think that the candidates should police themselves.”

    Wallace’s previous disregard for Trump’s recurrent lie is even more concerning given the conflict of interest tethered to Wallace’s role as a moderator. As Media Matters founder David Brock wrote to the Commission on Presidential Debates, former Fox CEO Roger Ailes’ position advising both Trump and Rupert Murdoch -- the head of Fox’s parent company and Wallace’s boss -- represents a “glaring conflict of interest” that infringes on the credibility of any Fox News moderator. Brock has asked the commission to reconsider Wallace as a moderator.

    Given NBC host Matt Lauer’s heavily criticized, fact-challenged moderation during a national security forum -- where he, too, let Trump lie about his previous Iraq War stance -- it’s crucial that the debate moderators stamp out Trump’s mendacity and ensure a fact-based debate.

  • Fox’s Shepard Smith Rips Journalists Who Refuse To Fact-Check Trump, Days After Chris Wallace Says He Won’t “Truth Squad” Candidates In Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox host Shepard Smith criticized the idea that some media figures refuse to fact-check Donald Trump’s lies, a statement that stands in contrast to his Fox colleague Chris Wallace who said that it isn’t his job to be a “truth squad” while moderating candidates during the presidential debates.

    During an interview about his selection as a debate moderator on September 4, Chris Wallace argued that “I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad” on presidential candidates, “it’s up to the other person to catch them on that.”

    In a discussion of NBC anchor Matt Lauer’s performance as moderator of a September 7 presidential forum, Smith argued that the idea of the media refusing to fact-check lies told by candidates is a “dereliction of duty.” Smith added that the media hasn’t aggressively been fact-checking Trump out of fear “he’ll rip you to shreds”:

    SHEPARD SMITH (HOST): Did it seem to you anybody -- any of the three of them were ready for last night?

    JOHN BUSSEY: Yeah, it was a shaky -- it was a shaky business, and --

    SMITH: Critics are eviscerating --

    BUSSEY: Yes, that's right, and Matt Lauer is getting critiqued for not fact-checking Trump more in his comments. And I think what you did earlier in the broadcast is kind of a reflection of the need to continue to do that. Trump's comments that he was against the war --

    SMITH: When he says things that aren't true and the media does not call him out, that's derelict -- dereliction of duty.

    [...]

    BUSSEY: You will see with Gary Johnson, Clinton, and Trump, the media has to be -- continue to be very aggressive on the fact-checking.

    SMITH: And yet it has not been. It seems -- it's almost as if people are scared to fact check him, because we know the wrath that comes from him when you fact check. If you correct him using the facts, he'll rip you to shreds.

    BUSSEY: Well, I think that the media is getting better at this.

    SMITH: Well, it better get better.

  • Matt Lauer’s Fact-Challenged Moderation Is A Cautionary Tale For Debate Moderators

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Matt Lauer’s widely panned moderation of the NBC News Commander-In-Chief Forum, where he failed to fact-check Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recurrent lie about opposing the Iraq War, shows precisely why it is paramount that moderators for the upcoming presidential debates correct misinformation and hold the candidates to an equal standard of truth-telling.

    Lauer, who moderated the Commander-In Chief Forum hosted by NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) on September 7, let Trump lie twice that he “was totally against the war in Iraq.” Trump’s claim has been proved false time and time again, and because of the audacity of the lie, the media roundly castigated Lauer's slip.

    With the first presidential debate looming, Lauer’s performance is a cautionary tale to the debate moderators, who will give voters one of the last chances to judge the candidates on the substance and breadth of their policy proposals.

    Fox’s Chris Wallace, tapped as the moderator for the final debate, already outrageously conceded that he will not fact-check candidates’ lies, stating, “I do not believe it’s my job to be a truth squad.” With his concession, it’s imperative that the other moderators step up to the challenge of fact-checking candidates, because letting falsehoods go unchallenged is a disservice to voters and a strain on journalistic integrity.

    Challenging mendacity in the presidential debates is paramount for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that Trump’s entire campaign has been grounded in lies and conspiracy theories. PolitiFact found that 71 percent of Trump’s claims are either “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” As Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone explained, failure to fact-check lies in the debates “leaves the viewing public with a ‘he said, she said’ situation when the journalist picked to be onstage could say, decisively, who is right.” This, in turn, enables misinformation -- an injustice to voters -- and normalizes this behavior -- a threat to democratic and journalistic processes. New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor unequivocally said that, moving forward, journalists and reporters have a duty to fact-check lies and inconsistencies:

    I think last night we saw Donald Trump say that he did not support the war in Iraq. Many people have fact-checked him and said that that's a false statement. BuzzFeed broke that big story saying here is him on Howard Stern saying that, that he does support the war. So I think being able to do that as journalists, we have to do that. Even if it's tenuous and we want to move on to the next question and we want to have multiple broad conversations, we have to stop and say, wait, you really need to answer this question.

    Another worry for debate moderators’ passivity in the face of lies is the growing concern that Trump is being “graded on a curve,” where so long as he doesn’t “vomit all over himself and [he gives] a decent” performance, he’ll succeed. Failing to fact-check Trump’s lies during a debate will feed into the growing media tendency to lower the bar for Trump compared to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    As CNN’s John Berman said, “If the bar for Donald Trump is not embarrassing himself, what does that mean heading into the debates?”

    Given that Trump’s accusations of media bias have already seemingly influenced the debate moderator selections, Lauer’s performance will hopefully encourage Lester Holt, Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Wallace to strengthen their fact-checking skills and harden their resolve to ensure the presidential debates are grounded in truth and reality.