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  • Trump Tours Morning Shows To Hype Conspiracy Theory From National Enquirer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Hours after he was declared the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump took to the broadcast network morning shows to defend a conspiracy theory from the National Enquirer, the tabloid with which Trump has a cozy relationship.

    Trump took a victory lap early on May 4 after Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his campaign and Trump was declared the presumptive GOP nominee, giving interviews on NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America. During the interviews, which took place over the phone, hosts asked Trump about a conspiracy theory he pushed from the National Enquirer, which claimed that Cruz’s father was linked to Lee Harvey Oswald three months before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Trump had hyped the conspiracy theory on his May 3 phone-in appearance on Fox & Friends. During the May 4 interviews, Trump continued to push the conspiracy theory as “a major story in a major publication,” and he falsely claimed that the Cruz campaign “didn’t deny” the allegations.

    Reporters have slammed the conspiracy theory as “inflammatory,” and even conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called it “kooky” and “absurd.”

    CNN’s senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, pointed out that this is not the first time Trump has repeated “something from a highly questionable source as if it’s fact,” noting that the “Enquirer has a checkered history.” After the tabloid asserted on March 23 that Cruz was “hiding FIVE different mistresses,” Trump defended the publication, saying that while he had “no idea whether or not” the Cruz affair story “is true or not,” the National Enquirer was “right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others.”

    Trump has a cozy relationship with the National Enquirer. In March, the publication gave the nod to Trump in its first ever presidential endorsement. Trump has also written for the tabloid on multiple occasions. According to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, Trump and David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, “have been friends for years.” In 2013, Trump tweeted that Pecker should become the CEO of Time magazine, writing, “nobody could bring it back like David!”

  • Trump Kicks Off General Campaign With Phone Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Donald Trump phoned in to the morning news programs on ABC, MSNBC, NBC, and Fox News for interviews following his victory in the May 3 Indiana primary, which cemented his role as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for the general election. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs -- including CBS’s morning show -- have banned the practice.

    Trump’s most recent round of phone interviews is only the latest example of a newly common type of media malpractice unique to the candidate. The practice of letting a presidential candidate largely eschew on-camera interviews in favor of phoning in is unprecedented in American politics. News networks have overwhelmingly allowed Trump -- and Trump only -- to call in to Sunday morning political talk shows. In total, Trump conducted 69 phone interviews on news programs in the first 69 days of 2016.

    In March, CBS This Morning and NBC’s Meet The Press announced they would no longer allow Trump to phone in for interviews, joining Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday. During that same month, the six major broadcast and cable news networks allowed Trump to phone in for 39 of his 63 interviews. On ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone.

    Media critics and prominent journalists have criticized the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews, noting that the practice "is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump." Trump’s phone interviews have given him an obvious advantage over his rivals, allowing him to ignore hosts' visual cues and body language, dodge or shout over interviewers' questions, and avoid awkward confrontations.

    To sign Media Matters’ petition calling on media outlets to take away Trump’s special phone privilege, click here.

  • Donald Trump Praises The Media After A Nearly Year-Long Attack On The Press

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump praised the media in his victory speech and in morning show interviews after sweeping all five April 26 GOP primaries, a sharp shift in his campaign’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets.

    During an April 26 victory speech, Trump said, “I want to thank the media. The media’s really covered me very fair for the last two hours.” Trump continued, “They’ve been really very fair over the last few weeks.” The following morning, Trump made the morning news show circuit, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the show's coverage of him has been "great." (Morning Joe has previously been widely criticized by other members of the media for their soft Trump coverage.) Trump added that hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski had given him a "hard time" in some cases, to which Brzezinski responded, "We gave you a hard time on things we disagreed with, but we always thought your candidacy was successful." On CNN’s New Day, Trump asserted that “CNN’s doing a very good job" of covering the election.

    During the morning of April 27, ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Trump to phone in for interviews. Networks' unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly do phone interviews rather than make in person or satellite appearances offers Trump an advantage against probing and hard-hitting interviews.

    Trump’s tone towards the media is markedly different from his consistent attacks on the press throughout the entirety of his nearly year-long campaign. Trump’s history of attacking journalists and news outlets includes blacklisting multiple reporters from his events, kicking Univision anchor Jorge Ramos out of a news conference, and mocking a reporter’s disability after receiving supposedly unfavorable coverage. Multiple reporters and photographers have been reportedly threatened or injured by Trump campaign officials and security. Trump’s favorable comments to CNN directly contrast with his threats last month to skip a March 29 CNN town hall, where he cited “one-sided and unfair reporting” from the network.

    Trump infamously attacked Fox News host Megyn Kelly for months after she asked a question about his history of sexism during the August 6 Fox Republican presidential debate, culminating in his boycott of Fox's January 28 debate. In an interview after the August 6 debate, Trump said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the debate, later retweeted a comment calling Kelly a “bimbo,” and called her “Crazy Megyn.”

    During a February 26 press conference, Trump promised to sue the media for negative stories about him if he’s elected president, saying he would “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money." The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called those statements a “threat to American democracy” and a “logical extension” of Trump’s attacks on the press.

    In recent weeks several media figures have fallen for claims that Trump has evolved to demonstrate a more "presidential" tone, while other journalists have urged their colleagues not to forget his history of insulting and extreme statements.

  • Morning Shows Grant Trump Phone Privileges Following Primary Wins

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The morning news programs on ABC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all allowed Donald Trump to phone in for interviews following his victories in the April 26 Republican primaries. Journalists and media critics have called out cable and broadcast news shows for allowing Trump this “shocking” “advantage,” and several programs have banned the practice.

    In March, the six major broadcast and cable news networks allowed Trump to phone in for 39 of his 63 interviews. On ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News, more than half of Trump's interviews were conducted by phone.

    The Associated Press has explained how television media’s unprecedented practice of allowing Trump to regularly call in gives him an advantage:

    Except in news emergencies, producers usually avoid phoners because television is a visual medium -- a face-to-face discussion between a newsmaker and questioner is preferable to a picture of an anchor listening to a disembodied voice.

    It's easy to see why Trump likes them. There's no travel or TV makeup involved; if he wishes to, Trump can talk to Matt Lauer without changing out of his pajamas. They often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached.

    Face-to-face interviews let viewers see a candidate physically react to a tough question and think on his feet, said Chris Licht, executive producer of "CBS This Morning." Sometimes that's as important as what is being said.

    Several prominent journalists and media critics have panned the media’s willingness to grant Trump phone interviews. CBS This Morning, NBC’s Meet The Press, and Fox News Sunday have all banned the practice, requiring Trump to appear in person or via satellite.

    To sign Media Matters’ petition calling on media outlets to take away Trump’s special phone privilege, click here.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast News Try To Cover The Economy Without Economists

    Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.

  • Here Are The Media Figures Calling Out Trump's Sham Reinvention

    Carl Bernstein: “We Talk About The New Trump The Same Way We Talked About A New Nixon”

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ & BOBBY LEWIS

    After Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump began persuading some in the media that he will start acting more “presidential,” others in the media have expressed skepticism of Trump’s attempt to change his image and are warning their colleagues to not forget his insulting and extreme statements.

  • Right-Wing Media's Worst Attempts to Downplay Sexual Assault and Diminish Survivors

    ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    For Sexual Assault Awareness month, Media Matters looks back at right-wing media's history of downplaying, and questioning the legitimacy of, sexual assault. Right-wing media figures have called reporting statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a "coveted status," said the sexual assault epidemic is "not happening," blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault constitute "a war happening on boys."

  • Anti-LGBT "Bathroom Predator" Myth Makes Its Way To ABC's This Week

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos hosted Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for the extreme anti-LGBT group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who hyped the debunked “bathroom predator” myth to defend a discriminatory law recently passed in North Carolina.

    ADF is an multimillion dollar anti-gay Christian legal organization known for its work defending discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, which allow discrimination against LGBT individuals and others based on religious beliefs. In addition, ADF actively works to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that effectively criminalize homosexuality.

    This Week hosted Waggoner on April 10 to discuss mounting boycotts against North Carolina for its passage of the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in March, which bans transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity and excludes LGBT residents from legal protection from discrimination. The law relied heavily on the “bathroom predator” myth that sexual predators will exploit transgender nondiscrimination laws to sneak into women’s restrooms. Experts in multiple states -- including law enforcement officials, government employees, and advocates for victims of sexual assault -- have categorically debunked that myth. Waggoner pushed this myth on This Week, characterizing the North Carolina bill as having “a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms”:

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): Kristen, I saw you shaking your head. I want to give you a chance to respond. But there's also a provision in the North Carolina bill that strips the ability of people to sue under the state discrimination law. And opponents of the law said if you're fired because of your race or gender or religion, you no longer have a basic remedy.

    KRISTEN WAGGONER: Well, that's absolutely not true. That's not the case. And first of all, if we want to talk about what these laws actually do, North Carolina specifically, there are two components to the North Carolina law. The first is a common sense provision that would restrict men from accessing girls' locker rooms. It's for the safety and security, for privacy of not only our women and children but our men. We don't want to have to undress in front of someone who is of the opposite biological sex.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Well you brought that up. How is that going to be enforced. You have to go back to -- you can only use the restroom that is the restroom that’s on your birth certificate. How is the state going to enforce that?

    WAGGONER: The same way that they’re enforcing it and have enforced it the last 200 years. You simply respond to complaints that are received.  But what we have seen, when these types of laws have been passed in other states that allow men to access the women's restroom, those laws are misused. And they violate the safety and security of people. We should have a reasonable expectation of privacy to go into a locker room and not have to undress in front of someone of the opposite biological sex. It's common sense.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the answer to that, John?

    JOHN CORVINO:  The idea that this is about safety and security, it's kind of like when somebody says that they ate all the ice cream in order to make room in the freezer. I mean it's just obvious that that's not the real reason. This is about discrimination, particularly against transgender people. And one of the reasons that's really sad is that our nation's history of protecting religious liberty has traditionally been about protecting marginalized groups, protecting people of minority faiths against the majority who try to marginalize them. Instead, we have a perversion of the notion of religious liberty to further marginalize people who are already vulnerable.  There are absolutely no cases of transgender people trying to use these laws in order to commit assault or to threaten people's safety in bathrooms. Whereas there are many cases of transgender people suffering bullying and assault and violence because they can't have a safe and comfortable bathroom to use.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Kristen?

    WAGGONER: That is absolutely not true. There are multiple cases of those who may not be transgender but those men who are using these laws to gain access to women and children in restrooms. These cases are documented --

    CORVINO: How are they using these laws? How are they, if a man goes into a restroom to assault somebody, that's against the law. That has nothing to do with prohibiting transgender people, who just want a safe and comfortable place to use the bathroom, from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

    WAGGONER: Then they can use the bathroom in a private facility, just as everyone can. These laws are gender neutral in terms of, they're not discriminating on the basis of how one identifies.  They're simply saying that you go to a restroom or a private facility and you have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. But I want to get to the real victims--

    STEPHANOPOULOS: I wish we could, but I’m afraid we are out of time. We're going to have to come back to this issue. Thank you both very much for your time.