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Cable and broadcast networks are reporting that Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump made him look look “restrained” and “softer,” but they are playing down the role Kelly played in that depiction.
Print and online media critics have been submitting withering critiques of Kelly’s heavily touted sit-down. For New York Times TV critic James Poniewozick, Kelly’s questions were so nonsubstantive that they don’t even deserve to be described as softballs. Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara wrote that Kelly failed to “hold his question-dodging feet to some sort of fire,” instead preferring to have him “costar in an hourlong infomercial for her new book.” The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik wrote that Kelly “provided Trump a kind of sanction with some women that he could never buy” and added, “I’m surprised they didn’t exchange air kisses.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple homed in on the “scandalous” way that Kelly “withheld details of her ordeal” with Trump “in a performance that assisted Trump with his general-election pivot” in order to boost sales of her forthcoming book. The list goes on and on.
But similar criticisms of Kelly’s journalism were absent from the coverage of the interview on the broadcast and cable news morning shows. Instead, NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning highlighted Trump’s effort to show a “softer side” during the interview, but made no mention of how Kelly helped him in that effort. CNN’s New Day completely ignored the interview, with the network’s media commentators instead appearing for a segment about Trump’s attacks on The New York Times.
It’s possible that one reason the networks are loathe to go after Kelly’s performance is that they are looking to hire her. Her contract with Fox News is up for renewal next year, she has openly said she will consider other offers, and news reports suggest that several networks will try to lure her away.
It would be awkward for executives to pitch Kelly on a move to their networks after their on-air talent ripped apart her effort to broaden her brand -- and even more awkward for that on-air talent to run into Kelly in the newsroom.
Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.
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Media are pointing out Donald Trump’s reversals on his tax and minimum wage policy stances, calling the pivots “a big change” from his positions in the Republican primary election.
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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.
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!”
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.
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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.
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.
Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality
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.
Carl Bernstein: “We Talk About The New Trump The Same Way We Talked About A New Nixon”
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.