Brian Stelter

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  • WaPo’s The Fix Highlights Journalists “Counseling” Trump Through Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s The Fix highlighted CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s observation that journalists are “counseling [Trump] through interviews,” suggesting answers “instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.”

    Cuomo has noted that during interviews with Donald Trump, interviewers ask questions framed to push him toward a better answer, saying that journalists suggest to Trump, “When you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?” instead of asking open-ended questions. Other journalists such as CNN’s Brian Stelter have criticized media for not pressing Trump hard enough. Stelter said that “we have to address” Trump’s misinformation “head-on as journalists."

    Trump has benefited from countless softball interviews. For example, on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the hosts asked Trump questions such as “Were you right?” following the Brussels terrorist attack. In addition, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly came under fire for her “fluff” interview with Trump on her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents. A May 22 panel on CNN’s Reliable Sources criticized her “softball” interview, repeatedly noting that “she didn’t press him” on a number of issues. Many of her questions directly echoed queries that her colleagues at Fox had asked Trump over the past year.

    In The Washington Post’s The Fix blog, politics and media reporter Callum Borchers highlighted Cuomo’s critique of the way Trump is interviewed and asserted that journalists play an additional role in vetting Donald Trump: “counselors.” Borchers noted that “interviewers do Trump’s job for him -- suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions.” After an analysis of Trump’s interviews on controversial subjects, Borchers said, “Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.” From the May 23 article (emphasis original):

    It's the media's job to vet presidential candidates, so journalists often serve as critics, pointing out inconsistencies and potential weaknesses voters should know about.

    But with Donald Trump, they also play another role, according to CNN's Chris Cuomo: counselors.

    Discussing media coverage on Trump with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Friday, the "New Day" co-host observed what he called "the dynamic of kind of counseling [Trump] through interviews." Cuomo offered a generic example of the kinds questions he's talking about: "Like, when you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?"

    Cuomo's observation is that his fellow interviewers do Trump's job for him — suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.

    A review of Trump interviews on controversial subjects suggests Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.

    Trump, of course, doesn't always take the hint or doesn't care. And it's possible — or perhaps even likely — that reporters aren't so much trying to protect him as simply reacting with disbelief to the often-unprecedented and surprising things he's saying.

    Whatever the cause, the result is that questions to Trump often come with the "right" answer built in. And this habit of throwing him a line could help explain why some voters believe the media have been too soft on the real estate magnate.

    [...]

    The challenge for journalists is to suppress their shock and let Trump speak for himself. Are you endorsing internment camps? Was the Heidi Cruz retweet a mistake? Do you want the KKK's support?

  • 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.

  • CNN: Fox’s Megyn Kelly Meets Privately With Donald Trump

    CNN Money Reports Meeting "Raises Possibility Of A Kelly-Trump Interview"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Megyn Kelly met GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump at his Manhattan skyscraper, Trump Tower, Wednesday morning for a private meeting, CNN Money reported.

    Trump has been feuding with Fox and Kelly since she questioned Trump about his offensive remarks toward women during a Fox News GOP primary debate in August. Trump said Kelly “had blood coming out of her eyes” and “her wherever” after the debate, promoted a tweet describing her as a “bimbo,” and called her a “lightweight reporter.” Trump boycotted the following Fox News debate co-hosted by Kelly in January. Although Trump is a frequent Fox guest, logging more airtime than any of his competitors, the network pushed back against his frequent attacks on Kelly, saying his “sick obsession” and “vitriolic attacks” were “beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate.” CNN's report notes that Trump has not attacked Kelly since April 1.

    CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that the meeting was prompted by Kelly reaching out to Trump’s office, and may indicate the possibility of a Trump-Kelly interview in the future. From CNN Money:

    Donald Trump and the Fox News host Megyn Kelly met at Trump Tower on Wednesday morning, people with knowledge of the matter told CNNMoney.

    Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was not in attendance, the people said.

    An NBC reporter spotted Kelly entering Trump Tower shortly before noon.

    Representatives for Trump and Fox had no immediate comment. But Kelly is planning to discuss the meeting on her prime time program Wednesday night.

    Kelly reached out to Trump's office to set up the meeting, one of the sources said.

    The face-to-face chat raises the possibility of a Kelly-Trump interview sometime in the future.

    Kelly is known to be seeking high-profile guests for a Barbara Walters-style prime time special on the Fox broadcast network in May.

    Later, during an interview on CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, Stelter said the meeting was "the culmination of Kelly reaching out to Trump, seeking a face-to-face," suggesting Kelly has been seeking a meeting for some time. From the April 13 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:

    BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): A source tells CNN the Republican front-runner and Kelly met at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Trump's intense dislike of Kelly has been on display all throughout this campaign, so let's talk it over with the man with the scoop, CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, host of Reliable Sources. So what is the scoop? She rolled up into Trump Tower incognito?

    BRIAN STELTER: Yeah, there's a real mystery about this. She hasn't commented on it yet. Neither has Trump. But my sources say this meeting was the culmination of Kelly reaching out to Trump, seeking a face-to-face. It was on-again-off-again for a while. It finally it happened this morning. And it is intriguing because if you think about all of Trump's targets, all the people that he seems to dislike, Megyn Kelly would be at the top of the list. He has criticized her viciously at times. He says that she is unfair to him, that he can't stand to watch her show. So if he's out, maybe having a détente with her, it would suggest to me that at the same time we're seeing him talking about wanting to unify the party, find unity within the GOP, maybe he's even trying to break bread or make amends with one of his critics.

    UPDATE: Fox News issued a statement on the meeting, confirming that Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes and Megyn Kelly contacted Trump about appearing on Kelly's upcoming special on May 23. The statement said the results will be announced on tonight's edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:

  • Why Won't Interviewers Ask Trump About Campaign Manager's Alleged Assault Of Reporter?

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sunday political talk shows on NBC, CNN, Fox, and CBS all failed to ask Donald Trump during interviews about the allegation that his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, roughed up Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields.

    According to Fields, she was "grabbed" and "yanked" down while attempting to ask Trump a question as the GOP front-runner left a March 8 press conference. Audio of the incident obtained by Politico indicates that Fields told Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, "That was insane. You should have felt how hard he grabbed me," and that Terris identified Lewandowski as the assailant.

    Fields filed charges against Lewandowski but is encountering blowback from the Trump campaign, which denies the incident ever occurred, and from her own employer Breitbart News. Critics have noted that Breitbart News has an especially cozy relationship with the Trump campaign and have pointed out that the news organization has failed to strongly take Fields' side in the controversy.

    Although Sunday news shows Meet the Press, State of the Union, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation all asked Trump about his condoning of violence at his rallies during March 13 broadcasts, none of the shows asked Trump about Fields' assault allegation.

    By contrast, the two Sunday media criticism shows, CNN's Reliable Sources and Fox News' MediaBuzz, both mentioned the incident.

    On Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter provided an update on the story, reporting Fields "is hiring an attorney, she's the Breitbart reporter who was roughed up by someone, possibly Trump's campaign manager, at a press conference earlier in the week. The campaign denied that the campaign manager was involved, suggesting she made it all up."

    While Fox's MediaBuzz did air a pre-recorded interview with Trump where host Howard Kurtz did not ask Trump about Fields, later in the show Kurtz brought the incident up during a panel discussion.

    During that discussion, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky slammed Breitbart News, saying, "I don't think, of the 25 years I've been doing this, I don't think I've ever heard a news organization not stand by its reporter in a situation like this. It's just an unbelievable thing to me. It makes them a not a news organization, it makes them a Trump organization, at least with respect to this incident. It's just unbelievable."

  • Wash. Post's Erik Wemple Doubles-Down On Criticism Of Morning Joe's Donald Trump "Puff Session"

    MSNBC Hosts Were "Essentially Giving [Trump] A Pass" By Glossing Over His "Record Of Offenses And Outrages"

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA

    The Washington Post's Erik Wemple defended his criticism of MSNBC Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for their "puff session" interview with Donald Trump during the network's exclusive February 17 town hall with the Republican presidential candidate.

    In a February 17 piece, Wemple criticized MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski for not questioning "Trump's shameful record of racism, bigotry and rampant disrespect" during a one-hour presidential town hall that evening. Wemple asserted that "any hour-long session with Donald Trump that doesn't ask him about those obscenities is a puff session" and that the MSNBC duo's failure to challenge Trump was a "journalistic shortfall." Wemple joined a chorus of media critics calling out the "softball" treatment of Trump. After receiving direct criticism from Scarborough and Brzezinski, Wemple issued a satirical apology in which he reasserted that he stood "by every word of our review of the Scarborough-Brzezinski Trump town hall."

    On the February 21 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Wemple again doubled-down on his criticism of the MSNBC hosts, saying that "it's the media's role" to keep bringing up Trump's "record of offenses and outrages of racist, and sexist, and bigoted nature":

    BRIAN STELTER (HOST): The campaign trail wars have nothing on the cable news wars. The latest example, dueling town halls. CNN airing a town hall with three GOP candidates while MSNBC set up an hour-long town hall with Donald Trump moderated by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Now, Scarborough was criticized for some of the questions in his town hall. Let me show you one of the examples here. This is from Erik Wemple of The Washington Post. He said that "MSNBC and Morning Joe hosts let Trump skate on bigotry and racism." Well, Erik Wemple of The Washington Post joins me now in Washington. Erik, I want you to respond to Scarborough because, as you and I both know, he's been the subject of media coverage, including here at CNN, describing a -- maybe a cozy relationship with Donald Trump. He's been defending himself and dismissing those criticisms. Let's take a look at what he said about you on his show the other day.

    [...]

    So he says he's being tough on Trump. You said he let Trump "skate."

    ERIK WEMPLE: Right, I mean, I think that there -- it's one of these great Washington situations where both sides can sort of claim, "hey, look at this question, look at at that question." My point here Brian is sort of a larger one, and that is if you allow Donald Trump -- if you engage him only on like say Social Security, Iraq, and the issues, and how he's going to unite the Republican Party, you're essentially giving him a a pass. You're allowing him into the polite company of a presidential election. Where I think that there's a bigger issue here, and that is that he has compiled this record of offenses and outrages of racist, and sexist, and bigoted nature. And I think that if you have an hour to spend with him, and you don't talk about any of that, a lot of it came in 2015 -- I think that some media people have moved on. But I think Donald Trump has never apologized for any of his outrages. He's never made amends, he's never adequately explained any of it. And I don't think that it's the media's role to sort of let that go by the wayside. I think it's the media's role to keep bringing that up. Now, The Huffington Post has this footer that they attach to every story on Donald Trump where they recite all his various outrages and they link to supporting documentation.