Brian Stelter

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  • Media Take Note: Trump Is The Worst Possible Messenger On The Clintons’ Marriage

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    When media report on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s latest attacks on former President Bill Clinton’s history with women and Hillary Clinton’s responses to those women, they should also mention the immense hypocrisy of Trump levying those claims. Trump and several of his closest advisers have long histories of infidelity, workplace sexual harassment, and misogyny. And Trump himself previously said both that Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky was “totally unimportant” and that people would have been more “forgiving” if Clinton had a relationship “with a really beautiful woman.”

  • Following Widespread Derision Of Debate Performance, Trump Returns To Fox Cocoon While Surrogates Do Real Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump retreated to Fox News’ Fox & Friends for a friendly interview following widespread criticism of his September 26 presidential debate performance which was deemed a loss for Trump, while his campaign surrogates took real interviews on other cable and broadcast news networks.

    Journalists across the political spectrum lambasted Trump’s September 26 presidential debate performance, criticizing the false statements he made -- and that debate moderator Lester Holt repeatedly challenged -- on numerous issues including the Iraq War, birtherism, and his tax returns.  Reporters noted that Trump spent much of the debate on the defensive regarding those issues and that he repeatedly interrupted both Holt and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Other media figures slammed Trump for bragging that he got President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate and for his false claim that Clinton’s 2008 campaign started the racist birther conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace. Voters and commentators proclaimed that Trump had lost the debate to Clinton, with some calling the performance “an unmitigated disaster” and a “terrible night” for Trump.

    The following day, Trump retreated to Fox News to discuss the debate with the hosts of Fox & Friends. The show has a history of buddying up with Trump, giving him a platform to push false claims including that President Obama was not born in the United States, and Trump has lauded the show’s hosts in return. The show’s September 27 interview with Trump continued its softball history with the candidate. Rather than challenging Trump on any of his false statements, the hosts asked questions such as, “So how do you think it went last night?” and, “Do you feel that Lester Holt asked Hillary Clinton an equal number of hostile questions?” The hosts joined Trump in criticizing Holt, with co-host Steve Doocy claiming he “leaned a little over into the left lane” in contrast to Matt Lauer’s “fair and balanced” performance at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum (for which Lauer has been widely criticized). Co-host Ainsley Earhardt even praised Trump for his response to Clinton’s accurate claim that the federal government had sued him for housing discrimination, saying, “I did like how you responded to that, though, because when they throw those things at you, and you’re -- being in the audience, I didn't know about that. And then when you explain it, then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, well that makes sense.’” The hosts also gave Trump space to attack, without any pushback, a former Miss Universe winner and to insult her weight.

    In contrast with Trump’s cocoon on Fox’s morning show, Trump surrogates took harder interviews at other networks. Hosts on NBC’s Today and CBS This Morning challenged Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), about why Trump took credit for spurring President Obama to release his birth certificate, about whether Trump “lie[d]” when he falsely claimed he never said climate change was a hoax, and why Trump bragged about possibly not paying taxes. On CNN’s New Day and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the hosts pressed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway over whether Trump’s birther answer was appropriate and whether he would apologize for his birther campaign. They also asked about Trump’s climate change stance and the quality of Trump’s debate performance overall.

    Trump’s retreat to Fox News continues a recent trend. Fox media reporter Howard Kurtz reported in June that Trump was scaling back on interviews with networks other than Fox. A Media Matters analysis found that between September 7, when Trump appeared on NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum, and September 22, Trump gave seven interviews to Fox News, totaling more than 1 hour and 40 minutes of airtime. During the same time frame, he had not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC. Given Trump’s withdrawal to a network that repeatedly delivers softball interviews, it perhaps is not surprising that he struggled when he was actually fact-checked by a journalist at the debate. Responding to CNN host Carol Costello’s observation that Trump’s Fox & Friends interview did not include “difficult questions,” CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter noted that Trump had “mostly sheltered himself within conservative media” and said that he had “doubts about whether it's a winning strategy now.” And as The New York Times’ Alex Burns noted of the Fox & Friends interview, “[T]his is how you end up unprepared for real questions and real heat in a debate.”

  • The Bar Gets Lower: Media Reinforce Double Standard For Trump Ahead Of First Debate

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    As the first presidential debate approaches, media figures across the political spectrum are actively lowering the bar for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, both by setting lower standards themselves and by pushing the lower-standard narrative. Yet at the same time, many media figures are acknowledging that the press is employing a double standard in its treatment of Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

  • 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.”

  • CNN’s Brian Stelter Highlights Trump’s Media Retreat To Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s Brian Stelter detailed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s new strategy of restricting his press accessibility almost exclusively to the friendly outlet of Fox News.

    Trump has a long history of favorable coverage from Fox News. He received nearly double the airtime from Fox News than any other network in July, and he received the vast majority of Fox’s coverage during the GOP primary

    CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter highlighted Trump’s new strategy of “saying ‘yes’ to Fox News almost every day but saying ‘no’ to most other major networks” in a September 19 article. Stelter explained that this decision to avoid mainstream news outlets and limit general press accessibility “limits the candidate’s exposure to hard-hitting questions.” Stelter also noted Trump’s highly favorable coverage from Trump sycophant, Fox host Sean Hannity, who acts as “the best symbol of how the candidate gets out his message on his own terms”:

    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.

    Rousing the base instead of reaching out to undecided voters may ultimately pay off for Trump. If nothing else, it limits the candidate's exposure to hard-hitting questions -- while fueling frustration among journalists.

    [...]

    "Trump used to be very, very accessible to the press. At the beginning of his campaign, he was extremely accessible," CNN politics reporter Jeremy Diamond said on Sunday's "Reliable Sources." "You could catch him for quick interviews on the way in and out of rallies. And that has really changed."

    Diamond said "he is less accessible I think, in many regards, than Hillary Clinton at this point."

    [...]

    This conservative-focused media strategy is also gaining attention among Trump's critics. "He pretty much exclusively appears on Fox News now," Judd Legum, editor of the liberal news site ThinkProgress, tweeted on Monday.

    Trump's relationship with Hannity is perhaps the best symbol of how the candidate gets out his message on his own terms. Trump has taped numerous town halls with the conservative commentator.

  • Media Finally Admit The Bar Is Lower For Trump. But Can They Fix It?

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Memo to the media: You cannot have it both ways on the double standard applied to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    After NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, reporters and pundits proclaimed that media have held the two presidential nominees to different standards of knowledge and conduct, yet these media figures have also perpetuated the double standard by excusing Trump’s behavior and applauding him any time he shows a veneer of conventionality.

    Numerous media figures criticized Matt Lauer, host of the September 7 forum, for employing different questioning toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Lauer allowed Trump to lie about opposing the Iraq war, yet he used eight of his first nine questions for Clinton to grill her over her emails. Several media figures said Lauer’s line of questioning embodied the “double standard” that reporters across the board use to analyze the two candidates.

    If Media Figures Note The Double Standard ... 

    • MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: Trump Is The "Continued Beneficiary Of A Huge Double Standard." The morning after the forum, MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle told Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough that Lauer interviewed Trump “as if he were the co-host or the host of The Apprentice,” rather than a presidential candidate, noting, “Syria wasn’t mentioned. Aleppo wasn’t mentioned. The refugee crisis wasn’t mentioned.” He noted that the forum showed Trump is the “continued beneficiary of a huge double standard.”
       
    • Wash. Post Contributor Paul Waldman: “Hillary Clinton Gets Examined In A Very Different Way Than Donald Trump Does.” Following the forum, Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman explained that Clinton “gets examined in a very different way than Trump does” by the media. Speaking on the September 7 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Waldman faulted media for taking an “all hands on deck mentality” when reporting Clinton news -- saying that “everybody will investigate every nook and cranny to see if there’s anything there that looks untoward. And even if there isn’t, it becomes this story that drags out over the course of days and even weeks” -- as opposed to “strings of issues” about Trump that are reported once and then forgotten.
       
    • Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin: “Trump Is Being Held To A Less High Standard.” ” Prior to the forum, Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin told co-host John Heilemann that “the Clinton campaign is right” that “Trump is being held to a less high standard” by reporters and that “the press is just not holding him accountable.” Halperin continued, “Trump is doing things that if Clinton did, she would be hit a lot harder,” and he urged media to “work on fixing that.” Co-host John Heilemann agreed with Halperin, despite having defended the double standard the week prior, when he said that “sometimes … you have to set the bar low” for Trump.
       
    • NY Times' Maggie Haberman: "The Bar Has Been Lowered For Trump Repeatedly." New York Times political correspondent Maggie Haberman said on CNN’s New Day leading up to the forum that Trump “keeps getting graded on a curve” and “the bar has been lowered for Trump repeatedly.” Haberman criticized media figures who assess Trump by asking, “Does he merely pass?” And then if he does, they record it as Trump “did very well.”
       
    • NY Times’ James Poniewozik Slams Lauer For Questioning Trump On A Curve. New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik scolded Lauer for treating Clinton “like someone running for president” but Trump “like someone running to figure out how to be president, eventually.” Poniewozik wrote that after grilling Clinton on her private email server, Lauer pitched Trump “the kind of whiffle ball job-interview” questions “you ask the boss’s nephew you know you have to hire anyway.”
       
    • CNN’s Brian Stelter: “It Is True That Trump Is Held To A Different Standard Than Clinton.” The day after the forum, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter told CNN host Ashleigh Banfield that “it is true that Trump is held to a different standard than Clinton” and said that “no doubt, at the forum, there was different treatment for Trump versus Clinton.”

    ... But Have Perpetuated It ...

    Despite all this commentary, media figures have consistently perpetuated the double standard, holding Trump to a lower bar than they do Clinton in terms of behavioral and ethical conduct -- and in measures of veracity. Most recently, when a report came out that Trump paid a fine to the IRS for making an illegal $25,000 donation to the 2013 re-election campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, broadcast news networks devoted a third as much as time to the matter as they provided to a flawed Associated Press story on the Clinton Foundation that proved no ethics breaches.

    Media figures have previously repeatedly pardoned Trump’s widely criticized rhetoric, policy flip-flops, and divisive comments because he’s “not a politician” and is “learning as he goes”:

    • Fox Hosts Excused Trump's Abortion Comments Because "He's Learning As He Goes." Hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends excused Trump’s statement in March that there should be some kind of punishment for women who obtain abortions, suggesting that Trump should not be expected to answer questions about abortion because they’re usually reserved for more experienced politicians. Co-host Steve Doocy excused Trump, saying, “He only became a politician about six or seven months ago.”
       
    • CNN’s Mark Preston: “You Have To Expect” Trump Will Abandon His Positions; He Can’t Be Thought Of In “Conventional Terms.” CNN political executive editor Mark Preston told New Day host Chris Cuomo in May that he was not surprised the presumptive nominee “took a half-step back” on banning Muslim immigrants because he can't be thought of in “conventional terms,” but rather “in Donald Trump terms.”
       
    • The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich: “Consistency Should Be An Argument Against Donald Trump,” But Trump “Isn’t A Normal Candidate.” Daily Beast Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich claimed in May that while “consistency should be an argument against” Trump “in a normal political system,” Trump is “not a normal candidate” and thus his policy reversals might not affect him.

    Media have also absurdly applauded Trump any time he has appeared to assume even the slightest veneer of conventional, tempered behavior:

    • Reading A Speech From A Teleprompter: Media figures praised Trump as “presidential” in early June for delivering one speech with the aid of a teleprompter. Fox anchor Megyn Kelly praised Trump for being “a little bit more controlled using the teleprompter, which is something we almost never see him do, staying on message.”
       
    • Delivering One Speech Devoid Of Racist Attacks: Following the same speech, media figures also praised Trump as “presidential” for refraining from launching racist attacks against the federal judge presiding over Trump University lawsuits, which Trump had done for multiple days prior. CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.”
       
    • Rebutting A Joke About His Penis Size: Fox doctor Keith Ablow praised Donald Trump for “show[ing] an incredible degree of psychological strength” in responding to a joke about the size of his hands by referencing the size of his penis.
       
    • Not Calling Then-Opponent Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted”: Following Trump’s April victory in the New York primary, Fox’s Megyn Kelly and ABC’s Tom Llamas said Trump was becoming “more presidential” and “trying out a more presidential style” because he did not call his opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump returned to using the phrase the next day.

    ... Will They Change? 

    Now that political media have admitted their own shortcomings in the cautionary tale of Lauer, will they level the playing field between Clinton and Trump?

    Researcher Tyler Cherry contributed research to this post.