Chris Cillizza: Katrina Pierson's Claim Hillary Clinton Has Dysphasia Doesn't Suggest That There Has Been A Trump Pivot
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Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”
Media figures, including some in right-wing media, criticized the Trump campaign following revelations that Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech plagiarized parts of Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. However, several conservative media figures still defended the speech, claiming that “nobody owns” those words and that the speech “actually applies to her life.”
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Media figures noted that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s decision to fire his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is “not normal” “at this stage in campaigns” and “speaks to the chaos that has been unfolding inside the campaign.”
Study: “Trump Is Arguably The First Bona Fide Media-Created Presidential Nominee”
A new Harvard University study highlighted how the media’s excessively positive coverage of Donald Trump during the primaries gave the candidate the platform he needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
The study found that while media usually determined the highest polling candidate as the most newsworthy, this was not the case with Trump. He was neither leading in fundraising nor in the polls when his exaggerated coverage began. Additionally, the study found that though he eventually rose in the polls to warrant such coverage, “he was lifted to that height by an unprecedented amount of free media” (emphasis added):
So what explains the news media’s early fascination with Trump? The answer is that journalists were behaving in their normal way. Although journalists play a political brokering role in presidential primaries, their decisions are driven by news values rather than political values. Journalists are attracted to the new, the unusual, the sensational—the type of story material that will catch and hold an audience’s attention. Trump fit that need as no other candidate in recent memory. Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch.
Journalists seemed unmindful that they and not the electorate were Trump’s first audience. Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories. He didn’t have any other option. He had no constituency base and no claim to presidential credentials. If Trump had possessed them, his strategy could have been political suicide, which is what the press predicted as they showcased his tirades. Trump couldn’t compete with the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Jeb Bush on the basis of his political standing or following. The politics of outrage was his edge, and the press became his dependable if unwitting ally.
In 2015, after announcing his bid for president in June, the Trump campaign received an unprecedented amount of coverage from network nightly news broadcasts. According to television news analyst Andrew Tyndall, though Trump announced his candidacy in mid 2015, he was only surpassed by weather reports in total airtime. Fox News gave Trump almost $30 million in free airtime in 2015, resulting in nearly 24 hours worth of exposure.
The Harvard study pointed out “Trump’s coverage was positive in tone,” with the press using statements and interviews with Trump supporters that legitimized his comments. . The media also lauded Trump as “presidential” after winning the New York primary despite his repeated racist and sexists statements.
After reading the Harvard University study, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza acknowledged the media’s obsession with and overtly positive coverage of Trump contributed to his rise (emphasis added):
I think it's important to always take stock of how we are doing in terms of our coverage and what we did wrong and what we could do better. And I think that self-examination includes, when necessary, acknowledging when an argument you had made is no longer backed up by evidence. It's hard for me to look at the Shorenstein Center study and conclude anything other than that the media played a larger role in the rise of Trump than I previously believed.
Still. For those of you who screamed when I wrote that the media bore no culpability in Trump's rise, you had it right. I'll try to do better next time.
Journalists and veteran reporters criticized Trump’s “unprecedented escalation in his war with the political press corps” after he announced that he is revoking The Washington Post’s press credentials.
Report Found Powell Also Used Private Email On An “Exclusive Basis”
Journalists are suggesting that a recent State Department report proves that Hillary Clinton was the first secretary of state to exclusively use a private email account for government work, contradicting Clinton’s statements. In fact, the report states that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a personal email account “on an exclusive basis for day-to-day operations.”
The Numbers Have Changed From 150 To 12
Since January, numerous outlets, including Fox News and The Washington Post, have cited anonymous or discredited sources to claim that up to 150 FBI agents were investigating Hillary Clinton's private email server. But the number of agents has been a moving target, with the Post later correcting itself to say it was "less than 50" and NBC saying March 30 that the number is closer to 12. NBC's source -- also anonymous -- called the earlier figures "ridiculous" and said, "You need an act of terrorism to get 50 agents working on something."
The Post Now Reports "The Number Of FBI Personnel Involved Is Fewer Than 50"
The Washington Post has retracted its anonymously sourced claim that 147 FBI agents are detailed to the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, and is now reporting that the real number is fewer than 50. Media outlets trumpeted the Post's report of the supposedly "staggering" number of FBI agents working the investigation as bad news for Clinton.
On March 27, the Post published a 5,000-word article detailing the FBI's investigation into Clinton's use of a private email and personal Blackberry device during her time as secretary of state. The original story reported: "One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey."
The Post's claim spread throughout the media, with outlets frequently highlighting the 147 figure in their headlines and some using the report to attack Clinton. National Review termed the figure "a staggering deployment of manpower," while Breitbart News celebrated the "FBI recently kick[ing] its investigation into high gear." The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza highlighted the "eye-popping" 147 figure by commenting, "W-H-A-T?", adding that the reported number of agents seemed "like a ton for a story that Clinton has always insisted was really, at heart, a right-wing Republican creation," while MSNBC's Joe Scarborough called the number the "worst kept secret in DC for months." The story was also highlighted in several segments on Fox News.
But the next day, Politico reported that the Post's story might be inaccurate. According to Politico, an official close to the investigation refuted the Post's report, saying that "The FBI does not have close to 150 agents working the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email server" and that the Post's "number is greatly exaggerated."
The Washington Post issued a correction to both their initial story on March 29, explaining that they incorrectly reported "that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation" and that multiple U.S. law enforcement officials "have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high" and the actual number of "FBI personnel involved in the case is fewer than 50":
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Clinton used two different email addresses, sometimes interchangeably, as secretary of state. She used only firstname.lastname@example.org as secretary of state. Also, an earlier version of this article reported that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50.
Cillizza issued an update to his post, changing his headline but not the text of his piece to reflect the Post's correction and stating, "I apologize for the error."
The Washington Post joins other media outlets that have been forced to issue embarrassing corrections after publishing faulty claims on Clinton's emails based on anonymous sources. The New York Times issued two corrections on stories claiming Clinton was the subject of a "criminal probe," based in part on unnamed "Capitol Hill" sources.
The media continues to scandalize Hillary Clinton during the FBI's probe, even though legal experts have repeatedly explained that Clinton is unlikely to face prosecution and have termed an indictment "ridiculous."
A CNN op-ed outlines how media criticism of Hillary Clinton's voice is not only "sexist" and a distraction from political issues, but also represents a "charge faced by professional women that they are too aggressive and ambitious."
Miami Herald and World Politics Review columnist Frida Ghitis calls out reporters for attacks on Clinton's speaking style, suggesting the criticism is part of "the 'shrill' smear against Hillary Clinton." Ghitis writes that Bob Woodward and Joe Scarborough's critique of Clinton's Iowa victory speech was an example of "transparent sexism." Ghitis also calls a New York Times report "absurd" for claiming that Clinton came off angry compared to Sanders, when in fact both speeches were "heated and intense." She highlights The Philadelphia Inquirer's assessment that Clinton lacks "elegance and grace," Peggy Noonan's comparison of Clinton to a "landlady yelling," and Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza's comment that Clinton was "Hyper aggressive." Ghitis likens the "sexist" attacks against Hillary Clinton to the "charge faced by professional women that they are too aggressive and ambitious."
These are not the only sexist attacks that have been levied against Clinton since her speech in Iowa. Fox's Geraldo Rivera claimed her "shriek" was "unpleasant" and suggested Clinton "may be hard of hearing," while Sean Hannity -- who has referred to Clinton as "shrill" in the past -- said the speech was merely "angry, bitter screaming." The media has a history of making sexist remarks about Clinton, targeting subjects including but not limited to her voice. From the February 8 op-ed:
Woodward, in case you haven't heard, brought his decades of expertise to the MSNBC show "Morning Joe" to shed light on the difficulties faced by the once-undisputed Democratic front-runner. He opined "a lot of it, with Hillary Clinton has to do with style and delivery, oddly enough." Then he explained, "She shouts. There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating and I think it just jumps."
The transparent sexism, along with Clinton's poor performance with women, led former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to declare this weekend at a Clinton campaign rally that "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Women, in fact, are free to choose among the candidates. But like all voters, they should ensure that insidious sexism, theirs or the pundits', does not waft in to cloud their judgment.
That there is sexism in politics, in business, in the world, is beyond dispute. But in this particular case there is an overarching risk, a cautionary message for voters. Sure, sexist attitudes are a problem for women. But here they are a problem for all Americans deciding who should become president. Instead of discussing what truly matters, the experts are talking about Clinton's tone of voice. And that is just one of the distractions along this well-trod path.
There's the voice, of course, which a (female) writer in The Philadelphia Inquirer finds lacks "elegance and grace," and Peggy Noonan says "reminds me of the landlady yelling." Then there is that charge faced by professional women that they are too aggressive and ambitious.
During Thursday's debate, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza called her "Hyper aggressive." Another debate review, in The New York Times, contrasted her and her opponent, saying Bernie Sanders "kept his cool in the debate," while Clinton appeared "tense and even angry at times." The truth is they were both heated and intense, which was fitting. The Times' comparison was absurd.
Contrasting Friday night's Parisian scenes of horror with last week's previous big campaign news about Donald Trump and his weird, rambling address in Iowa, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza recently bemoaned "the remarkable smallness of our politics."
Pointing to the volume of trivial pursuits that pass as campaign news, Cillizza argued the press (including himself) "bear some blame" for not being substantive enough, and for focusing on trivialities and not covering "the various ways that the candidates for president would deal with the threat posed by ISIS." (News consumers prefer trivial pursuits, he argued.)
So is it possible that the Paris massacre will change the press coverage and refocus much-needed attention on substance and public policy?
Not likely, because there was Cillizza and the Post right after the Democrats' debate in Iowa Saturday night doing exactly what he claimed the press did too much of -- leaning heavily on optics at the expense of substance.
The Post is hardly alone in being guilty of the optics transgression or being overly fascinated with how campaign events look and play in the press. But the Post may have been alone in so neatly contradicting its own plea for post-Paris substance on the campaign trail and then immediately following that up with optics-heavy insights.
And all these think pieces following her lunchtime stop at a Chipotle restaurant in Ohio?
*"Hillary Clinton Goes Unnoticed at Chipotle In Botched Retail Politicking Bid" (Washington Times)
*"Clinton Bypassed Centrist Taco Bell for Liberal Favorite Chipotle" (Wall Street Journal)
*"What Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Stop Says About Her Campaign" (Christian Science Monitor)
Who can forget the absurdist scene in April when a herd of campaign reporters broke into a sprint while trying to track down Clinton's "Scooby Van" as it swung behind a community college in Iowa for a campaign visit? And this was while the press deducted points from Clinton for not offering enough campaign substance.
Fast-forward to the horrific killings in Paris, and it appears that even that grave event can't alter the tone and tenor of U.S. campaign coverage.
Because even before the Iowa debate began, on its list of "the top 13 issues," the Post was trumpeting as number two (after terrorism) the relatively pointless news burp about how Hillary Clinton recalled walking into a Marines recruiting office in 1975 and trying to join. Following the controversy surrounding stories from Ben Carson's biography, the Marines story caught the attention of the press mostly because it just didn't seem right; the optics were off.
Note that in terms of the debate, the Post listed the Marines non-story as being more important than clean energy, immigration reform and veterans care, among other pressing issues.
Then following the debate, the Post swooped in and announced Clinton's performance had been badly off kilter. (She was one of the night's "losers.") According to Cillizza, despite the fact that Clinton "was quite good for much of the debate," she nonetheless "made a few verbal and/or policy mistakes that will likely haunt her in the days to come."
For instance, Cillizza stressed that Clinton had "refused a chance to say the words 'radical Islam' when asked about the threat posed by the Islamic State -- a decision that Republicans jumped on in the moment and will keep bringing up if and when Clinton is the Democratic nominee."
The Post announced that by not labeling the Paris massacre a "radical Islam" attack, Clinton had opened herself up to Republican attack. And by not adopting a GOP talking point she had committed a "misstep" and a "gaffe."
Question: Doesn't that mean the entire Democratic debate represented a two-hour "gaffe"?
Elsewhere, the Post was sure Clinton had messed up by reminding voters she grew up in the 1960s during an age of student protest. "The TV ad, particularly if Republicans nominate someone like Marco Rubio, who is 45 years old (Clinton is 68), practically writes itself," wrote Cillizza.
Note how the Post seamlessly adopted the GOP spin that of course voters prefer a candidate in their forties compared to a candidate in their sixties. The Post didn't bother with any independent evidence to back that up claim, it simply quoted Republican pollster Frank Luntz: "Nobody, Republican or Democrat, wants to vote for a candidate from the 1960s when we're well into the 21st century." But if Democrats don't want to vote for a candidate from the 1960s, why does Clinton enjoy a large lead in the primary polls?
Any time there's a call for increased substance in campaign coverage, that's a good thing. Making it stick proves much harder.
"The Cackle," "A Record Scratch," And Other Tired Attacks From The Debate
Multiple media figures derided Hillary Clinton's laugh during the first Democratic presidential debate, calling it a "cackle" and "a record scratch." During the 2008 presidential race, Clinton's laughter was repeatedly attacked, despite criticism that such attacks were rooted in sexism.
During the October 13 CNN debate in Las Vegas, Clinton laughed after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended her from repeated questions about her use of private email by criticizing the media for fixating on the issue and saying, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Clinton and Sanders shook hands as the crowd applauded.
But several media figures initially focused on Clinton's laugh. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted, "oh god the Clinton laugh is out," while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote, "THE CLINTON LAUGH," and Fox's Sean Hannity tweeted "Omg that laugh."
Several conservative media figures took it further, calling it a "cackle":
::looks up 'cackle' in the dictionary:: ::sees Hillary's face::
-- Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) October 14, 2015
(Hillary's laugh grates like a record scratch.)
-- Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) October 14, 2015
The cackle. Drink!
-- Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) October 14, 2015
Cue the cackle. #DemDebate
-- toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) October 14, 2015
Attacking Clinton's laughter was a common theme during the Democratic primary before the 2008 election. In September 2007, after Clinton appeared on several Sunday political talk shows and laughed in response to some questions, media figures spent weeks debating and mocking her laughter. Fox News led the charge, with Bill O'Reilly even discussing Clinton's laughter with a "body language expert" who deemed it "evil," and Sean Hannity calling the laugh "frightening."
The mainstream press picked up on the attacks on Clinton's laugh, with New York Times political reporter Patrick Healy writing an article with the headline "Laughing Matters in Clinton Campaign," in which he described Clinton's "hearty belly laugh" as "The Cackle," calling it "heavily caffeinated" and suggesting it may have been "programmed."
Then-Politico reporter Ben Smith also described Clinton's laugh as her "signature cackle," while Politico correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh "sounded like it was programmed by computer."
And New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has a long history of nasty attacks on Clinton, claimed Clinton's laugh was allowing her to look less like a "hellish housewife" and a "nag" and more like a "wag":
As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: "She's never going to get out of our faces. ... She's like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won't stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone."
That's why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.
The list goes on: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, then-MSNBC host David Shuster, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, radio host Mike Rosen, Dick Morris, the Drudge Report, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, Time magazine's Joe Klein, the New York Times' Frank Rich, CNN's Jeanne Moos, and others all debated or derided Clinton's laughter during Clinton's first run for president.
Politico's Allen said on MSNBC during all of this that "'cackle' is a very sexist term," and disputed MSNBC's Chris Matthews' use of it in reference to Clinton. Other outlets agreed; Jezebel called out Matthews for his "cackle" criticism and other derisive remarks, asking, "can we agree that no matter what your political allegiances, this is not the way you speak of a woman -- whether she is a senator or not?" Rachel Sklar, writing in the Huffington Post, said at the time "I keep finding sexist Hillary Clinton bashing everywhere I turn," noting that criticisms of the candidate's laughter "turn completely on the fact that she's a woman. 'The Cackle?' So would never be applied to a man. We all know it."
Unfortunately, the criticism hasn't stopped in the intervening seven years. The Washington Free Beacon has a "Hillary Laugh Button" permanently on its site. The National Journal published in June 2014, many months prior to Clinton declaring her second bid for president, a "Comprehensive Supercut of Hillary Clinton Laughing Awkwardly With Reporters." And conservative tweet-aggregator Twitchy in August mocked "scary as hell" pens which featured "Clinton's cackling head."
In August, Post's Ingatius Explained Why The Controversy Is "Overstated"
The runaway coverage of Hillary Clinton's emails has become so expansive that it's often hard for news consumers to get their hands around how vast the ocean of media attention is. It's difficult to quantify how numbing the endless questions have become, and how painfully repetitive the bouts of analysis now are.
Lately though, we're starting to get some concrete data points. For instance, thanks to the broadcast evening news analysis of Andrew Tyndall we know that ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News this year have together spent just as much time covering the email controversy as they have spent covering Clinton's entire presidential campaign.
Additionally, Media Matters detailed how, since March, Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza has penned more than 50 posts mentioning Hillary Clinton's emails, nearly all of them featuring dire warnings about the supposedly "massive political problem" facing the Democrat.
It turns out Cillizza isn't alone at the Post. According to a search of the Nexis database, the Post has published at least 70 articles, columns, and blog posts this month that mention Clinton and discuss her emails at least three times.
70, just this month.
In other words, the Post has roughly averaged more than two Clinton email missives every day in September. The newspaper's total word count for Clinton email coverage, in news and opinion, this month? According to Nexis word counts, approximately 60,000 words, which is about the equivalent of a 200-page hardcover book.
Just for the month of September.
Right now, the Post's relentless, breathless news and opinion coverage feels like Iran Contra-meets-Watergate, even though there's no indication any laws were broken in the Clinton saga. The ironic part is that in late August, Post columnist David Ignatius spelled out why the media fury surrounding the email story was "overstated." Most of the Post newsroom apparently ignored him for the month of September.
And keep in mind, this tsunami-type coverage comes six months after the email story first emerged.
Obviously this much saturation coverage produces almost comedic redundancies. Take for instance how the Post's news and opinion pages handled the apology Clinton offered up regarding her use of private emails:
Gee, think Post readers get the idea?
Like lots of news organizations, it seems the Post has decided to gorge itself on email coverage and use it as a permanent backdrop for the Clinton campaign. For Republicans, that's a winning model. For voters in search of 2016 insights, not so much.
Chris Cillizza has written more than 50 posts mentioning Hillary Clinton's emails since March on his Washington Post politics blog The Fix, nearly all of them issuing dire warnings about the supposedly "massive political problem."
The New York Times first wrote about Clinton's email during her tenure at the State Department on March 2, when they falsely reported she had violated federal requirements by using a private email account. Since then, mainstream media outlets have attempted to find some scandal in the email story, often pushing various falsehoods and being forced to issue corrections after the fact. To date, there has been no evidence of any lawbreaking.
Cillizza has been a major contributor to this effort, repeatedly claiming the email story "just keeps getting worse" and that it's "not going away," while claiming Clinton has an "honesty problem" and should "start panicking."
Just this week, Cillizza wrote a post headlined "Just when you thought the e-mail story couldn't get worse for Hillary Clinton ..." The post misleadingly tried to repackage old email stories as new developments in the "scandal."
Searching Nexis for pieces written at The Fix with Cillizza's byline, Media Matters found over 100 blog posts that mentioned Hillary Clinton in the headline or first paragraphs since March 2. Roughly half of those posts also mentioned Clinton's "email," "e-mail," or "server" at least once. Only a handful of the headlines suggest any good news for the Democratic frontrunner for president.
Media Matters presents 50 headlines representative of Cillizza's coverage on Clinton's emails: