Keith Ablow

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  • 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.

  • Fox News Celebrated Back-To-School Season This Year By Laughing At Students And Attacking Teachers

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Fox News marked the start of the school year with a predictable mix of attacks on public education, racial justice activism, and progressive policies, often launched by extreme-right commentators and campaign surrogates for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

    Fox Villainized “Stalinist” Teachers Unions On Air And Online

    Fox News hosts engaged in education discussions using the network’s typical approach: bashing teachers unions and attempting to drive a nonexistent wedge between educators’ priorities and the best interests of students.

    On Your World With Neil Cavuto, guest host Stuart Varney dismissed guest Tamara Holder’s attempts to substantively discuss a recent story about a state teachers union. The union decided to boycott a back-to-school promotion to draw attention to public school funding disparities. Before Holder, a Fox contributor, could speak about the boycott, Varney combatively accused Holder of wanting to “squash school choice.” Varney repeatedly interrupted Holder during the three-minute segment -- even after she implored, “Why are you so mad at [teachers unions] when they’re not doing anything other than fighting for more resources?” He concluded the segment by saying, “I’m really shocked that you won’t support school choice, that you support the Stalinist bureaucracy of the teachers union.”

    Meanwhile, ran an opinion piece titled “If your child’s school is failing, thank a union” authored by Richard Berman -- a corporate lobbyist and the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a dark-money-fueled organization that routinely smears labor unions. Berman rehashed the same tired, inaccurate attacks on both organized labor writ large and teachers unions specifically that have long clogged the airwaves at Fox. The piece equated the political spending of the two major national teachers unions -- the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which together represent almost 5 million individuals -- with the spending of dark-money PACs funded by a small number of wealthy private donors. Berman’s organization does not publicly disclose its funders, though tax disclosures show the group has received substantial funding from anti-union “dark-money ATM” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, as well as the right-wing Bradley Foundation.

    A second opinion piece on, written by Fox News “Medical A-Team” member Keith Ablow -- a longtime anti-LGBT “pop psychologist” who has recently attacked transgender teens -- was titled “Are your kids back in school? Time to apologize to them.” Ablow’s op-ed argued -- with zero evidence -- that “antiquated systems of tenure” and resistance to voucher programs have led to subpar schools. Ablow encouraged readers to “follow my lead and apologize to their kids for what passes as primary and secondary education in America.” Meanwhile, the majority of Americans believe their local public schools are performing well.

    Fox Figures Repurposed Racial Justice Arguments To Attack Progressives On Education

    On Hannity, frequent Fox guest and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke -- a right-wing extremist who has previously called members of the Black Lives Matter movement “garbage” and Hillary Clinton a “cop hater” -- argued that progressive policies such as opposition to increasingly unpopular school voucher programs “have herded black people… onto that plantation called the American ghetto.”

    On The Five, co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle, Juan Williams, and Dana Perino, and guest co-host Jesse Watters, concluded that viable solutions to “social pathologies” in Milwaukee’s communities of color include African-Americans “step[ping] up to the plate” rather than playing “victims of Democratic policies,” and pushing efforts to “hold teachers accountable.” Perino mentioned that the NAACP opposed privately managed charter schools, prompting Williams to declare the position “unbelievable,” and Guilfoyle to conclude, “I don’t get that.”

    Days later, the co-hosts pivoted a discussion about Trump’s tweet about the Chicago shooting death of basketball star Dwyane Wade’s cousin to push right-wing myths. They used it to claim that even "school choice" cannot address challenges facing the black community, including the right-wing canard of “black-on-black crime.” They also dismissed the NAACP’s recent resolution calling for a halt in the expansion of privately managed charter schools.

    On The Record With Greta Van Susteren interviewed Trump surrogate and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani about Trump’s attempted outreach to the African-American community, allowing Giuliani to spend nearly five minutes attacking the education stances of teachers unions and progressives and touting his own record on pushing privatization measures in New York City schools as mayor.

    Fox Hosts And Guests Laughed At Students’ Activism On Offensive Terminology: Should An Injured Horse “Get A Lawyer, Because The Horse Is Offended” By Being Called “Lame”?

    Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle guest-hosted On The Record and interviewed a student leader at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about students’ efforts to highlight offensive terms. After student Mike Fortello explained why using terms like “lame” or “gay” as negative descriptors can be hurtful to others, Guilfoyle bizarrely questioned whether Fortello’s logic would somehow mean a hypothetical horse with broken legs “should get a lawyer, because the horse is offended” by being called “lame.” Guilfoyle and her other guest, Ben Shapiro, ended the segment by talking over the student repeatedly, laughing, and insulting the university. In another On The Record guest host stint the following day, Guilfoyle gleefully reported on the University of Chicago’s rejection of trigger warning and safe space use, beginning a segment on the story by jokingly asking a network correspondent if he was “in a safe space to report this.”

    Later that week, campus sexual assault denier George Will joined Bret Baier in a panel discussion on Special Report to celebrate the University of Chicago’s decision not to “appease” students “we now call snowflakes, these fragile little creatures who melt at the first sign of the heat of controversy.” Panel members laughed at Will’s example of “committing cultural appropriation by wearing a sombrero or something of the sort.” Will was disinvited from a college campus speaking engagement and protested at several other campuses in 2014 following his comments that those who experience sexual assault enjoy “a coveted status” in society. He identified himself in the segment as “someone who’s been disinvited from a college campus, I’m delighted to say.”

    None of these segments acknowledged the serious reasons students -- particularly increasing numbers of students of color, women students, and first-generation college students -- may be seeking out safe spaces or conversations within campus learning environments.

  • Fox Doctor: Trump "Showed An Incredible Degree Of Psychological Strength" With "The Small Hands Issue" At A Debate

    Keith Ablow: "To Be Able To Address Such An Intensely Personal Issue ... Showed An Incredible Degree Of Psychological Strength"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the August 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Tucker, we are less than a month away from the first presidential debate, and this morning we're learning exactly how Hillary Clinton is planning to get under Donald Trump's skin. 

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Yep, the Democratic nominee is consulting psychologists about Trump's biggest insecurities to bait him into making mistakes on the debate stage. 

    TUCKER CARLSON (CO-HOST): Well, psychiatrist and Fox News Medical A-Team's Dr. Keith Ablow is here to assess this strategy. Doctor, it's great to see you this morning. This doesn't sound like a crazy strategy to me, and it's something I think that every presidential candidate does during the debates. You're trying to figure out how to pick at the other guy's weaknesses. Will this work with Trump?

    KEITH ABLOW: Well, sure, it's something that every candidate probably does, probably should do. Psychology's a very powerful tool to unearth what does get under people's skin, if you will. But listen, with Donald Trump, kind of what you see is what you get. I have to say, when the small hands issue was raised during the debate, this supposedly got the Clinton campaign very excited. They thought, "Man, he's off his game." He wasn't off his game at all. Freud would have been standing up, like applauding, standing ovation. To be able to address such an intensely personal issue and say, "Listen, there's no problem in that department," to me that showed an incredible degree of psychological strength. With Donald Trump, he may err, he may make errors in saying what he thinks, telling us the truth, saying things that are gritty, perhaps attacking with some unkind words, which he could scale back, but you know what, his demons are on his sleeve. There's not a lot of psychoanalysis that hasn't been presented already. 


    Fox News Is Laying The Groundwork For Trump To Skip Out On Presidential Debates

    NBC's Chuck Todd: Trump's Campaign "Appears To Be One Gaffe Away From A Full Implosion"

    On CBS, Filmmaker And Historian Ken Burns Slams Trump As "Temperamentally Unsuited" To Be President

    Trump Campaign Co-Chair Blames Trump's Factual Error On Being Up “Early In The Morning”

  • Conservatives Claim Gun Violence Is Not A Public Health Crisis, But Medical Experts Disagree

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Conservative pundits lashed out at the American Medical Association (AMA) for adopting a policy calling gun violence “a public health crisis,” claiming the policy is “pseudoscientific” and telling the association to “shut up.” But numerous public health and medical experts have previously noted that "gun violence is a public health issue that has reached epidemic proportions."

  • Fox News Doctor Proposes A Harmful New “Treatment” For Transgender Children

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Fox News "Medical A Team" member Dr. Keith Ablow speculated wildly about medical care for transgender children, proposing his own harmful treatments that go against scientific evidence and professional standards from mainstream medical associations.

    In a rant where he compared being transgender to pretending to be 65 to get Medicare, Ablow proposed injecting transgender children with hormones corresponding to their gender assigned at birth to “go with nature” and make them “feel more comfortable.” Ablow’s proposed “treatment” is his own extreme variation of discredited ex-gay “conversion therapy” which falsely claims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Ablow’s suggestion is reminiscent of 1940’s era “treatments” where lesbians were forced to submit to estrogen injections and men were given testosterone to “cure” them of being gay. These type of “reparative therapy” practices have been rejected for decades by all mainstream medical associations.

    While Ablow has a history of attacking transgender children with extreme, inaccurate claims, experts contradict his talking points. The American Psychological Association has stated that it is "not helpful to force [a transgender child] to act in a more gender-conforming way." Family rejection of transgender youth has been linked to a series of negative health consequences.

    From the April 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Target, you know the big store? Now the target of some controversy after joining the so-called bathroom bill debate, saying, quote, "Inclusivity is a core belief at Target and we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity."

    AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): But many customers are taking issue with that. Nearly 500,000 people have signed a petition to boycott Target. Fox News medical A-team psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow joins us now with his take on the issue. Good morning Dr. Ablow.

    KEITH ABLOW: Good morning, how are you guys?

    EARHARDT: We're great, thank you. What is your take on this?

    ABLOW: Well, here's the bottom line. The reason that the bathroom bill is center stage in the presidential campaign and now in a national boycott of Target [[of]] that's up to about 500,000 people is because it represents more than bathrooms. We're not just talking about who is going to use which restroom. We're talking about whether closely held opinion of an individual will be allowed to overcome scientific data and history. Right, so if you believe that you are of one gender, but your DNA and your physical appearance and your physical anatomy are evidence that you are of another gender, and there's that conflict, then if we allow people culturally to dictate terms in our culture, then we also by extension may be in a position where we allow people to say that they're 65 when they're 45 and get Medicare, allow people to get tattooed head-to-foot and say I'm a black person. Now would that be offensive to black people, if that person got affirmative action preferences at school? I think it might. Why? Because there's history. There's culture, there's reality. This is the leading edge. Some would argue, I might, of an unraveling of our culture and perhaps our ability to plan for the future as a species.

    DOOCY: So you're suggesting that people can select their gender, they could select their race, they could select their age. How do we get to this place?

    ABLOW: We got to this place because we care about people. We don't want to hurt people's feelings. OK, I understand that. We're also too politically correct. But look, there's not a lot of scientific evidence that it's better to approach transgender youth with the opposite hormone because we inject them with massive doses of testosterone if they're female to say look we'll make you more comfortable with your chosen gender. You know, we don't even explore, should it be more estrogen? Should we go with nature and say maybe we'll make you more female, you'll feel more comfortable? There aren't these explorations. We don't treat with psychiatric medicines by and large to say maybe this is a bit of a fixed and false belief. Not different than if you thought you were black person when you are caucasian. The science isn't even there. So if we have a draft, God forbid, and we're trying to save our nation, are we really prepared for 18-year-olds and 20-year-olds to assert that they are really more like 12-year-olds? They feel it. They're immature. Their whole families have said look, much too immature to be drafted. That's where we're headed. Do we want to head there?

  • Conservatives Blame Obama For Creating Trump With Partisanship, Despite Republican Vows Of Gridlock


    As Donald Trump emerges as the likely Republican presidential nominee, some right-wing media figures who oppose him have begun to place some of the blame for his rise on President Obama's supposed partisanship, arguing that Obama's intransigence created the environment for Trump to flourish. This argument ignores the role Republican politicians played in creating a partisan divide by deciding at the beginning of Obama's presidency not to work with him, regardless of what he proposed.