CNBC allowed senior contributor and potential Republican Senate candidate Larry Kudlow to conduct a softball interview with Donald Trump. During the February 8 interview, Trump thanked Kudlow for endorsing his tax plan and Kudlow backed Trump's anti-refugee proposal.
When Trump released his tax plan in September, Kudlow responded: "I really like Trump's plan. ... One of the things I just love about it is the 15 percent corporate tax rate." Trump reacted by tweeting, "Highly respected economist @Larry_Kudlow is a big fan of my tax plan--thank you Larry."
During CNBC's October 29 Republican debate, Trump cited Kudlow's support as evidence he has a serious tax plan:
JOHN HARWOOD: Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a Presidential campaign?
TRUMP: It's not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question, the way you say that. Larry Kudlow, as an example, who I have a lot of respect for, loves my tax plan. We are reducing taxes to 15 percent. We're bringing corporate taxes down, bringing money back in, corporate inversions. We have $2-1/2 trillion outside of the United States, which we want to bring back in.
When co-moderator John Harwood pointed out that economists have called the plan unrealistic, Trump replied: "Then you have to get rid of Larry Kudlow, who sits on your panel, who is a great guy, who came out the other day and said, 'I love Trump's tax plan.'"
Kudlow affirmed his support for Trump's tax plan following the debate, stating: "I've endorsed Donald's 15 percent corporate tax rate many times. ... He's spot on. And I'm honored that he mentioned me. Honored." The CNBC contributor has tweeted that Trump is a "first-rate person. I could vote for him."
During a February 8 New Hampshire town hall, Trump rebutted criticism from Jeb Bush by citing Kudlow: "I just talked to Larry Kudlow, the great economist, and he was saying Trump has the best tax plan, I'm doing the biggest tax cut."
CNBC tasked Kudlow with interviewing Trump on the February 8 edition of Power Lunch.
During the interview, Trump again thanked Kudlow for supporting his tax plan: "You gave us very high marks, which I appreciate. You've seen it."
Kudlow later backed Trump's plan to ban Syrian refugees, telling him: "In effect, a wartime moratorium. I mean I think that we have to do to protect the homeland."
Kudlow has been interviewing several Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire for CNBC.
CNBC has allowed Kudlow to remain on its airwaves even as he is "moving toward" running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. Veteran journalism experts and two former NBC News presidents have criticized the financial network for allowing Kudlow to use his platform to help his potential campaign.
CNBC anchors have appeared to embrace Kudlow's Senate aspirations. During the February 8 broadcast of Closing Bell, co-anchor Bill Griffeth closed by calling Kudlow "senator" and added, "Was that out loud?" On February 1, Squawk Box co-anchor Joe Kernen called Kudlow "senator-designate."
The channel has claimed that "Kudlow is not a CNBC employee and no longer anchors a show and hasn't since March 28, 2014. He is now a senior contributor." Despite being a purported non-employee, CNBC has had him "report" on the presidential primary, called him one of its "top" contributors, included him in its October debate coverage, and now allows him to throw softballs at Donald Trump.
Veteran journalism experts and two former NBC News presidents are urging CNBC to remove senior contributor Larry Kudlow from the channel as he lays the groundwork for a potential campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Kudlow has said he is "moving toward" a Senate run in Connecticut with no apparent action from the network.
Among Kudlow's steps are interviewing potential campaign staff, creating strategy, and promoting "a test-the-water committee, which would become the campaign." At the same time, CNBC has allowed Kudlow to use its platform to attack potential Democratic opponent Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
In 2010, when Kudlow was also rumored to be weighing a run for office, CNBC said it would "change" Kudlow's status with the network if he started "seriously considering" running.
Asked about Kudlow's latest apparent political aspirations, a CNBC spokesperson told Media Matters on Monday, "Larry Kudlow is not a CNBC employee and no longer anchors a show and hasn't since March 28, 2014. He is now a senior contributor."
CNBC offered the same response to the Washington Examiner when the paper asked about Kudlow in September. The Examiner noted at the time, "Kudlow is, however, under contract with CNBC. The spokesperson would not comment on the terms of that arrangement, Kudlow's compensation, or when exactly CNBC would make a decision on its relationship with him as he considers a run for public office."
In a press release announcing its October 2015 Republican debate coverage, CNBC called Kudlow one of its "top" contributors and touted his involvement in the network's "special programming" surrounding the debate. He has recently been covering the Republican primary for the network from Iowa and New Hampshire.
In comments to Media Matters, news veterans criticized Kudlow and the network.
"If I were still there I would not allow it," said William Small, who served as NBC News president from 1979-1982. "It's a misuse of a news division, a news division is not supposed to take sides. There are a lot of people, especially at Fox, who do, but it never happened on my shift. That's a conflict of interest. I'm surprised that CNBC would allow that."
Richard Wald, a former NBC News president from 1972-1977, said CNBC should make Kudlow clarify what he is doing and act accordingly by taking him off the air if he is running.
"The first step is for the management of the network to sit down with Mr. Kudlow and find out his intentions and his timing. They should not skirt the ethical positions by deliberately not knowing," Wald said via email. "He can't use the network for political advantage if he is going into electoral politics. If the network finds that he is about to join the contest, or will do so on a date certain, then they should be prepared -- as you say they have stated before -- to take him off the air until the election is over."
Several former network news reporters agreed.
"Anchors/reporters/'contributors' should not -- and should not be allowed -- to use a network to advance their political ambitions," Marvin Kalb, a 30-year Washington reporter and former host of Meet the Press, said via email. "This is done regularly on Fox, and it should not now spread to CNBC. If anyone, Kudlow included, wants to prepare a campaign for political office, it should not be from his or her perch atop a network."
Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington correspondent and current director of the School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University, said Kudlow's actions are a "very bright red flag" for CNBC management.
"The network cannot, should not, doesn't want to be used as a crass launching pad for someone's political future," Sesno said. "If he hasn't had meetings with network executives, if he hasn't he's overdue. If he hasn't crossed the line, he's very, very close to it. This is not hard, if you are the head of the network you call the guy in and ask if he is running, if he says 'yes,' he is off the air. If he says 'no,' he goes back to work."
Kelly McBride, ethics instructor the Poynter Institute, echoed that view.
"CNBC should step in here and tell Larry he can't use his on-air platform as an exploratory committee because that's not in the best interests of the network and its audience," she said. "They should force him to make his decision and get on with it, now that he's already mentioned it. At the very least, he shouldn't talk about it on air again."
Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, said CNBC's problem is that anything Kudlow says, especially related to financial interests that might be funding his campaign down the road, is tainted.
"It is a straight-up conflict of interest," Wasserman said. "The reality is that he cannot help but filter and decide what he is going to put on the air in light of how it's going to serve that ambition. And once he's done that, he is a classic conflict of interest, his judgment is impaired by a classic outside entanglement."
From the February 4 edition of WLS' "Big" John Howell:
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With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow has said he is "moving toward" running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut with no apparent response from the network, even though CNBC previously said it would have to change its relationship with Kudlow if he seriously considered running. Kudlow has taken several steps that appear to violate the network's previous standard for employees exploring campaigns, including interviewing potential campaign staff, creating strategy, and promoting "a test-the-water committee, which would become the campaign." At the same time, CNBC has allowed Kudlow to use its platform to attack potential Democratic opponent Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Conservative pundits are hailing Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposed plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while mainstream media and experts are pointing out how the costly proposal would disproportionately harm low-income Americans and those with preexisting conditions.
Media outlets are demanding that Hillary Clinton be subject to an independent review of her personal email account to disprove their own baseless suggestions that she engaged in illicit activity or failed to properly disclose all work-related correspondence. The demand ignores that every State Department employee, regardless of whether they use government or personal accounts, decides for themselves whether or not to preserve their emails.
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Conservative media figures have sharply criticized the recent push by Democratic politicians to alleviate poverty and reduce economic inequality. However, most of this criticism is grounded in a number of myths about the causes, effects, and importance of growing economic inequality in the United States.
In the first half of 2013, a little more than half of CNBC's climate change coverage cast doubt on the consensus position that it exists and is manmade. In the three months since, little has changed -- in a disservice to its viewers, who will need to factor climate change into their long-term business planning, CNBC has continued to deny the science.
CNBC host Larry Kudlow believes the Keystone XL pipeline will be good for wildlife because animals will "snuggle" underneath it for warmth, even though the Interior Department found Keystone XL would have "permanent impacts" on wildlife, including threats to several endangered species.
As fossil fuel advocates become increasingly worried that President Barack Obama won't approve Keystone XL, they are resorting to fallacious arguments to purport benefits of the pipeline. On Monday night's The Kudlow Report, Larry Kudlow declared that wildlife will benefit from Keystone XL, dismissing a letter from the Interior Department warning of the dangers it would pose to wildlife. Despite the threats to several endangered species, Kudlow believes that animals would "like to snuggle under the pipeline" for "warmth." Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor for the American Petroleum Institute, agreed, claiming "animals like the Alaskan crude oil pipeline quite a bit."
Strangely, "animals cuddling for warmth" is absent from the Interior Department's review of the pipeline's wildlife impacts. The Department outlined many ways the pipeline would "wreak havoc" on plants and animals around the prospective route, including "wildlife collisions and electrocutions with power lines." The agency reported that Keystone XL would cause habitat loss and species displacements, resulting in "permanent impacts" on wildlife.
CNBC has rolled out a week of climate change programming. The special coverage comes after a Media Matters report finding that the majority of CNBC's climate reporting in the first half of 2013 was misleading, leading over 28,000 people to call for improved coverage in a petition organized by the advocacy groups Forecast the Facts and Environmental Action.
On Monday, CNBC host Carolin Roth reported on "CNBC's special week of climate coverage" on her daily news show Worldwide Exchange. Tuesday, Roth again mentioned the "special week on climate change" during a segment on shale gas. On the show, Emily Wurth from Food and Water Watch asserted that "we know that all climate scientists tell us that we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and we can't drill for every last drop of oil and gas."
However, this special programming has so far been limited to Worldwide Exchange, while CNBC's worst offenders are still misleading their audience on climate change.
Climate change is "just kind of a scam analysis" by "high priests," according to some at CNBC. Rhetoric such as this is not uncommon at the cable business channel, as a new Media Matters report finds that the majority of its coverage of climate change casts doubt on the science behind it.
Watch as CNBC hosts and contributors attempt to counter 97 percent of climate scientists:
So who are these CNBC figures?
Joe Kernen, the co-anchor of Squawk Box, was the most vocal CNBC figure on climate change in 2013, frequently pointing to cold weather to suggest that global warming is not occurring. Kernen has long pushed climate science misinformation. In a 2007 segment, he cited the "The Great Global Warming Swindle," a movie that promoted discredited claims, to criticize singer Sheryl Crow and "An Inconvenient Truth" producer Laurie David for speaking to college students about climate change. In 2011, Kernen co-authored a book titled Your Teacher Said What?!: Trying To Raise a Fifth Grade Capitalist in Obama's America that compared climate scientists to "high priests" whose work should not be trusted.
The majority of CNBC's coverage in the first half of 2013 cast doubt on whether manmade climate change exists. However, denial is not prudent for the business professionals viewing CNBC, who can reduce risk and increase profits by analyzing how climate change is impacting their industries.
The research consistently cited by media figures to support cutting government spending has recently been invalidated, raising questions about how mainstream coverage of economic policy promoted incorrect data.
In January 2010, economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff released a study that suggested when countries reach debt levels of 90 percent relative to GDP, economic growth would be compromised. Conservatives in politics and media alike repeatedly cited the figure in discussions about the economy.
A study released on April 16, however, found that the conclusions reached by Reinhart and Rogoff were based on data that was riddled with errors. Reinhart and Rogoff's response to the critique -- in which they maintain they never implied that rising debt caused lower growth, just that the two were associated -- shows that media's handling of the figure was wrong all along.
These new developments show that media consistently used an apparently incorrect figure for the past few years to call for austerity measures. Here's a look back at how major cable networks cited the figure in its coverage of the budget and economic policy:
Video by Alan Pyke.