Los Angeles Times

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  • LA Times: Trump’s War Against The Media Made Bannon Hire “Inevitable”

    Trump Pushes Right-Wing Media’s “Fringe Ideas Into Mainstream Conversation Like No Other Candidate”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump’s presidential campaign hired Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon as its new chief executive on August 17, a move that the Los Angeles Times described as “an inevitable culmination of a candidate’s war with the mainstream media.”

    In reaction to the hire, CNN’s Brian Stelter stated that the move signals “nothing is off limits now,” and “we're going to see the most fringy ideas, the most right-wing ideas bubble up to the surface.” Under Bannon’s tenure, Breitbart News has been known for its sycophantic devotion to Trump, its whitewashing of racist and anti-semitic elements of the Republican Party, its embrace of fringe conspiracy theories, and its complete lack of care for facts or standards of journalistic integrity.

    The Los Angeles Times reports that this move “has been years in the making,” and that Trump joined with right-wing media outlets “in crafting … an alternate reality where Trump is favored to win.” From the August 20 article:

    It seemed bizarre. But Donald Trump’s choice this week of a renegade, far-right news executive to lead his campaign was an inevitable culmination of a candidate’s war with the mainstream media and his embrace of his party’s most incendiary voices.

    Trump’s obsession with the media has been one of the few constants in his campaign. He rails against “scum” reporters, withholding credentials from major news organizations and lashing out on Twitter this week against the “failing New York Times,” while granting lengthy interviews to those same outlets and basking in their attention. He exploits the divide in conservative media to bash enemies and create safe zones on select television and radio shows. He questions the core tenets of the 1st Amendment and flouts the judgment of fact-checkers with abandon.

    The union of conservative media’s edgiest elements with the party’s standard-bearer has been years in the making, fomented by the establishment media’s loss of dominance and credibility. Trump, who has spent years learning how to navigate and dominate the news, has stepped into that credibility void to push once-fringe ideas into mainstream conversation like no other candidate.

    [...]

    While trust in the media has fallen precipitously in the country, the drop among conservatives is especially large over the past two decades. Only about one in four Republicans surveyed by Gallup in 2014 said they trust the mass media, roughly half the level of trust expressed by Democrats. Earlier polling by Pew showed similar results, with large and widening gaps in the trust levels held by Democrats and Republicans in specific news organizations such as CNN, NBC and the New York Times. A Morning Consult poll released Friday found a plurality of Americans of all political stripes — 38% — believe the media is biased in trying to help elect Hillary Clinton president, a far greater percentage than the 12% who said the media is biased in favor of Trump.

    Republicans have long fed off that trust gap, but Trump has made it a central talking point.

    [...]

    Trump has used that distrust to join with sites like Breitbart in crafting what some observers see as an alternate reality where Trump is favored to win the election despite polls showing otherwise, where voter fraud is rampant in spite of evidence that it’s not and where stories that reveal darker aspects of Trump’s past are either examples of media bias or do not exist at all.

    In tapping Stephen Bannon, the editor of Breitbart News, as his campaign’s chief executive officer, Trump has elevated a kindred spirit who, like Trump, relishes trafficking in taboo subjects and conspiracies once relegated to the far corners of conservative dialogue.

     

  • Fox Defends Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Proposal As Other Journalists Criticize It

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Fox News figures are praising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposal to have “extreme vetting” of immigrants wanting to come into the United States and using questionnaires to vet their beliefs, saying “we’ve done it before,” that it “made sense,” and that it was part of a “a solution-based program.” Meanwhile, other journalists and media outlets are saying the idea “just beggars belief” and is an “impractical” attempt “to recast his Muslim ban in other, less obviously offensive terms.”

  • Conservatives Lose Their Excuse To Question The Results Of The Clinton Email Investigation

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY, CYDNEY HARGIS & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Conservatives have just lost their excuse to question the results of the investigation relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server, which legal experts say lacks a “legitimate basis” to charge Clinton with crimes. Right-wing media figures have ignored those experts to suggest that if the investigation does not result in a Clinton indictment, it must be politically tainted. But Attorney General Loretta Lynch affirmed that she will “be accepting the recommendations” made by “career agents and investigators” and FBI Director James Comey in the case, and conservative media have spent months lauding Comey’s “impeccable integrity” and ability to impartially conduct the investigation.

  • Editorial Boards Celebrate The Supreme Court’s Strengthening Of Reproductive Rights

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On June 27, the Supreme Court found in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that restrictions placed on Texas abortion providers by the state’s HB 2 violated a woman’s constitutional right to abortion access. Editorial boards across the nation hailed the decision as “a major victory for abortion rights,” and “the most significant victory in a generation for a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.”

  • How The Media Helped Donald Trump Boost His Candidacy

    Harvard Professor Gives Insight Into New Shorenstein Report About How The Media Helped Trump And Hurt Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The author of a new Harvard study on the media’s coverage of the presidential primary says the press clearly helped Donald Trump on his path to becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.

    This week, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a detailed report on the media’s coverage of the presidential race in 2015, the year leading up to the first primaries. The study found that “Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch."

    The study’s author, Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, told Media Matters in an interview that the massive amount of Trump coverage -- as well as its largely positive tone -- predated Trump’s rise in the polls and “helped position him to make a stronger run.”

    “In the past, to get a lot of coverage pre-Iowa you had to be pretty high in the polls, and they started to give him heavy coverage when he was way down there, in the single digits,” Patterson said in an interview. “It is virtually impossible when you go back through all the races before 2016 when you were in a multi-candidate field and you were down where he was you are almost an afterthought to journalists.”

    The study looked at coverage of the candidates prior to the caucus and primary votes by Fox News, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

    Equating the Trump coverage to advertising dollars, Patterson’s report found that Trump received about $55 million worth of positive and neutral coverage in the eight outlets studied, well ahead of the second place candidate, Jeb Bush, at $36 million.

    “It’s gold, it works in every way in [his] favor,” Patterson said. “As you start to go up in the polls, there is a circular pattern, you can raise money and it becomes easier to pull voters into your column. What was abnormal was this extraordinary amount of attention Trump got early on even though he did not appear on paper to be a credible candidate. He was far down in the polls, but he made statements that made for great stories.”

    The study found that all eight of the news outlets studied gave Trump predominantly positive or neutral coverage, from The New York Times, where 63% of stories about Trump were positive or neutral, to USA Today, which led the way with 74%.

    By the same token, Clinton received largely negative coverage across the eight news outlets during 2015. The report argues of this disparity, "Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump’s positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end." 

    Patterson pointed to reporting on Clinton's use of a private email account while secretary of state and Republicans' ongoing focus on the 2012 Benghazi attacks as two of the most negatives stories.

    “In her case, the emails and the questions about the emails, how big an issue is this actually, that was a big part of her coverage,” Patterson said. “Benghazi was a bigger part of the news early on and then she had that day-long session with Congress that a lot of people thought she did quite well with. Of all the candidates of recent decades who have been front-runners, she has had the strongest headwinds of negative coverage.”

    But Patterson said the press may have over-covered the email issue and failed to put it in proper context.

    “How big an issue is the email controversy in the context of the candidate’s preparedness and ability to be president of the states?” he asked. “I think you would get some who say it is a molehill into a mountain. My own sense is that as a standalone issue the emails are pretty small potatoes in the realm of presidential preparedness. It has been a common practice in Congress and among cabinet officers to combine them one way or another. She is not an outlier on this and you could ask why the press has not brought that part of the story into it.”

    Patterson added that even apart from those controversies, Clinton’s “substantive issue coverage was more negative than the other candidates.”

    Despite the helping hand the media gave Trump during the primaries, Patterson notes that “in the past few weeks, Trump has gotten the kind of press scrutiny that if it had come earlier it would have been a drag of some kind on his candidacy, perhaps enough to make it hard for him to go into the convention with a majority.”

  • Conservatives Were Stunningly Wrong About Obamacare, New Report Finds

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A New York Times analysis found “historic increases” in those covered by the Affordable Care Act, destroying right-wing media predictions about health care reform including that it would “topple the stock market” and enslave Americans. The Times analysis is just one of many pieces of research that have highlighted the successes of the Affordable Care Act.

  • Conservatives Are Already Preparing To Cry "Cover-Up" If Hillary Clinton Isn't Indicted

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media figures have been laying the foundation to allege a "scandal" and "cover-up" if the FBI's investigation into Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's email server does not result in Clinton's indictment, thus setting her up for a lose-lose situation. Yet multiple law experts have explained that an indictment is highly unlikely.

  • New Evidence From LA Times Reaffirms That CMP's Deceptive Tactics Aren't Journalism

    LA Times: Unseen Footage Proves CMP's Work Was "Geared More Toward Political Provocation Than Journalism"

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On March 30, the Los Angeles Times published an investigative report calling out the fraudulent work by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) -- Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year -- as a smear campaign "geared more toward political provocation than journalism." Despite right-wing media's claim that CMP's work should be considered journalism, the Times' review of "unpublicized [smear video] footage and court records" reaffirms statements and findings by journalists, a judge, and a jury that CMP's dishonest attacks on Planned Parenthood "can be called many things, but 'journalism' probably isn't one of them."

    Right-wing media have long been carrying water for CMP's appeals to First Amendment protections. When CMP founder David Daleiden was indicted by a Houston, Texas, grand jury -- an investigation that also cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing -- right-wing media figures immediately objected, calling the indictment a "political hit job," "madness," and echoing CMP's claim that Daleiden was merely using "the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights."

    But new investigative work from the Los Angeles Times confirms federal Judge William H. Orrick's prior ruling that CMP's efforts "have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions ... of criminal misconduct."

    According to the Times, previously unseen footage from CMP's deceptively edited videos -- filed in a civil court case -- reveals that Daleiden and his associates coerced and falsified evidence in their ideologically motivated campaign against Planned Parenthood. The Times pointed to two examples from the unreleased footage: a clip of Daleiden coaching CMP's star witness -- a former for-profit tissue research lab technician named Holly O'Donnell -- through the "testimony" she gave in three of the videos CMP released, and a second clip demonstrating CMP's efforts to "loosen the tongues of abortion providers with alcohol" so they could coerce and "plant phrases" directly into otherwise benign conversations.

    Holly O'Donnell is featured in three of the deceptively edited videos CMP has released. In these videos, CMP uses O'Donnell's testimony to wrongly argue that Planned Parenthood supports a "black market in baby parts" and uses its "illicit pricing structure" to profit from fetal tissue donations. Although O'Donnell's testimony has already been discredited for being highly edited and taken out of context, the Times' new footage further undermines the authenticity of her account. According to the paper, the unreleased footage shows that "O'Donnell's apparently spontaneous reflections were carefully rehearsed" and that off-camera, Daleiden can be heard "coaching O'Donnell through repeated takes ... add details, speak 'fluidly' and be 'very natural'":

    Unreleased footage shows that over the source of successive takes, Daleiden asked O'Donnell to repeat anecdotes or add details such as the gender of an aborted fetus and whether she "said goodbye" to a dissected fetal cadaver before placing it in a bio-hazard container.

    "So you want to make it really dramatic?" she asked.

    At one point, she laughed and said to Daleiden: "You're all like, 'Say it like this! Let me possess your body and I'll say it for you.'"

    Daleiden protested that he was not coaching her, but as he asked O'Donnell to recount her experiences, her telling grew more dramatic and emotional.

    In an early take, she says into the camera: "I got into the medical field because I wanted to help people, not steal fetal tissues."

    On the third try, she says: "I got into the medical field to help people, not to steal dead baby parts and sell them."

    The Times also pointed to CMP's targeting of particular providers who Daleiden and his associates "thought might be susceptible to alcohol." Citing court documents, the Times explained that in unreleased footage Daleiden can be seen instructing an associate -- believed to be a woman named Sandra Merritt -- to corner a specific provider "now that she's been drinking." In another section, Daleiden suggests that they talk to a provider who had "consumed 'a little wine'" and said that he believed she was "the one for our purposes." In another piece of unreleased footage, Daleiden and Merritt can be heard gloating, laughing about having perfected their act and saying they are "so good" that they could "go knock on the door of the Sacramento Planned Parenthood tomorrow morning" and be welcomed in.

    After comparing this unreleased raw footage to the deceptively edited CPM videos, the Los Angeles Times concluded "that Daleiden edited out material that conflicted with his premise that Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics profit from the sale of fetal tissue for research purposes."

    There are real consequences to allowing CMP to masquerade as a journalistic entity with any credibility. Since the organization first started releasing deceptively edited videos in its effort to smear Planned Parenthood, right-wing media and anti-choice legislators have repeated CMP's misinformation about Planned Parenthood in an ongoing attempt to attack and defund the organization.

    There are many places in the country where, whether because of the geographic isolation of rural communities or a patient's lack of income, Planned Parenthood is the only accessible health care provider for women. In states like Texas and Indiana, where Planned Parenthood has been forced to close clinics or refuse services due to state-level defunding efforts, low-income and rural communities have already experienced a loss of access to vital cancer screenings, HIV outbreaks, and increased rates of pregnancy and self-induced abortion. In Indiana's case, the Planned Parenthood clinic did not even perform abortions -- and the organization was the only provider to offer HIV testing to both men and women in the part of the state that was the center of the outbreak.

    Following CMP's lead, Republicans in Congress have been giving Planned Parenthood the "Benghazi treatment" -- establishing the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives to investigate the baseless claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. Despite the  increasing number of state investigations that have cleared Planned Parenthood, the select panel has already conducted one hearing -- relying on deceptive "evidence" taken straight from CMP's website.

    Even more concerning, the select panel has issued wide-ranging subpoenas targeting not only abortion providers but also "researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians, and administrative staff who are in any way involved in fetal tissue research." Democrats and reproductive rights advocates are warning that by collecting these names "Congress could be putting lives in danger."

    There is a long history of anti-choice violence against abortion providers, and since CMP's deceptively edited videos came out, there has been a marked uptick in threats, violence, and hateful rhetoric. As just one example, in November 2015 there was a deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood; after his arrest, the accused shooter in this attack, Robert Lewis Dear, used the phrase "no more baby parts" to explain his actions before later calling himself a "warrior for the babies."

    In a press statement released after the latest round of subpoenas, NARAL called the select panel a "dangerous" and "partisan, taxpayer-funded witch hunt." The organization concluded that "no one should have to fear when seeking health care or conducting vital research, but that's the position the GOP members of this committee have put these individuals in."

  • Media Push Right-Wing Myths After California's $15 Minimum Wage Announcement

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    On March 28, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) announced a legislative compromise to raise the California minimum wage gradually from $10 per hour in 2016 to $15 per hour by 2022. Right-wing media have attacked the historic wage increase, claiming it will kill jobs and that it "goes against every law of capitalism." Meanwhile, mainstream media have promoted misinformation about the minimum wage peddled by restaurant industry front groups.

  • Media Hype LA Times Report On Clinton Emails Even Though It Says Prosecution Unlikely

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox's Andrew Napolitano and Andrea Tantaros and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough cited a March 27 report from the Los Angeles Times to push the possibility that Hillary Clinton used a private email server unlawfully, claiming she "might be a criminal defendant in a felony prosecution." But the Times article quotes legal experts who say there is "no reason to think Clinton committed any crimes with respect to the use of her email server," and the piece says the chances of a finding of criminal liability are "low."

  • Editorial Boards: Right-Wing Arguments Challenging Contraceptive Mandate Are "Absurd," "Extreme" And Resorting To "Hyperbole"

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    On March 23, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidated case brought by religious nonprofits challenging a process for opting out of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The editorial boards of three major newspapers called the right-wing objection in the case "absurd" and pointed out that the government has gone "a long way to accommodate religious objections" already.

  • Media Should Take Great Care Not To Smear Brussels' Muslim Community

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    As details emerge about the tragic terrorist attacks in Brussels, media should take great care to accurately report on the attacks without making sweeping generalizations about the Belgian Muslim community. Media in the past have blamed European Muslim communities as a whole for terrorist attacks and parroted debunked myths about purported "no-go zones" that are supposedly off limits to non-Muslims.

    On March 22, a series of explosions rocked Brussels' main international airport and part of its subway system, killing dozens of people and wounding hundreds more. Reuters reported that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attacks. Media commented that "Tuesday's explosions at Brussels airport and on the subway network will turn the spotlight on the Belgian capital's Molenbeek suburb," where one of the November Paris terrorist attackers, Salah Abdelsalam, was captured just days before.

    In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, media noted that terrorist organizations, including ISIS and Sharia4Belgium, have "shifted [their] focus in recent years from promoting Islamic law in Belgium to recruiting for the war in Syria." Terrorist organizations have exploited Belgium's large Muslim population to draw "more jihadists to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq per capita" than have come from "any other Western European nation," according to CNN.

    But to cast Brussels as a fraught city mired in inescapable terrorism not only is a mischaracterization, but also it inevitably leads to guilt by association for the entire Muslim community in the area.

    Commentators should avoid conflating and blaming Molenbeek's Muslim community for the terrorist attack and its previous associations with terrorism. Media have previously reported that Molenbeek "is not a place that seems especially threatening," a key distinction after "the so-called Belgian connection in the Paris attacks ... revived the district's reputation as the 'jihadi capital of Europe.'" Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick J. McDonnell noted that the residents of Molenbeek "decry" the "jihadi capital" "characterization ... as more media hype than reality." The Atlantic similarly noted that Molenbeek "has a strong middle class, bustling commercial districts, and a gentrifying artist class," and that "journalists seem to [have] little trouble reporting" from the neighborhood, which looks "in many ways like a typical, somewhat run-down district."

    Bilal Benyaich, an author of two books on radicalism, extremism, and terrorism, told Al Jazeera it is a mistake to conflate the reality of Brussels as the "European capital of political Islam" with the "exaggerated" claims that it is the "capital of jihad." Similarly, The Guardian notes, "the concentration of violent militants in Molenbeek ... may not be about places, but people," underscoring how although ISIS and other terrorist organizations have attempted to exploit Brussels' Muslim population, terrorism and violence are not inherent to the community.

    Often when focus turns toward European-based terrorist attacks, media revive the debunked myth of so-called Muslim "no-go zones," or supposedly Muslim-only enclaves where media allege that outside police forces are prevented from entering and Sharia flourishes. As has been documented, no such "no-go zones" exist. Instead, as Richard Engel explained on MSNBC's Morning Joe, these areas are fraught with socioeconomic distress, and residents there "will tell you that it's about racism, that they're blocked from jobs, that they're blocked from government employment, that they don't get the same kind of social services."

    Purveyors of misinformation in the past have spun these socioeconomic problems to allege that state governments "no longer [have] full control over [their] territory" and thus that these neighborhoods are off-limits to law enforcement, as U.S. historian Daniel Pipes mistakenly asserted in 2006.

    In 2015, frequent Fox guest Steve Emerson -- part of the network's stable of extremists who lead its conversation about Islam -- seized on the "no-go zone" myth and provoked international outrage with the false claim that the city of Birmingham, England, is "totally Muslim" and a place "where non-Muslims just simply don't go." As the Emerson controversy raged on, another Fox News guest argued that governments should "put razor wire around" the mythical "no-go zones" and catalog the residents. Days later, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro apologized for Emerson's "incorrect" comments, telling viewers, "We deeply regret these errors and apologize to the people of Birmingham, our viewers and all who have been offended."

    Already, media are beginning to inch toward the false assertion that "no-go zones" are both the cause and consequence of extremism and the Brussels terrorist attacks. The conditions of this tragedy seem to be similar to previous incidents, where pundits blamed a specific Muslim community or Muslim-majority city for the attacks.

    Accordingly, media should take great care to undertake responsible, sensitive, and factually accurate reporting that avoids smearing Brussels' Muslim community and steers clear of the "no-go zone" myth.

    This post has been updated for clarity.