Media Buzz

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  • Interviewers Prioritize FBI Letter, Ignore New Investigative Reports About Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Hosts of the Sunday morning political shows neglected to press surrogates for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on new investigative reports detailing how Trump humiliated and sexually assaulted women, lied about his charitable givings, and may have offered NJ Gov. Chris Christie the vice presidential running mate position before rescinding it. The hosts instead allowed FBI Director James Comey’s letter to congressional leaders regarding the bureau’s investigation of Clinton’s email server to dominate the shows.

    Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on the October 30 editions of Fox News’ MediaBuzz, ABC’s This Week, and CNN’s State of the Union. Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday. During their appearances, the Trump surrogates were given platforms to capitalize on Comey’s letter indicating that the bureau is reviewing newly discovered emails that may or may not be relevant to their investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server. Conway and Pence both rehashed the false claim from Republican lawmakers that the FBI was “reopening” the investigation into Clinton’s email server.

    During the appearances, the Sunday show hosts largely let Comey’s letter drive the conversation, ignoring several new pieces of investigative reporting that detail Trump’s treatment of women and his lies about charitable giving. These investigative reports include:

    • An October 28 Huffington Post report which included video of Trump in 2011 “sexually humiliating” a Miss Universe pageant winner on stage in front of thousands of onlookers.

    • A report from The Telegraph on October 27 which detailed accusations from former Miss Finland, Ninni Laaksonen, that Trump sexually assaulted her, making her the 12th woman to accuse Trump of sexual assault.

    • An October 30 article from The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold in which he explained Trump’s pattern of having “sought credit for charity he had not given — or had claimed other people’s giving as his own.”

    • An October 30 New York Post report that alleged “Donald Trump initially offered the vice-presidential running-mate slot to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie but then withdrew it,” before offering the position to Pence.

    ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was the only host to challenge a Trump surrogate on any of these reports. Stephanopoulos cited the Washington Post piece to ask Conway if Trump would release his tax returns to verify any of his alleged charitable giving.

    The Sunday shows and other broadcast and cable programs have repeatedly overlooked many investigative reports about Trump, including those detailing his sketchy business practices and his foundation’s illegal activities, and allowed Trump to hijack the narrative away from damaging reports.

  • CNN Explores Implications Of Carlson Sexual Harassment Suit, Fox Merely Repeats Ailes' Own Defense (Again)

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Cable news giants Fox News and CNN displayed markedly different approaches to the bombshell allegations of sexual harassment brought by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. While CNN began investigating the claims made by Carlson and other women previously employed by Fox, the network itself simply reiterated Ailes’ own self-defense before launching a predictable campaign to discredit his accusers.

    On July 6, Carlson announced a “sexual harassment/retaliation lawsuit” against Ailes. Carlson claims that Ailes refused to renew her contract after she rebuffed multiple unwanted sexual advances from him over several years. Ailes is notorious for his sexist behavior and vulgar treatment of women at the network, and six more current and former Fox employees have reportedly contacted Carlson’s law firm alleging they were also sexually harassed by Ailes.

    On July 10, CNN’s Reliable Sources devoted the first half of the hour-long program to discussing the lawsuit and its implications for the future of Ailes and Fox News. Host Brian Stelter interviewed New York magazine correspondent Gabriel Sherman, author of the 2014 Fox exposé The Loudest Voice In The Room, about harassment allegations he uncovered while researching for his book, as well as the veracity of six new allegations against Ailes, which Sherman contended “fit a pattern of behavior” from the Fox News chief. Sherman also predicted that “Fox News’ PR machine” will work to “discredit” Carlson and any other accusers for Ailes, as they have in the past.

    Stelter also hosted NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik to discuss how News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, are responding to the allegations against Ailes “a little differently” than they have with prior harassment claims against Fox personalities. Folkenflik noted that the Murdochs “have not denied reports that they are hiring outside counsel” to handle the suit, as opposed to past cases involving Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan, where “they did not appoint an outside counsel” to deal with the complaints. Folkenflik concluded that this move may be tied to “the Murdoch sons' desire for their company to be truly a 21st century company, as opposed to run with the mores of the Don Draper era.”

    Meanwhile, on Fox News’ MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz mentioned his former colleague’s lawsuit in a brief, three-minute segment devoted to defending Ailes and attacking Carlson. Kurtz simply read Ailes’ personal statement in response to the lawsuit (as Fox News anchor Shepard Smith already had three days prior), mentioned that Ailes tried to move the suit into internal arbitration, and attacked Gretchen Carlson’s ratings as the real excuse for her termination. Kurtz pointedly refused to cover the story beyond that, dismissing other outlets’ coverage as simply “quoting anonymous sources” in a veiled shot at CNN and New York magazine. 

    Kurtz was the first Fox News reporter to come to Ailes’ defense against the harassment allegations made by Carlson. In the past, Kurtz has attacked Hillary Clinton for acknowledging media treatment that was “petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean,” and he defended Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) when the then presidential candidate mocked and shushed CNBC’s Kelly Evans during a critical line of questioning in which he told her to “calm down.” In addition to his long track record of excusing sexist and bullying behavior toward women in the media, Kurtz has his own history of boorish behavior toward women.

  • CNN And Fox News’ Sunday Media Criticism Shows Note Ethical Issues With CNN’s Lewandowski Hire

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media figures on CNN’s Reliable Sources and Fox News’ MediaBuzz criticized CNN’s decision to hire Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Hosts and guests on the two media criticism programs highlighted the various “ethical” and “controversial” issues surrounding Lewandowski’s hiring, including Lewandowski’s history of aggressively handling the press and the ambiguity surrounding his possible non-disparagement agreements with Trump.

    On June 23, CNN hired Lewandowski as a salaried political commentator days after he had been fired as Trump’s campaign manager. CNN employees and other reporters immediately raised concerns over the various potential ethical problems associated with Lewandowski’s hiring.

    There are still several unknowns about Lewandowski's new position: whether he signed a non-disparagement agreement with Trump, which would preclude Lewandowski from criticizing his former boss; whether Lewandowski’s history of aggressive behavior toward journalists was taken into account during the hiring process; and whether an ongoing defamation suit against Trump and Lewandowski is a conflict of interest for CNN.

    CNN’s Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s media criticism program Reliable Sources, said on June 26 that Lewandowski is “the most controversial addition to CNN in several years,” noting that his “hostile” behavior toward reporters and the uncertainty regarding any non-disparagement agreements raise “ethical questions.”

    Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik shamed CNN on Reliable Sources for hiring a “weasel to tell you about” “what’s going on inside the Trump campaign,” and told CNN to “give your money back.”

    Fox News’ media critic Howard Kurtz also slammed CNN on his program MediaBuzz, calling the decision a “sad move” that doesn’t help “CNN’s credibility in covering Donald Trump.” Kurtz specifically noted Lewandowski’s non-disclosure agreement and “rough relations with some reporters.”

    CNN’s own staff have heavily criticized Lewandowski for his “inexcusable” and “unprofessional” behavior. Media Matters has noted, though, that Lewandowski’s hire is at odds with how the network has responded to previous attacks on employees: in February, Trump ally Roger Stone was banned from the network after he wrote a series of offensive, incendiary tweets attacking CNN media figures.

  • After Trump Says Obama May Sympathize With Terrorists, Howard Kurtz Worries About The Press Being Too Harsh On Trump

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz defended presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump from criticism after The Washington Post accurately reported incendiary remarks made by the candidate during an appearance on Fox & Friends. Trump used a phone-in interview about the June 12 mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub as an excuse to attack President Obama, and suggest the president sympathized with terrorists.