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  • US Officials Report No Evidence Hillary Clinton Broke The Law, Will Right-Wing Media Listen?

    Conservative Media Conspiracy Theories Doused By The Facts

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    U.S. officials say they have not yet found evidence that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton willfully broke the law with use of her private email or that her server was hacked, according to two new reports, undercutting the conservative witch-hunt for a bombshell in the Democratic presidential front-runner’s email setup.

    Prosecutors and FBI officials “have so far found scant evidence that [Hillary Clinton] intended to break classification rules,” according to a May 5 Washington Post report. The article noted that “prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not”:

    Prosecutors and FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server have so far found scant evidence that the leading Democratic presidential candidate intended to break classification rules, though they are still probing the case aggressively with an eye on interviewing Clinton herself, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter

    [...]

    The involvement of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not indicative that charges are imminent or even likely. One official said prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not.

    CNN underscored the findings in the Washington Post article, reporting that “The investigation is still ongoing, but so far investigators haven't found evidence to prove that Clinton willfully violated the law.” The reports join the growing chorus of legal experts and government officials who have undermined claims made by right-wing media figures, who have repeatedly scandalized Clinton’s use of a private email server by arguing that she broke the law using her server for State Department emails.

    Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge, who has a history of hyping evidence-free claims, most recently reported on May 4 that “the infamous Romanian hacker known as ‘Guccifer’ … easily – and repeatedly – breached former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server,” a claim parroted by various right-wing media figures.

    But U.S. officials “dismissed claims [by “Guccifer”] that he was able to breach Clinton’s personal email server,” according to the Post, noting, “investigators have found no evidence to support the assertion.” NBC News also reported that the hacker “could provide no documentation to back up his claims,” and Politico reported that an “internal FBI review of Clinton’s email records did not indicate traces of hacking.”

    Fox also alleged that the Obama administration is “slow-rolling” the Select Committee on Benghazi Committee’s investigation into Clinton’s email use, scandalizing the fact that a “special unit to review Benghazi documents” was convened later than expected.

    The Department of Defense recently criticized the committee, slamming it for “straining the department's resources” chasing “documents and interviews” often based on “speculative or hypothetical” queries, according to Politico. A letter sent by Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Hedger derided the Republican-led committee’s “multiple and changing requests,” some of which have been “unfair … unproductive … [and] unnecessary,” and implored the committee to “remain focused on obtaining facts rather than encouraging speculation.”

    Since Clinton’s use of private email was revealed, conservative media figures have made multiple baseless allegations, only to be burned by facts. The new revelations that investigators have not yet found evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton only add to the growing list of debunked myths spuriously pushed by right-wing media.  

  • Right-Wing Media Run With Imprisoned Hacker’s Evidence-Free Claim That He Breached Clinton’s Server

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are credulously reporting claims from the extradited Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer,” who is currently in prison in Virginia, that he “breached” Hillary Clinton’s email server. The hacker has provided no documentation to prove his claims, and the FBI’s security review of Clinton’s emails has reportedly found no evidence of hacking.

  • 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.

  • A Timeline Of The Anonymously Sourced FBI Agent Numbers That Distorted The Clinton Email Server Investigation

    The Numbers Have Changed From 150 To 12

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    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."

  • NBCNews.com Highlights The Importance Of Newsroom Diversity In Dispelling Stereotypes About Youth Of Color

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A report by NBCNews.com highlighted the importance of including more people of color in newsrooms in order to dispel harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes perpetuated in news coverage.

    The March 11 report highlighted recommendations offered by a panel of experts regarding the ways in which media use criminalizing narratives to depict youth of color and how they can improve accuracy in their coverage. The Advancement Project's Judith Brown suggested that "the way to alleviate this is to have more people of color in top positions in the nation's newsrooms," which are overwhelmingly white.

    Media Matters' Cristina Lopez also recommended improving the representation of racial and ethnic groups on Sunday political talk shows, as "that's where political actors set the agenda for political discussion on all the issues." A Media Matters study of guest appearances on five Sunday political talk shows showed that throughout 2015 guests were disproportionately white, conservative, and male.

    As reported by NBCNews.com:

    According to Judith Brown, the co-director of the Advancement Project, the way to help alleviate this is to have more people of color in top positions in the nation's newsrooms.

    "We've created this dialogue and narrative in this country about people of color in which they should be treated as less than human," Brown said.

    [...]

    "There is a history of how we talk about people of color," she said. "They are spoken of as disrespectful, disobedient, mouthy, as gangbangers, illegals, thugs, violent, disorderly; leading to the ultimate conclusion that they brought this on themselves. We criminalize and blame the victim."

    Mervyn Marcano is a political communications consultant and is also Afro-Latino. There is already a double standard standard surrounding the coverage of African American and Latino youth, Marcano said, and they "already have a challenge when it comes to getting accurate and humane coverage of their issues."

    Marcano and others pointed out several instances of what they characterized as the media's criminalizing coverage of youth of color, including Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's much-publicized comments calling a 14-year-old forcibly removed from a pool party by police as "no saint." In another example, a Florida television station reported on the shooting death of a young Latino using an old mug shot even though other photos were available.

    The progressive media watchdog group Media Matters also conducted a study of New York City news outlets - the country's top media market - and found that the news gave disproportionate coverage to crime stories involving African Americans.

    Cristina López, who works at Media Matters, said a good place to start changing these stereotypes would be by putting more people of color on TV, especially on the Sunday morning talk shows. Having a diverse newsroom would help alleviate these instances of inaccurate coverage, she said.

    "You see a news story or a certain narrative go down the pipeline and eventually it reaches the Sunday shows, which are the places where news gets spun," she said. "That's where political actors set the agenda for political discussion on all the issues."

    But it cannot end there, López said. Diversity is important down the line, in production rooms, and who gets to comment."

    [...]

    "We're becoming more diverse and failing to include an accurate portrayal of these communities constitutes misinformation," said López. "Words matter, and if we let slurs go unchecked we will be normalizing the use of disparaging words.

    "Disparaging words, such as those used to describe immigrants, dehumanizes an individual and blames them for diseases, for terrorism and oftentimes it leads to harsher policy proposals," she added. Media observers such as López recommend steering away from words such as "illegal alien," "resident alien," and even "juvenile" because they consider them to be dehumanizing and perpetuate stereotypes.

  • Media Critics: Networks Should Hang Up On Trump Phone Interviews

    "Trump Has Become His Own Executive Producer"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    News outlets that allow Donald Trump to eschew on-camera interviews in favor of phone call-ins are being criticized by television news veterans and media critics who say the format gives Trump an upper hand and can diminish the interview.

    Networks have faced criticism over letting Trump call in to shows for months. In September, Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone explained that thanks to the phone format, Trump "can better control the conversation when he's not facing his interviewer on camera. It's easier for him to speak over the host to change the subject, or to refer to notes."

    The issue returned to the spotlight this week after Trump had been scheduled to do a series of interviews on major morning news shows via satellite, but switched to phone call-ins after he reportedly "didn't like the look of the live shot."

    Several networks allowed Trump to call in, but CBS This Morning declined, citing the show's policy against phone interviews.

    Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has also barred Trump from calling in to his program, but that has not stopped other Fox shows from allowing Trump to stay off camera and on the phone. According to a count by BuzzFeed, television news outlets have interviewed Trump by phone "an unprecedented 69 times in the last 69 days."

    This week, Media Matters launched a petition calling on news networks to stop conducting phone interviews with Trump.

    Observers contend that a call-in interview lacks the balance of a face-to-face exchange because the audience and the interviewer are not allowed to see Trump's expressions and reactions. They say it is also more difficult to follow-up and put the subject on the spot to answer questions more directly.   

    "It's definitely better because you can control it, you can ask follow-up questions," David Zurawik, media critic with The Baltimore Suntold Media Matters. "On a phone it really shifts control away from the interviewer, I don't think anyone can dispute that. I was really glad CBS said no, but I think the cable channels are addicted to the ratings."

    David Folkenflik, media reporter for National Public Radio, agreed.

    "It is a signal of the extent to which the television cable networks contort themselves to accommodate Trump because he is such an unpredictable and explosive figure," he said, adding, "The first order is you want to get somebody in person, so the interviewer and person are together. The anchors and the producers control the setting. You want to do it in person, or on camera remote. When things get really dicey is when you can't do that. Television is a visual media, you want to see their facial expressions, it is worth having that. Trump is so expressive." 

    Folkenflik and others said many outlets are willing to have Trump on by phone because he gets ratings, but say that is not an excuse.

    "They know when Trump comes on ratings spike up. I don't think programmers are too desperate to put John Kasich on a cell phone for an interview," he said. "They let his rallies and other events be on the air for long stretches of time with minimal interruptions because they just don't know what the guy is going to say. There are other candidates -- there are other candidates in the other party and they are not getting anything like that."

    Marvin Kalb, a long-time former NBC News Washington correspondent and one-time Meet the Press host, praised CBS for declining to let Trump call in and said others should do the same.

    "Hooray for CBS," Kalb said. "The way in which this has emerged, Trump has become his own executive producer in American television. The networks appear obediently to go along with his call."

    "It is television and you want to see things," he added. "In his case, he is asking for something that is very special, he is changing the rules of the game, you want to ask yourself why? From the network point of view, it ought to be news value."

    In an interview with Media Matters last month about the media's general failure to properly scrutinize Trump, former New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt called foul on the phone interviews, saying, "Broadcasting and cable maybe aren't being as tough as they should be. I have questioned having him on by telephone, it's deferring to him in a way, letting him set ground rules that they don't for others. You do not see his demeanor and it is not the same as having him sit across from an interrogator."

    Frank Sesno, a former CNN White House correspondent and current director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said this week that the limited access is a negative.  

    "When Trump is on the phone he can talk over the interviewer, he can do it in his pajamas," Sesno said. "He can get so much free airtime that it starts to challenge us as journalists as to what our role is in providing free media for the candidate."

  • Media Note Cruz's Rightward Lurch On Deportation

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Media outlets are calling out Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) "marked shift" on immigration reform after the GOP presidential hopeful "significantly sharpened" his position on utilizing federal law enforcement to search for and forcibly deport undocumented immigrants. While Cruz previously spurned the idea of a "deportation force" going "door to door" looking for undocumented immigrants, he recently stated he would "of course" direct law enforcement to go to the homes of undocumented immigrants to deport them.

  • Trump Campaign: Cruz Winning In New Poll Because Murdoch-Owned Paper Commissioned It

    UPDATE: Trump Himself Calls Poll A "Rupert Murdoch Hit"

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Donald Trump's presidential campaign is suggesting that the reason a new poll commissioned by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows Trump trailing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is that Rupert Murdoch owns the Journal.

    The poll results, released February 18, show Cruz leading Trump nationally, 28 percent to 26 percent. As NBC News reported, those results "are a significant reversal from last month, when Trump held a 13-point lead over Cruz," and "This poll comes after other surveys -- both nationally and in South Carolina, the site of Saturday's next Republican contest -- show Trump with a commanding lead. But some of those weren't conducted entirely after the last debate like the NBC/WSJ poll."

    Many political observers have suggested that the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll could be an outlier. But Dan Scavino, the Trump campaign's director of social media and senior adviser, provided a more conspiratorial theory:

    Trump and Murdoch's Fox News have a complicated relationship. The Republican presidential front-runner has repeatedly complained of "bias" from the conservative network, even as he has received more than double the airtime of any other GOP candidate.

    UPDATE: According to CNN, Trump personally attacked Murdoch over the poll during a radio interview, saying "That phony Wall Street Journal poll that came out yesterday was, in my opinion, it was a fix....It was a Rupert Murdoch hit. It was just a Rupert Murdoch hit."

    UPDATE 2: Murdoch responded to the Trump campaign claim, writing on Twitter, "Trump blames me for WSJ poll, fights FoxNews. Time to calm down. If I running anti-Trump conspiracy then doing lousy job!"

  • NBC News Veterans And Media Ethicists: CNBC Should "Not Allow" Larry Kudlow To "Misuse" Its Network To Campaign

    "It Is A Straight-Up Conflict Of Interest"

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    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." 

  • Media Falsely Attribute Clinton Iowa Caucuses Win To Coin Flips

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & BRENNAN SUEN

    Media figures are erroneously attributing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses to her wins in coin tosses held at several precincts to determine the apportionment of unassigned delegates. Media figures claiming that coin tosses could have flipped the outcome misunderstand the caucus process by wrongly conflating county-level delegates -- which the coin tosses assign -- and state delegate equivalents (SDEs). As The Des Moines Register explained, the coin flips "had an extremely small effect on the overall outcome."