On AM Joy, Eric Boehlert Explains How "No Amount Of Disclosure Is Enough" To Solve NBC's Trump Conflict Of Interest
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The Associated Press highlighted how President-elect Donald Trump’s financial ties to NBC have created new concerns among ethics experts about conflicts NBC might face when “a company that has a news division is covering the president of the United States who has an interest in a show on that network.”
Trump will remain an executive producer of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, creating an unprecedented conflict of interest between a sitting president and a major news outlet. NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC will be reporting on President Trump at the same time that their corporate parent will stand to benefit from Trump’s reputation and popularity. This places NBC's journalists in an untenable position.
In a December 9 article, The Associated Press highlighted ethics experts and journalism professors who voiced concern over NBC’s ties to Trump. Marcy McGinnis, a former CBS News executive and journalism professor, explained the problem, calling it “a clear conflict of interest to me that a company that has a news division is covering the president of the United States who has an interest in a show on that network.” She termed the arrangement “mind-boggling on so many levels.” Aly Colon, an “expert in journalist ethics,” noted people’s desire to “believe in an independent news division not affected by business ties.” From the AP:
Donald Trump's continued stake in television's "Celebrity Apprentice" adds to questions about potential conflicts between his personal and public responsibilities, while raising new ones about NBC.
If it continues, journalists at NBC News will be covering a president for a corporation whose entertainment division retains ties to the man. The reality show, which returns to NBC's schedule on Jan. 2 with Arnold Schwarzenegger replacing Trump as host, includes the president-elect as one of its executive producers.
"It's just so mind-boggling on so many levels," said Marcy McGinnis, a former CBS News executive who taught journalism at Stony Brook University. "It is a clear conflict of interest to me that a company that has a news division is covering the president of the United States who has an interest in a show on that network.
"How do you remain unbiased?" she asked. "The onus is on NBC to say, 'we can't do this.'"
People want to believe in an independent news division not affected by business ties, said Aly Colon, an expert in journalist ethics at Washington & Lee University who once worked in NBC's standards department. He said he's sure the issues are being considered at NBC.
"A lot of people find it difficult to believe there is a wall between news and entertainment," Colon said.
The liberal watchdog Media Matters for America on Friday launched a petition drive calling on NBC to cut ties with Trump, saying reporters are put in an untenable spot and that no amount of disclosure is enough when a network is financially invested in the president.
Sign Media Matters’ petition telling NBC to Dump Trump.
NBC Is Providing Foreign Companies, Defense Contractors And Private Equity Firms With A Way To Pay President Trump
President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to remain an executive producer of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice as president “could provide him with a cut of the money generated by NBC's product integration deals for the show,” and provides ways for advertisers, foreign companies, defense contractors and private equity firms to “curry favor” with Trump, according to CNN.
NBC’s decision to retain Trump as an executive producer on The Celebrity Apprentice raises a number of conflict of interest concerns that include advertisers' ability to pay Trump while they have business in front of government, as well as NBC’s financial investment in Trump’s reputation. For these reasons, Media Matters is calling on NBC to end this insurmountable problem and cut ties with President-elect Trump.
On December 9, CNN’s Dylan Byers quoted “a Hollywood source with direct knowledge” of Trump’s contractual arrangement with NBC to report that “if that arrangement is still in place, it is now a potential avenue of influence for companies.” Reality shows like The Celebrity Apprentice offer “product integration,” better known as product placement, to any number of advertisers, including ”brands owned by foreign companies; private equity firms, which have done deals with the show before; or defense contractors that also produce consumer goods.” In 2011, Byers reports, the integrations cost “between $5 million and $9 million” per episode. Assuming Trump’s deal with NBC has not changed, “the companies buying product integrations on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ will be indirectly paying money to the President-elect.” Byers’ source remarked that "If an advertiser wants to curry favor with Trump, that's the way to do it.":
For years, Trump has received a portion of the revenue from the show's product integration deals, the source said. If that arrangement is still in place, it is now a potential avenue of influence for companies that want to get the ear of Trump and his administration, and presents a thorny situation for Comcast/NBCUniversal, which controls the deals.
"If an advertiser wants to curry favor with Trump, that's the way to do it," the source said.
That could include brands owned by foreign companies; private equity firms, which have done deals with the show before; or defense contractors that also produce consumer goods. Any company like these might have a vested interest in getting in good favor with the 45th President of the United States.
In reality television, product integration refers to deals in which advertisers pay to place their products in a show. When contestants on "Celebrity Apprentice" are tasked with directing a commercial for a new OnStar product, creating a retail strategy for LifeLock or repackaging Omaha Steaks, that is product integration. In 2011, Ad Age reported that advertisers were paying between $5 million and $9 million to get their product integrated into a single episode.
The source could not confirm that the terms of the arrangement had not changed. NBC, the network that airs "Celebrity Apprentice," did not respond to requests for comment. MGM, the company that owns the show, declined comment.
There was one agreement covering both "The Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice," the source said. If that deal is still in place, the companies buying product integrations on "Celebrity Apprentice" will be indirectly paying money to the President-elect.
The announcement that President-elect Donald Trump will remain an executive producer on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice opens up a series of conflicts of interest for both Trump and NBC News. It also defies NBC’s previous claim that they did not want to be associated with Trump because his bigoted statements had defied the network’s core values.
Trump began his presidential campaign with a blistering, widely-denounced attack on Mexican immigrants. In his June 16, 2015, presidential announcement speech, he claimed that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” instead claiming that most immigrants were rapists or drug dealers.
Two weeks after that speech, NBC announced that they were “ending its business relationship” with Trump due to what it termed his “derogatory statements” about immigrants. The network announced that they would no longer air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which were part of a joint venture between the network and Trump and were scheduled to run during the presidential election. According to the statement, “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.”
At the time, the network stated that Celebrity Apprentice “is licensed from Mark Burnett's United Artists Media Group and that relationship will continue.” But NBC News reported that this was because “Trump ceased his involvement with the reality show during the presidential bid.” Now, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway is suggesting that Trump might actively work on the show as president in his “spare time.”
In any case, since NBC released their statement cutting ties with Trump, he has not demonstrated that he shows “respect and dignity for all people.” Instead, he has continued to denigrate people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and women. In fact, NBC fired Billy Bush over the former Access Hollywood host’s role in an open mic tape that featured Trump admitting to sexual assault. NBC didn’t want a business relationship with someone who laughed at such comments, but apparently has no qualms with the man who said them.
It certainly raises questions about what NBC really considers “cornerstones of our values.”
NBC Will Have A Financial Relationship With President Trump As Long As Celebrity Apprentice Is On The Air
Variety managing editor Cynthia Littleton reported “Donald Trump will remain an exec producer on NBC’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’” creating a conflict of interest for NBC’s ability to provide unbiased coverage of Trump while promoting a show built on Trump’s reputation.
On December 8, Variety reported “Trump’s fees will be paid through MGM, the production entity on the show, not NBC,” but “the fact that a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show is another example of the thicket of potential conflicts of interest raised by Trump’s segue from a private businessman and TV star to commander-in-chief.”
Donald Trump will remain an exec producer on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” which is returning Jan. 2 after a two-year hiatus with new host Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The larger issue for MGM, NBC, and the White House is the payment that Trump will receive for the series. It’s unclear what his per-episode fee is, but it is likely to be in the low five-figures, at minimum. NBC has ordered eight episodes of “The New Celebrity Apprentice.” Trump’s fees will be paid through MGM, the production entity on the show, not NBC. MGM declined to comment on the financial terms of Trump’s deal. A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NBC declined to comment.
The fact that a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show is another example of the thicket of potential conflicts of interest raised by Trump’s segue from private businessman and TV star to commander-in-chief. However, past presidents have published books during their time in the White House, so there is precedent for a president earning royalties while in office. In the case of President Obama’s 2010 book “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” his profits from the Alfred A. Knopf publication were donated to a charity supporting the children of disabled veterans.
In continuing their financial relationship with Trump, NBC will invite skepticism into how NBC and MSNBC can fairly cover the sitting president when there is a financial incentive to protect his reputation and the ratings of the Celebrity Apprentice. Furthermore, Trump and NBC should address the conflict of interest concerns raised by the fact advertisers may help to personally enrich President-elect Donald Trump by purchasing ads during Celebrity Apprentice.
NBC should move to address concerns raised by Variety’s reporting, and publicly state how it will balance its financial relationship with Trump while maintaining the network’s journalistic legitimacy.
When President-elect Donald Trump made seemingly open-minded remarks about climate change during a November 22 meeting with staff of The New York Times, it set off a wave of television coverage about how Trump had supposedly “reversed course” on climate change. But few of these reports addressed any of the substantive reasons that is highly unlikely, such as his transition team’s plan to abandon the Obama administration’s landmark climate policy, indications that he will dismantle NASA’s climate research program, and his appointment of fossil fuel industry allies as transition team advisers -- not to mention the full context of Trump’s remarks to the Times.
In his interview with reporters, editors and opinion columnists from the Times, Trump contradicted his long-held stance that climate change is a “hoax” by stating that he thinks “there is some connectivity” between human activities and climate change (although even that statement doesn’t fully reflect the consensus view of climate scientists that human activities are the “dominant cause” of global warming). Trump also declined to reaffirm his earlier statements that he would “renegotiate” or “cancel” the international climate agreement reached in Paris last year, instead saying that he has an “open mind” about how he will approach the Paris agreement.
But there are many reasons to take these comments with a grain of salt. For one, Trump has given no indication that he will preserve the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is the linchpin of the United States’ emissions reduction commitments under the Paris climate agreement. To the contrary, The Associated Press reported that internal documents from Trump’s transition team “show the new administration plans to stop defending the Clean Power Plan and other recent Obama-era environmental regulations that have been the subject of long-running legal challenges filed by Republican-led states and the fossil fuel industry.” Moreover, a senior Trump space policy adviser recently indicated that the Trump administration plans to eliminate NASA’s climate change research program, a move that would likely be accompanied by significant funding cuts to climate research.
Additionally, Trump has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate science denier from the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, to lead his EPA transition team, and two other close allies of the fossil fuel industry, Kathleen Hartnett White and Scott Pruitt, are reportedly Trump’s leading contenders to run the EPA. Trump also named Thomas Pyle, president of the fossil fuel-funded American Energy Alliance, to head his Energy Department transition team. According to The Washington Post, “Hartnett-White, Pyle and Ebell have all expressed doubt about climate change and have criticized the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”
Then there are Trump’s Times comments themselves, which have been “wildly misinterpreted” in the media, as Grist’s Rebecca Leber has explained. In addition to saying there is “some connectivity” between human activities and climate change, Trump said during the Times interview that there are “a lot of smart people” on the “other side” of the issue, and added: “You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views.” Trump also appeared to reference the thoroughly debunked “Climategate” scandal about emails among climate scientists at a U.K. university, stating, “They say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists.”
Nonetheless, Trump’s two seemingly climate-friendly remarks to the Times -- that he has an “open mind” about the Paris climate agreement and that humans play some role in climate change -- generated a tremendous amount of uncritical television coverage:
Trump’s climate remarks also received wall-to-wall coverage on cable news, although unlike the broadcast networks’ reports, several of the cable segments did feature pushback on the notion that Trump had actually changed his position on the issue.
Trump’s climate comments were uncritically covered on several CNN programs, including New Day, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. And on the November 27 edition of Inside Politics, host John King and senior political reporter Manu Raju agreed that Trump’s climate remarks were a “big deal.” Some of these programs included speculation about whether Trump truly meant what he said to the Times or whether it was a negotiating ploy, but none mentioned any specific steps Trump has taken since the election that undermine claims that he has reversed course on climate change.
By contrast, several other CNN programs included pushback on the notion that Trump had “softened” or “reversed” his position on climate change. For instance, on the November 23 edition of Erin Burnett Outfront, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein cited Trump’s plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan as evidence that although Trump is “signaling a different tone” on climate change, “when you get into the guts of the policy, he is going in the same direction”:
Similarly, in an interview with NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer on the November 27 edition of Fareed Zakaria GPS, host Zakaria noted that despite his comments to the Times, Trump “still has a leading climate change denier [Myron Ebell] as the head of his EPA transition, [and] his actions and contradictory words have climate change activists concerned.” Zakaria added that Trump “does say he's going to reverse a lot of these executive actions that Obama has taken, whether it's on coal-fired plants or vehicle emissions.”
A couple of CNN guests also challenged the premise that Trump had shifted his stance on climate change. On the November 22 edition of CNN’s Wolf, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said of Trump’s climate remarks to the Times, “The real test is who is he appointing and what will his policies be.” And on the November 23 edition of CNN’s At This Hour, Michael Needham of Heritage Action for America (the sister organization of the fossil fuel industry-funded Heritage Foundation), pointed to other remarks Trump made to the Times in order to dispute the idea that Trump had accepted that climate change is “settled science.” Needham stated:
I read the actual transcript of this thing. If you look at what [Trump] says on climate change, it's pretty much what we would have said at Heritage. He said there are questions that need to be looked at, there's research on both sides of the issue, this is not settled science the way some people on the left want to say.
Finally, all of the prime-time MSNBC shows that featured substantial discussions of Trump’s climate remarks included proper context. For instance, on the December 2 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Hayes explained that incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus had “clarif[ied]” that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is “that most of it is a bunch of bunk.” Hayes also explained that a senior Trump adviser had indicated that “NASA would be limited to exploring other planets rather than providing satellite information and data about what’s happening on the only planet we currently inhabit”:
Similarly, on the November 30 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews aired a clip of Priebus confirming that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” And on the November 22 edition of MTP Daily, guest host Andrea Mitchell pointed out that Trump “appointed somebody from a very conservative, climate-denying, Koch-sponsored organization, policy institute, to lead the transition on energy and climate issues,” although Mitchell nonetheless maintained that Trump’s statement that he is now open to the Paris climate agreement was “a very big signal internationally.”
ABC, NBC, CBS Show “How A Fake News Story Can Lead To A Real Life-Threatening Situation"
Nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC examined “how a fake news story can lead to real world consequences” in their reports on a shooting incident at Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, DC, pizzeria.
Accused shooter Edgar Welch entered the pizzeria on December 4 with an AR-15 assault rifle, fired at least one round into the floor, and told authorities he was there to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory that dozens of prominent liberals are complicit in an international child sex trafficking ring, because emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta referenced “pizza.”
While conservative media outlets have typically downplayed fake news stories calling them “silly” and “nonsense,” broadcast nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, and ABC reported how fake news can have dangerous consequences.
NBC correspondent Tom Costello reported on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that “the Pizzagate conspiracy began with the Clinton WikiLeaks and an email stolen from campaign chief John Podesta about a fundraiser involving the restaurant.” Costello noted that 4chan users “suggested without any proof whatsoever that the word ‘pizza’ was code for ‘child sex trafficking’ at the restaurant,” and from there the malicious rumor spread “to Reddit and YouTube, feeding fake online news stories, then jumping to Facebook and Twitter.” Even though “both DC police and federal agents say the story is false,” Costello added that “discredited rumors about sex trafficking” targeting Democrats are “even shared by President-Elect Trump’s choice for national security adviser, General Michael T. Flynn.”:
On CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, Chip Reid took apart the “fictitious online conspiracy theory” started by “right-wing sites that make up fake news” alleging Clinton and her associates were involved in a pedophile ring. Host Scott Pelley noted that the shooter gave up when he “found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant,” as the lies on the internet baselessly alleged:
ABC senior justice correspondent Pierre Thomas highlighted the “egregious and deliberate lie” that is the Pizzagate conspiracy on ABC World News Tonight with Scott Pelley. Thomas reported that the suspect “aimed a rifle at an employee and fired a round into the floor” because he decided to “self-investigate” the “utterly false story about child abuse” at Comet Ping Pong. Thomas further reported that “employees have been besieged by death threats” since the right-wing lie gained traction online, “shows how a fake news story can lead to a real life-threatening situation”:
Media allowed President-elect Donald Trump to, once again, take over the news narrative with his Twitter activity -- this time with a series of vague tweets in which he claimed he would be leaving his business to avoid conflicts of interest. The announcement, however, provides no details about what will become of his business holdings and distracts from news that highlights the degree to which those holdings are ripe for future conflicts.
In a series of tweets on November 30, Trump announced that he will be “holding a major news conference” on December 15 to discuss his plans for “leaving” his “great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country.” Trump added that while he is “not mandated” to “do this under any law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”
As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake pointed out, “The only real news in those Trump tweets is that he’ll actually be doing a press conference,” given that Trump has already said that he would hand off management of his businesses to his children. The tweets included no new information on how Trump’s business dealings would be handled after he, allegedly, leaves them behind. But that reality didn’t stop media from making a story out of the tweets and leading with it.
The Associated Press:
The tweets do nothing to squash mounting concerns over the conflicts of interest Trump could face as president, and it’s unclear whether his promised response would address these conflicts. Shortly after the election, a Trump Organization spokesperson told CNN that Trump was planning to transfer “‘management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump,’” his children. But as ethics experts explained to Politico, “installing Trump’s adult children as caretakers doesn’t eliminate conflict questions, since he’d still know what his interests were, and he’d presumably still be in contact with his children.”
With his tweetstorm, Trump also continued his pattern of hijacking the media narrative when it suits him. In this case, Trump’s tweets give media outlets an excuse to downplay or ignore reports about the “ethical concerns” raised after the Kingdom of Bahrain reserved space in Trump’s D.C. hotel. Trump also used his tweets to continue to disseminate information on his own terms, which in the past has allowed him to avoid hard interviews and limit his press conferences.
Media are falling into Trump’s trap again by giving his tweets the front-page treatment.
MSNBC Only Outlet To Vet Ryan's Scheme To Gut The Social Safety Net
Weekday evening programming on the largest cable and broadcast news outlets almost completely ignored a long-standing Medicare privatization scheme favored by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the days since he first resurrected the idea of radically reshaping the American health care system toward for-profit interests.
During a November 10 interview with Fox News host Bret Baier, Ryan misleadingly claimed that due to mounting “fiscal pressures” created by the Affordable Care Act, the Republican-led Congress would be forced to engage with what Baier called “entitlement reform” sometime next year. Ryan falsely claimed that “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke” and that the popular health insurance system for American seniors will have to be changed as part of any legislation to “repeal and replace” President Obama’s health care reform legacy. From Special Report with Bret Baier:
According to a Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable evening news coverage from November 10 to November 27, Ryan’s plan to privatize the nationwide, single-payer health care coverage currently enjoyed by millions of seniors has gone unmentioned on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News. Ryan’s so-called “premium support” plan was briefly mentioned on the November 22 edition of PBS NewsHour when co-host Judy Woodruff pressed President-elect Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, as to whether Trump would accept Ryan’s privatization proposal. By comparison, during the same time period, MSNBC ran six prime-time segments exposing Ryan’s privatization agenda:
According to a July 19 issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation, conservative lawmakers are likely to pursue “a proposal to gradually transform Medicare into a system of premium supports, building on proposals” adopted by Ryan when he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee. These so-called “premium supports” would provide each Medicare beneficiary with a “voucher” that can be used for the purchase of private health insurance; they represent “a significant change from the current system” that pays health care providers directly for services rendered.
In essence, Ryan’s plan would privatize Medicare and redirect hundreds of billions of tax dollars that currently go to doctors, hospitals, and other medical service providers through the costly private health insurance market.
This startling scheme bears similarities to a failed 2005 attempt by the Bush administration to partially privatize Social Security. Democratic members of Congress are already aligning themselves against Ryan’s throwback plan to gut Medicare, and it’s not actually clear if Trump is supportive of the initiative, which he refused to fully endorse on the campaign trail.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) pointed out last July, claims that Medicare is “nearing ‘bankruptcy’ are highly misleading,” and Ryan’s specific charge that Medicare is “broke” because of the ACA is completely wrong. President Obama’s health care reform law greatly improved Medicare’s long-term finances and extended the hospital insurance trust fund’s solvency by 11 years.
The looming fight over the future of Medicare, which serves over 55 million beneficiaries and accounted for 15 percent of the entire federal budget in 2015, has been well-documented, but it has garnered almost no attention on major television news programs.
Millions of Americans who rely on broadcast and cable evening news are completely unaware of the stakes in this health care policy fight. They are also unaware that Ryan’s privatization scheme would leave millions of retirees at the whims of the same private insurance market that right-wing media are currently attacking because of increased rates.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of weekday network broadcast evening news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS and weekday prime-time news programming (defined as 8 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from November 10, 2016, through November 27, 2016. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any mention of “Medicare.”
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The broadcast networks’ flagship evening news programs failed to inform their viewers about the inherent conflicts of interest a potential Donald Trump presidency would bring in the months leading up to Election Day, and have not given the subject the urgency it deserves in the wake of his election, according to a Media Matters review.
Between September 14 and Election Day, the networks only aired approximately seven minutes of stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest. In the week after the election, they aired approximately 14 minutes -- but only half of that explicitly called the issues “conflicts.”
Trump has said throughout his campaign and following his election that he intends for his children to run his business empire while he is president. But on September 14, Newsweek reported that if Trump and his family don’t cut ties to the family’s business conglomerate, Trump would “be the most conflicted president in American history, one whose business interests will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” due to the Trump Organization’s relationships and financial entanglements with foreign interests.” Responding to that story, Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told Media Matters that the only way to avoid serious conflicts of interest would be for Trump and his family to sell all of their holdings in the Trump Organization. Painter also stressed that the issue was a “serious problem” that warrants increased media attention.
Painter sounded some of the earliest alarms about Trump’s conflicts. Speaking with Mother Jones in June, he explained that the idea of a sitting president holding any debt owed to an entity that the government regulates should disturb the public: “[H]aving a president who owes a lot of money to banks, particularly when it's on negotiable terms -- it puts them at the mercy of the banks and the banks are at the mercy of regulators.”
The flood of potential and actual conflicts of interest have been made manifest following Trump’s election. A Washington Post investigation recently revealed a sprawling, globe-trotting Trump empire, showing that the president-elect’s real estate, management, and branding companies have business interests in at least 18 countries or territories. The Post also reported over the weekend that foreign diplomats had flocked to an event at the Trump International Hotel, located just a few blocks from the White House, seeking “to curry favor or access with the next president.”
The New York Times reported that developers of Trump Towers Pune, located in Pune, India, flew to New York last week to meet with the Trumps during the president-elect’s initial stages of his transition to the White House. Pranav R. Bhakta, a consultant who helped Trump establish a foothold in the Indian market five years ago, told the Times, “To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ -- it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”
These recent events should have come as no surprise, yet the network news hardly mentioned the conflicts of interest inherent in Trump’s global business ties before or after the election.
Media Matters looked at ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir, CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, and NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt for reports on Trump’s conflicts of interest -- including the Trump Organization’s ties to foreign governments or businesses, Trump promoting his own businesses through the presidency, plans for Trump’s children taking over the Trump Organization through a “blind” trust or attempting to access security clearances, and Trump’s children using their access to the president-elect to promote their own businesses -- starting from Newsweek’s September 14 article.
From then until Election Day, the networks spent approximately seven minutes on stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest. NBC aired a three-minute segment, and ABC aired a three-and-a-half-minute segment. Both were about Trump using his campaign to promote his own businesses; however, neither explicitly pointed to potential upcoming conflicts of interest should Trump win the election. NBC briefly mentioned the Newsweek report in a segment about corruption in the Trump Foundation, and the night before the election, the network again briefly mentioned the conflict of interest of Trump’s business ties for about eight seconds.
In the week after the election, the networks have devoted more coverage to these conflicts of interest, but it hasn’t been enough. From November 9 to 16, the networks spent approximately 14 minutes on stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest, but only half of those explicitly called them conflicts. They spent a total of about seven minutes on Trump’s foreign business ties, six minutes on Trump’s children helping with the president-elect’s transition or vying for security clearances, and two minutes on Ivanka Trump using a photo of herself in Trump’s recent 60 Minutes interview to sell a bracelet that retails for over $10,000.
Media Matters searched news transcripts from the Nexis database for mentions of any variations of “conflict,” “corrupt,” “organization,” “trust,” “business,” “interest,” “cabinet,” “transition,” or “divest” within the same paragraph as “Trump” for ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir, CBS’ Evening News with Scott Pelley, and NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt from September 14 through November 16. We reviewed video to determine length of coverage.
Sunday morning political shows barely addressed -- or completely ignored -- the recent settlement in the class-action fraud lawsuit against Trump University and President-elect Donald Trump. In doing so, these outlets are continuing a pattern by broadcast and cable news of ignoring important revelations about Trump’s business and charitable practices.
On November 18, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the class-action fraud lawsuit against the now-defunct Trump University in which the defendants alleged, according to the Los Angeles Times, that Trump “defrauded customers into thinking they would learn real estate secrets from professors he had ‘handpicked.’ The students said they learned little and instead were subjected to hard-sell tactics urging them to spend thousands of dollars on classes.”
As NBC reported, “The settlement likely means that Trump will avoid becoming possibly the first sitting president to testify in open court.” The New York Times called the settlement “a remarkable concession” for Trump, “who derides legal settlements and has mocked fellow businessmen who agree to them.” The Times also pointed out that the settlement is a “significant reversal from Mr. Trump, who had steadfastly rejected the allegations and vowed to fight the lawsuits,” and that he “doubled down” on that response when “political opponents pressed him on the claims during the campaign, saying he would eventually reopen Trump University.”
Despite the unusual nature of a president-elect settling a multimillion-dollar fraud lawsuit, the November 20 editions of the Sunday morning political talk shows -- including ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press -- barely covered the settlement. Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday did not mention the settlement at all, while This Week, State of the Union, and Meet the Press spent a combined total of merely four minutes and eight seconds on the news.
Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream for mentions of Trump University or Trump U. on the November 20 editions of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press. Mentions were coded and timed for length on Snapstream.
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Mainstream and conservative media figures are echoing House Speaker Paul Ryan’s assertion that President-elect Donald Trump has “earned a mandate” with his electoral victory. But Trump appears to have lost the popular vote, and he is the first presidential candidate to win the office without winning a majority of the votes since 2000.