New York Times

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  • NY Times Reports Steve Bannon Holds Theory Of “Genetic Superiority” While Headline Calls Him “Combative, Populist”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Bannon

    A New York Times profile of incoming Trump chief counselor Stephen Bannon is headlined “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man In Donald Trump,” but the most noteworthy bit of information about Bannon is not referenced in the headline.

    Bannon served as CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and led Breitbart.com before leaving to join Trump. As Media Matters and others have reported, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart became a haven for the white nationalist “alt-right” movement.

    The Times reports in the piece that one of Bannon’s former colleagues said he “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.” The colleague said he told Bannon that such a law would exclude a lot of African-American voters, and he said Bannon responded, "Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.” (The piece also quotes the former colleague in question saying, “Steve’s not a racist … he’s using the alt-right -- using them for power.”)

    This revelation is made in the second half of the piece, and the headline gives no indication that it is in the story.

    The story also discusses Bannon’s history of racially divisive advocacy at Breitbart, as well as that site’s anti-Muslim stance during his time managing its editorial tone and posture. The Times notes, “Breitbart.com’s scorn for Muslims, immigrants and black activists drew a fervent following on the alt-right, an extremist fringe of message boards and online magazines popular with white supremacists, and after Mr. Bannon took control of the website in 2012, he built a raucous coalition of the discontented.”

    Despite the information contained in the story, the headline considerably downplays the subject’s controversial past and present in favor of a generic description.

  • Pundits Who Question The Timing Of Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump Are Just Stigmatizing The Victims

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    Several right-wing media figures are lending credence to attempts by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign and surrogates to undermine accusations from a growing number of women that the candidate sexually assaulted them by calling into question the timing of the stories. Some right-wing media figures are calling the timing “fishy” and saying that “it’s good to be skeptical,” but the reports all explain the timing: Trump’s denial at the second presidential debate that he had committed sexual assault was the catalyst for the women to come forward. The Trump campaign’s false timing talking point also ignores the many valid reasons women don’t report sexual assault.

    On October 12, three newspapers published accounts from four women who say Trump sexually assaulted them The New York Times told the stories of two women who say Trump “touched them inappropriately,” one of them reporting that he groped her on a plane, and the other saying he kissed her without her consent. A People magazine writer recounted Trump “pushing [her] against the wall and forcing his tongue down [her] throat.” And a fourth woman told The Palm Beach Post that she was “groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago.”

    These reports came just days after Trump, during the October 9 presidential debate told CNN’s Anderson Cooper “No, I have not” assaulted women as he described in a recently released 2005 Access Hollywood video. In the video, Trump bragged about kissing and grabbing women and said, “I don’t even wait. … When you’re a star, they let you do anything.”

    Trump’s campaign has denied the accusations, calling the Times report a “coordinated character assassination” and claiming that to “reach back decades in an attempt to smear Mr. Trump trivializes sexual assault.” Numerous right-wing media figures are helping to carry water for these claims. On the October 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump surrogate Ben Carson, “You’re wondering why now, the timing?” and Carson claimed, “There's an atmosphere that's been created by The New York Times and others that says, look, if you’re willing to come out and say something, we'll give you fame, we'll give you whatever you need.” CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager who is still a campaign adviser, also questioned the timing of the reports, saying, “What I do find very interesting is the timing of this. … They wait until 25 days before an election to bring out an incident.”

    Other right-wing media figures and outlets have picked up this line as well. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough argued that “it’s good to be skeptical when you have stories that are 30 years old that come out days before an election.” He added that, while he’s “not skeptical of the stories,” “if this had happened to me 30 years ago, I would say, ‘This would be a really good time for me to come forward.’ Right? Right? Instead of now.” Fox’s Howard Kurtz said, “I think it’s fair to question why is this coming out now. ... It does sort of raise questions about the timing.” The right-wing blog HotAir asked, “Are we simply going to ignore the awfully convenient timing of this batch of accusations in defiance of reason and the normal rules of engagement in political warfare?” And Townhall’s Matt Vespa wrote that the timing of the reports “sounds like a coordinated effort by the Democrat-media complex,” adding that “there’s something incredibly fishy about all of these incidents coming out now as opposed to over a year ago” during the primaries or after the Republican National Convention when Trump’s campaign was struggling.

    This defense of Trump reflects tactics used to defend former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- who is currently advising Trump -- after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Carlson alleged that she was fired from Fox “because she refused to sleep with” Ailes. Defenders of Ailes attacked Carlson’s account by suggesting it was suspicious that her allegations came after she was terminated.

    All of the reports giving voices to Trump’s accusers explained that the Access Hollywood video and Trump’s denial at the presidential debate were the trigger for the women coming forward. According to the Times, a friend of one of the women, Jessica Leeds, “encouraged her to tell her story to the news media. Ms. Leeds had resisted until Sunday’s debate, which she watched with Ms. Ross.” And People’s Natasha Stoynoff explained in her personal account why she did not come forward at the time and hasn’t spoken publicly until now:

    But, like many women, I was ashamed and blamed myself for his transgression. I minimized it (“It’s not like he raped me…”); I doubted my recollection and my reaction. I was afraid that a famous, powerful, wealthy man could and would discredit and destroy me, especially if I got his coveted PEOPLE feature killed

    [...]

    Now he’s running for president of our country. The other day, I listened to him talk about how he treats women on the Access Hollywood tape. I felt a strong mix of emotions, but shock wasn’t one of them.

    I was relieved. I finally understood for sure that I was not to blame for his inappropriate behavior. I had not been singled out. As he explained to Billy Bush, it was his usual modus operandi with women. I felt deep regret for not speaking out at the time. What if he had done worse to other female reporters at the magazine since then because I hadn’t warned them?

    And lastly, I felt violated and muzzled all over again.

    During the presidential debate, Donald Trump lied about kissing women without their consent. I should know. His actions made me feel bad for a very long time.

    They still do.

    CNN’s New Day modeled how media must reject Trump’s defense -- which is based on disparaging the victims’ characters -- while reporting on these stories: The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich pointed out that the women who came forward all explained that Trump’s debate answer motivated them to do so, and co-host Alisyn Camerota noted that women often do not report sexual assault because they are “embarrassed and humiliated.”

    CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): Jackie, the big pushback from the campaign thus far -- other than we're going to sue, this is all a lie -- is why now? Why did they wait so long to come forward? Conveniently timed to hurt our campaign here towards the end of the election. What do you make of that?

    JACKIE KUCINICH: Well, in the New York Times story, what these women said was that after they heard Donald Trump make that denial during the debate is when they felt like they were compelled to come forward. So, that seems to be the answer to that question. And, if women were calling different news outlets, there's a story in The Palm Beach Post, there’s the People magazine story. Once you’re seeing that, it does seem to be triggered by what Donald Trump said in the debate.

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): And there’s another reason, and that is that women are afraid to come forward -- not afraid, women are embarrassed, women are humiliated. This is an experience that you do not relish ever telling in public and that is what this same entertainment reporter from People magazine writes about.

  • New Allegations Of Sexual Assault Against Donald Trump Undermine Right-Wing Media Spin Of “Hot Mic” Comments

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    A New York Times report profiling two more women who are accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault once again seems to contradict the Trump campaign, their surrogates, and supporters in the media who have excused as “just words” 2005 comments made by the Republican nominee bragging about sexual assault.

    After NBC released a tape of Trump gloating about “grabbing” a woman and being able to “do anything,” the candidate dismissed his remarks as “locker room talk.” In the days following, numerous right-wing media figures echoed the candidate’s excuse -- claiming there is a big difference between words and actions -- in an apparent attempt to bolster Trump’s assertion that he had never committed the sexual assault he boasted about.

    The October 12 report seemingly contradicts Trump’s explanation, as two women said the candidate “touched them inappropriately.” One woman claimed that on a plane in adjoining first class seats, Trump “grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt,” while a second woman, a 22-year old receptionist at the time, alleged that outside a Trump Tower elevator, after encountering the nominee “They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.” In a separate October 12 Palm Beach Post report, a third woman said she was “groped” by Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort 13 years ago. The Trump campaign denied the Times report, calling it “fiction.” From the October 12 New York Times report

    Donald J. Trump was emphatic in the second presidential debate: Yes, he had boasted about kissing women without permission and grabbing their genitals. But he had never actually done those things, he said.

    “No,” he declared under questioning on Sunday evening, “I have not.”

    At that moment, sitting at home in Manhattan, Jessica Leeds, 74, felt he was lying to her face. “I wanted to punch the screen,” she said in an interview in her apartment.

    More than three decades ago, when she was a traveling businesswoman at a paper company, Ms. Leeds said, she sat beside Mr. Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York. They had never met before.

    About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her.

    According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.

    [...]

    In a phone interview on Tuesday night, a highly agitated Mr. Trump denied every one of the women’s claims.

    “None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at The Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.

    “You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.

    Asked whether he had ever done any of the kissing or groping that he had described on the recording, Mr. Trump was once again insistent: “I don’t do it. I don’t do it. It was locker room talk.”

    Echoing Trump’s talking point about the 2005 tape, Fox News hosts have repeatedly defended the Republican presidential nominee by downplaying his comment as “just words.” Fox’s Bill O’Reilly dismissed Trump’s admission of sexual assault as “guy talk,” while Fox News host Jeanine Pirro called Trump’s comments “locker room talk” and “frat house language.” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said those upset by Trump’s comments are “acting like a bunch of prudes” because Trump is “not the only person to eve speak this way” and Fox’s Howard Kurtz called the media’s response “manufactured outrage.”

    Trump and his campaign have denied the new allegations and have reportedly threatened to sue the Times for publishing their story about the new sexual assault accusations.

  • The Trump Birther Headlines Problem

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Scanning media headlines after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statement about his racist birther crusade, one could reasonably come away thinking Trump had fully renounced and apologized for his years-long offensive campaign to delegitimize President Barack Obama. That was not the case -- Trump did not apologize and in fact blatantly lied in his 26-second remarks -- but media’s collective failure to accurately describe the event in their headlines may have left readers thinking Trump shut the door on his birtherism.

    After building “suspense” that he was going to definitively address his racist accusations that President Obama was not born in the United States, Trump used his “circus” of an event to briefly say that “President Obama was born in the United States. Period" and to falsely accuse “‘Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008” of starting “the birther controversy.” Trump also erroneously claimed he had “finished” the controversy by forcing President Obama to release his birth certificate.

    Online and print headlines largely failed to contextualize the event or note Trump’s lie about Clinton:

    The New York Times:

    CNN:

    The Hill:

    The Los Angeles Times:

    The Associated Press:

    The New York Times did eventually change its headline to: “Trump Drops False ‘Birther’ Theory, but Floats a New One: Clinton Started It.”

    Though the original headlines are not technically incorrect, the lack of context -- Trump’s brief comments after taking the media for a ride, his outright lie about Clinton starting birther rumors, and his false assertion that he had “finished” the birther controversy -- likely misled readers.

    Conversely, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post got it right:

    As former senior adviser to President Obama and current CNN contributor Dan Pfeiffer noted:

    The Washington Post’s David Weigel wrote in a September 15 column that Trump, whom he called “the chyron candidate,” has “never failed to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron,” and that although most reporters make key distinctions and include crucial context “in the body of their stories,” context is often “elided” in “headlines or tweets.” Weigel pointed to the issue of the candidates’ disclosures of their medical information as an example:

    That matters. If, like many people, you only glance at the news (yes, we know how long readers spend finishing articles), you come away with the impression that Trump is trading Clinton blow for blow and white paper for white paper. If either candidate released their entire medical history, or Trump revealed his entire tax returns, only a handful of voters might even read them. They'd depend on the press to find the story and the lede. Most coverage of campaigns needs to be shrunk to fit a chyron, anyway; Trump's innovation has been to preshrink the news.

    Headlines matter in a Twitter-driven, fast-paced media landscape. Offering crucial details in articles -- but not in headlines -- may not be enough anymore, particularly in the age of Trump.

  • The New York Times Proves "False Balance" Is Ruining Good Campaign Coverage

    Why Treating Every Campaign Controversy Equally Is A Recipe For Bad Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    The New York Times’ public editor defended the paper’s coverage of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton from criticism by arguing journalists should try to treat controversies involving Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump equally. It’s a defense that highlights the real danger posed by “false balance” in campaign journalism during the 2016 election.

    In a September 10 piece titled “The Truth About ‘False Balance,’” New York Times public editor Liz Spayd defended her paper’s extensive reporting on the controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Critics say the Times’ coverage has hyped minor scandals and contributed to a perception that Clinton and Trump are equally flawed candidates. That coverage, critics argue, perpetuates a “false balance” that fails to reflect the uniquely dangerous and divisive nature of Trump's campaign.

    In her response, Spayd accused critics of trying to force newspapers to insert “moral and ideological judgments” into their campaign coverage, warning of a “slippery slope” if journalists are asked to decide which campaign controversies are worth prioritizing:

    The problem with false balance doctrine is that it masquerades as rational thinking. What the critics really want is for journalists to apply their own moral and ideological judgments to the candidates. Take one example. Suppose journalists deem Clinton’s use of private email servers a minor offense compared with Trump inciting Russia to influence an American election by hacking into computers — remember that? Is the next step for a paternalistic media to barely cover Clinton’s email so that the public isn’t confused about what’s more important? Should her email saga be covered at all? It’s a slippery slope. [emphasis added]

    The problem with Spayd’s argument is that one of the basic functions of a newsroom is to make judgment calls about which stories deserve attention and which don’t.

    When a local TV station interrupts a weather report to cover a deadly terrorist attack, it’s making a judgment about which story should be more important to the public. When a newspaper puts a major oil spill on the front page rather than a story about a low-level crime, it’s making a similar judgment.

    Conversely, if CNN spent the same amount of time covering a celebrity’s stint in rehab as it did on a terrorist attack, it would be rightly mocked. Not because the celebrity rehab story isn’t true, but because one story obviously deserves more attention than the other.

    Those types of editorial decisions don’t create a “slippery slope” -- they define the actions of respectable news sources. Even the Times’ masthead -- “All The News That’s Fit To Print” -- asks the reader to trust the paper’s editorial judgment when deciding what news qualifies as “fit to print.”

    Every journalist in every newsroom in America already makes those decisions. They’re not machines, and they’re not blank slates. Part of their job is exercising their judgment to figure out which stories are worth telling, and how to tell them.

    But Spayd’s argument suggests that journalists should withhold judgment and pretend voters should fixate just as much on emails as they do on mass deportations, or a Muslim ban, or any of the dozens of other unprecedented controversies that would have ended a normal candidate’s campaign but haven’t derailed Trump.

    Spayd suggests that critics of “false balance” are likely liberals hoping to pass off “partisan” judgments as objective facts:

    I can’t help wondering about the ideological motives of those crying false balance, given that they are using the argument mostly in support of liberal causes and candidates. CNN’s Brian Stelter focused his show, “Reliable Sources,” on this subject last weekend. He asked a guest, Jacob Weisberg of Slate magazine, to frame the idea of false balance. Weisberg used an analogy, saying journalists are accustomed to covering candidates who may be apples and oranges, but at least are still both fruits. In Trump, he said, we have not fruit but rancid meat. That sounds like a partisan’s explanation passed off as a factual judgment.

    That Spayd can’t bring herself to admit that Trump and Clinton are categorically different, that Trump is a uniquely dangerous and unqualified candidate, should make any reader wary of the Times’ coverage.

    Listing all of the reasons that Trump deserves to be treated differently -- his ties to white nationalists, his ties to Russia, his calls for an unconstitutional Muslim ban, his racist attacks on Mexican immigrants -- feels silly at this point. The differences between the two candidates are not merely “partisan,” which is why so many high-profile Republicans have come out against their party’s candidate.

    Spayd acknowledges that Trump’s behavior has led many Republicans to reject Trump, but she claims that “If Trump is unequivocally more flawed than his opponent, that should be plenty evident to the voting public come November. But it should be evident from the kinds of facts that bold and dogged reporting unearths, not from journalists being encouraged to impose their own values to tip the scale.”

    This argument ignores how the editorial judgments that journalists make help shape how the voting public weighs those facts and reports. If the Times publishes 16 front page articles on the Clinton Foundation before it gets around to reporting on the Trump Foundation, readers will be left with the impression that the former is more important, no matter how damning the latter story may be.

    Spayd points to the fact that neither candidate is well-liked or trusted, arguing that “if ever there was a time to shine light in all directions, this is it.” It’s a bizarrely self-fulfilling argument. Breathless media coverage about Clinton’s email server and ties to the Clinton Foundation have undoubtedly contributed to voters’ perceptions that Clinton isn’t trustworthy. But Spayd cites that perception to justify yet more breathless media coverage of those controversies, even as she acknowledges it was “not good journalism” when some of the paper’s reports have “revealed relatively little bad behavior, yet were written as if they did.”

    But the more important point is that voters’ biases or perceptions of the candidates shouldn’t dictate what stories news organizations prioritize. If voters are equally suspicious of both candidates, but one is dramatically more dangerous or untrustworthy than the other, good editorial judgment should challenge that suspicion, not merely echo it.

    The truth is no candidate, Clinton or otherwise, can run a campaign without controversies. Journalists will always be able to find a gaffe on which to fixate. But not all campaign controversies are created equally. Part of a journalist’s job is to help readers cut through the noise of a presidential campaign and focus on what really matters.

    And that’s the real problem with Spayd’s argument: Refusing to treat campaign stories differently is a judgment call. It communicates to readers that Clinton’s email server is as shocking and newsworthy as, for example, Trump’s pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country.

    It’s not.

    And any newspaper that’s afraid to make that judgment call -- that’s afraid of telling readers what’s really at stake in November -- is shirking one of the most basic and important functions of a free press during election season.

  • Trump Just Finished Speaking At A Hate Group Conference; Why Didn’t Top Papers Take Heed?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    On September 9, Donald Trump addressed the 11th Values Voter Summit hosted by the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Trump’s appearance marks the first time that a Republican presidential nominee has addressed the summit since it began in 2006. In the lead up to the event, the top five highest circulated newspapers in the U.S. failed to cover the fact that a major party presidential candidate was addressing a crowd at a conference hosted by a hate group.

    The Values Voter Summit (VVS) is an annual event hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated as an anti-LGBT “hate group” due to its known propagation of extreme falsehoods about LGBT people. FRC’s leader, Tony Perkins, has his own history of making inflammatory comments, such as calling pedophilia a "homosexual problem," equating being gay with drug use and adultery, accusing gay people of trying to "recruit" children, and comparing gay rights advocates to terrorists.

    Over the last year, Perkins and Trump have developed a cozy relationship, which ultimately led to Perkins’ official endorsement of Trump in June. Previously, Perkins had backed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the GOP primaries until his withdrawal from the race in early May. In August, Perkins announced that Trump would speak at the 2016 Values Voters Summit. Perkins has been outspoken about his belief that he can shape and mold Trump’s ideologies to become more in line with FRC’s extremism. 

    Newspapers Ignore Anti-LGBT Hate Group’s Role In Supporting Trump’s Candidacy

    Prior to September 9, in the lead up to VVS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today -- the top five highest circulated U.S. newspapers -- failed to cover that a presidential candidate was preparing to speak at a conference hosted by a hate group, alongside many anti-LGBT extremist leaders. In articles published on the morning of Trump’s address, The New York Times and The Washington Post finally reported that Trump was scheduled to speak at VVS later in the day, but omitted FRC’s anti-LGBT hate group designation. Both outlets previously connected Trump’s campaign to white supremacist hate groups and the alt-right, but they have downplayed the influence of anti-LGBT extremism in this election.

     From a September 9 New York Times article:

    Donald J. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will address the Values Voter Summit in Washington, which starts on Friday, putting the Republican presidential ticket in front of one of the largest audiences of social conservatives in the 2016 campaign.

    Mr. Pence, who will speak on Saturday, is a social conservative who was photographed leading Mr. Trump in prayer aboard the real-estate mogul’s plane soon after he joined the ticket. But while Mr. Trump performed relatively well with evangelical voters in the Republican primaries, he has only fleetingly addressed churchgoers since then. He has previously supported abortion rights and has spoken favorably of same-sex civil unions, two issues that are of concern to evangelical voters.

    From an article featured in The Washington Post on September 9:

    Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), one of the Republican congressional caucus's most unfiltered members, told a morning crowd at the annual Values Voter Summit that Hillary Clinton was "mentally impaired" thanks to a 2012 concussion and that the news media was not doing all it could to reveal this.

    […]

    At the Values Voter Summit, Gohmert didn't need to explain any of this. As the audience laughed along, Gohmert recounted a recent appearance on "Fox and Friends," where he tweaked the lyrics of a country song to "I can't remember/Hillary's brain's in a blender."

    This omission is part of a larger trend when covering anti-LGBT extremism. Previously, a Media Matters analysis found that The New York Times has repeatedly and consistently failed to appropriately label anti-LGBT hate groups as such or provide context on their history of extremism. However, the Times frequently used SPLC’s “hate group” designation when reporting on other extremist groups and ideologies, such as white supremacists. The Washington Post also mostly failed to identify anti-LGBT hate groups -- though, out of the total number of hate groups that it labeled as such, anti-LGBT groups were represented proportionally.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times in Nexis for coverage between July 1, 2016, through September 9, 2016, using the the search terms “Trump” AND “Values Voter Summit” OR “Family Research Council.” The same search was repeated for The Wall Street Journal in Factiva.

  • What Media Are Missing About Planned Parenthood And The Controversy Over Zika Funding

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 6, Congress again failed to approve a federal response to the Zika virus after Republicans included a legislative “poison pill” designed to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving funding. In spite of the essential role Planned Parenthood plays in Zika response and prevention, media framed the controversy as an example of Democratic obstruction. Here’s what the media are missing about the Zika funding controversy.

  • Confirmed: Fox News’ Sexual Harassment Investigation Was Just A PR Offensive

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Vanity Fair reported that the internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, launched after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Ailes, has concluded with a $20 million settlement and a public apology, but without examining “the broader culture of Fox News.” This “relatively swift closure to an ugly chapter,” as Vanity Fair put it, shows that the probe was little more than a pseudo-investigation. The magazine noted that in some ways, it "simply got a revenue machine back on track." And that confirms previous concerns about the impartiality of the investigation, which was handled by Fox News’ parent company.

    After Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit on July 6 against then-Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Fox’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, retained the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to lead an internal investigation into the claims.

    Some questioned the “firm's independence” and ability to investigate the allegations with impartiality. As The New York Times reported, describing the Paul, Weiss investigation “as an ‘independent’ review commissioned by the company’s board … is not correct” because “The firm was retained by 21st Century Fox not only to investigate but also to provide legal advice.” The Times noted that a “true independent review would preclude legal advice.”

    As the investigation proceeded behind closed doors, media outlets reported that the “harassment and intimidation” inside Fox News “went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.” New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Fox executives -- including Ailes deputy Bill Shine, who has since been promoted to co-president of Fox News -- were aware of Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment of Fox News employees and said some helped the former network chairman and CEO “cover up” his actions.

    But as news broke that Carlson and 21st Century Fox settled the suit, Vanity Fair reported that “the Paul, Weiss investigation … never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News.” According to Vanity Fair, Paul, Weiss “was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture.”

    The settlement punctuates an important chapter in the Ailes scandal. While the Paul, Weiss investigation interviewed more than 20 women, according to two sources familiar with the process, it never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News. The firm, according to numerous people familiar with the process, was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture. In some ways, according to one person familiar with the process, the Paul, Weiss investigation simply got a revenue machine back on track.

    As New Yorker contributing editor Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote: "“Unlike what reportedly happened around Ailes, neither an employee’s supervisor nor the person being accused of harassment should have any control over an investigation.”

    Given that Fox News has for years cultivated a toxic atmosphere of misogyny and sexism, and given reporting about the widespread culture of sexual harassment at the network that went beyond Ailes, Media Matters launched a petition calling on 21st Century Fox to publicly release the findings of the internal review. Though now those findings may be spurious, given the narrow scope of the investigation.

  • New York Times’ Widely Panned Review Of Trump’s Immigration-Focused Day Receives Heavy Edits After Publishing

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    The New York Times’ front page story on Donald Trump’s trip to Mexico and subsequent immigration speech was sharply denounced by reporters who said its positive tone did not match reality. Following the publication of the article and criticism from the press, the Times made numerous edits to the article.

    Following Trump’s widely criticized speech on immigration where he painted immigrants as murders, criminals running free, and “low-skilled workers with less education” taking jobs from citizens, the Times’ Patrick Healy published a glowing review of Trump’s “audacious attempt .. to remake his image on the divisive issue of immigration,” calling Trump’s trip to Mexico and subsequent speech a “spirited bid for undecided American voters to see him anew.” The original story read, in part:

    Donald J. Trump made an audacious attempt on Wednesday to remake his image on the divisive issue of immigration, shelving his plan to deport 11 million undocumented people and suggesting that the United States and Mexico would solve the immigration crisis together.

    In a spirited bid for undecided American voters to see him anew, Mr. Trump swept into Mexico City to make overtures to a nation he has repeatedly denigrated, then flew to Phoenix to outline his latest priorities on immigration — a stark turnaround from the “deportation force” and other severe tactics that helped win him the Republican nomination.

    […]

    On a more personal level, Mr. Trump also wanted to show undecided voters that he had the temperament and self-control of a statesman — qualities that many doubt he has — and also demonstrate that Americans did not need to worry every time he opened his mouth in a foreign country. He also hoped to show that he could acquit himself well on the world stage, something that is a clear strength of Mrs. Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator and first lady.

    After the article was published online, it was widely panned by reporters who said that its author had “apparently watched a completely different immigration speech” and produced a “systematic failure.”

    Following the criticism, heavy edits were made to the article without acknowledgment of the changes, including deleting the claim that the speech constituted a “sharp turnaround” from his previous rhetoric and added discussion of Trump’s failure to clarify his position on a variety of immigration-related issues. Additions included:

    Yet the juxtaposition of Mr. Trump’s dual performances was so jarring that his true vision and intentions on immigration were hard to discern. He displayed an almost unrecognizable demeanor during his afternoon in Mexico, appearing measured and diplomatic, while hours later he took the stage at his campaign rally and denounced illegal immigrants on the whole as a criminally minded and dangerous group that sows terror in communities and commits murders, rapes and other heinous violence.

    Mr. Trump also fervently tried to depict himself as an ally of average workers, saying their economic interests were far more important than the needs of undocumented workers. But he left unclear what would happen to those millions of illegal immigrants, saying only that “the appropriate disposition of those individuals” will take place at some future date after the criminals are deported and his border wall is built.

    By contrast, a Times editorial published online the same day criticized Trump’s speech and immigration proposals as “empty words strung together and repeated,” “brutally simple,” and “reverie of immigrant-fearing, police state bluster”:

    It’s ridiculous that Donald Trump’s immigration proposals — not so much a policy as empty words strung together and repeated — should have propelled him as far as they have. This confounding situation hit peak absurdity on Wednesday.

    It started with Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, in Mexico City. It was surreal because Mr. Trump has spent his entire campaign painting Mexico as a nation of rapists, drug smugglers and trade hustlers who would have to pay for the 2,000-mile border wall that Mr. Trump was going to build. But instead of chastising Mr. Trump, Mr. Peña Nieto treated him like a visiting head of state at a news conference, with side-by-side lecterns and words of deferential mush.

    […]

    In a strident speech given over a steady roar of cheers, he restated his brutally simple message: Criminal aliens were roaming our streets by the millions, killing Americans and stealing our jobs, and he’d kick them all out with a new “deportation force,” build the wall and make America safe again.

    The speech was a reverie of immigrant-fearing, police-state bluster, with Mr. Trump gushing about building “an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall,” assailing “media elites” and listing his various notions for thwarting evil foreigners. He said the immigration force might deport Hillary Clinton.

    UPDATE: On September 1, The New York Times’ public editor wrote a response to the criticism, admitting that “mistakes” were made, and recognizing that “many other major news sites managed to hit the mark.”

  • NY Times Editorial Board: Trump’s Claims Of A Rigged Election Are “Not Just Ludicrous, But Dangerous”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board criticized Republican nominee Donald Trump for peddling “ludicrous” and “dangerous” claims that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is “rigging this election,” writing that Trump’s insinuations “further demolish[] public confidence in the foundations of our government.”

    Trump has a long history of pushing widely debunked lies and conspiracy theories, many of which have been hyped by his allies. His current focus on claims of a “rigged election” tap into the long-standing right-wing voter fraud myths used to push discriminatory voter ID laws.

    The Times’ editorial board excoriated Trump for his “ludicrous” and “dangerous” claims, writing that he is “setting the stage for an upwelling of right-wing outrage, cuing up a crisis of electoral legitimacy” that will cause four to eight years of “catcalls and loathing” if Clinton wins. The board explained that while “Trump’s brain is a pincushion for conspiracy theories,” this assertion in particular could “further demolish[] public confidence in the foundations of our government”:

    Donald Trump is calling for volunteers to watch the polls in November, and he is making no bones about why.

    “Help me stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election!” says the application form on his campaign website.

    There are so many lies and delusions flowing daily from the Trump campaign that it’s easy to miss the times when the Republican nominee is being not just ludicrous, but dangerous. This is one.

    [...]

    He is accusing the government he wants to lead of being both victim and perpetrator of a vast conspiracy. And he is setting the stage for an upwelling of right-wing outrage, cuing up a crisis of electoral legitimacy. If Mrs. Clinton wins, get ready for at least four years, maybe eight, of the catcalls and loathing that plagued President Obama’s two terms.

    A more immediate concern is what happens on Nov. 8, when squads of Trump volunteers fan out to defend their candidate’s presumed victory. It does not seem far-fetched to expect that signatures will be pointlessly challenged and citizens intimidated and inconvenienced, that the ruckus of the Trump campaign will spread to polling places around the country.

    [...]

    Mr. Trump’s brain is a pincushion for conspiracy theories, so maybe it’s no surprise that he thinks the Clinton campaign will be sending African-Americans and foreigners into booths across the country to fake their votes over and over, millions of times.

    Now, more than ever, the country needs responsible political leaders and the courts to defend and expand voting rights, rather than sitting silently while Mr. Trump further demolishes public confidence in the foundations of our government.

  • NY Times’ Jim Rutenberg: Fox’s Hannity Acts Like A Trump “Adviser,” Ignores All Of “Journalism’s General Requirements”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times’ media columnist Jim Rutenberg wrote that while Sean Hannity uses his radio and television shows to “blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly” as he “veers into the role of adviser,” the last two weeks have shown signs of “the start of a possible reckoning within the conservative media” as others criticize Hannity for his Trump shilling.

    Hannity has repeatedly used his platforms on Fox News and talk radio to boost Trump by pushing the widely debunked claim that Donald Trump opposed the Iraq invasion before the war, repeating false conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health, and other assorted false claims. According to Rutenberg, Hannity is “work[ing] in the full service of his candidate without having to abide by journalism’s general requirements for substantiation and prohibitions against, say, regularly sharing advice with political campaigns.” Rutenberg reported that “Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging,” and that some in the Trump camp “believed Mr. Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration,” which Hannity denied.

    Rutenberg also explained that some other conservative media figures have turned to criticizing Hannity over his repeated falsehoods in support of Trump, with Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens lamenting that Hannity is contributing to a national debate that’s “divorced from reality.” Rutenberg also cited complaints from Wisconson talk radio host Charlie Sykes, who told Politico, “I feel dumber every time I listen to Sean Hannity. I don’t want to be that guy.”

    From Rutenberg’s August 21 column in The New York Times

    Mr. Hannity uses his show on the nation’s most-watched cable news network to blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly — giving Mr. Trump the kind of promotional television exposure even a billionaire can’t afford for long.

    But Mr. Hannity is not only Mr. Trump’s biggest media booster; he also veers into the role of adviser. Several people I’ve spoken with over the last couple of weeks said Mr. Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.

    So involved is Mr. Hannity that three separate denizens of the hall of mirrors that is Trump World told me they believed Mr. Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration — something he denied to me as laughable and contractually prohibitive in an interview on Friday.

    [...]

    Mr. Hannity is unapologetic about his aim. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he says, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”

    [...]

    Mr. Hannity’s show has all the trappings of traditional television news — the anchor desk, the graphics and the patina of authority that comes with being part of a news organization that also employs serious-minded journalists like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.

    But because Mr. Hannity is “not a journalist,” he apparently feels free to work in the full service of his candidate without having to abide by journalism’s general requirements for substantiation and prohibitions against, say, regularly sharing advice with political campaigns.

    [...]

    That’s the ultimate result of the hyperpoliticized approach Mr. Hannity and so many others use in today’s more stridently ideological media: A fact is dismissed as false when it doesn’t fit the preferred political narrative.

    But while this informational nihilism appears to have hit a new high, the last two weeks have signaled the start of a possible reckoning within the conservative media.

    First there was The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, who, after trading insults with Mr. Hannity over Mr. Trump, said on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” that “too much of the Republican Party became an echo chamber of itself.”

    Those who spend an inordinate amount of time “listening to certain cable shows” and inhaling the conspiracy theories promoted on “certain fringes of the internet,’’ he said, wind up in a debate that’s “divorced from reality.”

    Then there was the conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, who lamented in an interview with the Business Insider politics editor Oliver Darcy, “We have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media.”

    That criticism was often warranted, Mr. Sykes said. (Just take a look at the decision by the former Clinton White House aide and current ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos to give some $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, for which he apologized last year.) But, as Mr. Sykes said, “At a certain point, you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there.” Therefore any attempt to debunk a falsehood by Mr. Trump, he said, becomes hopeless.

    [...]

    Mr. Hannity told me his support for Mr. Trump makes him “more honest” than mainstream reporters who hide their biases. It turns out even “honesty” is a relative concept these days. For some people more than others.

  • Fox News Virtually Silent On NY Times Report Detailing Trump Campaign Chairman’s Ties To Pro-Russian Ukrainian Politicians

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    On August 15 between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m., Fox News offered virtually no coverage of the August 14 New York Times report that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort allegedly received “$12.7 million in undisclosed payments” from former Ukrainian President Viktor “Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012.” CNN has reported extensively on the story. National security experts and foreign affairs and national security journalists are calling the Times’ report “serious” and “staggering,” with one going so far as to say, “This article alone should finish the Trump campaign.”

  • Fox News Is Wrong: Trump Is A Terrorist Recruiting Tool

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News is attempting to downplay Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s remarks that President Obama is a founder of ISIS by likening them to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s comment that Trump “is being used to essentially be a recruiter” for terrorists. However, numerous national security experts have explained that Trump’s rhetoric is “the best thing the Islamic State has going for it” and Trump’s rhetoric has actually been featured in terrorist propaganda.