State Of The Union

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  • CNN Drops Disclosure Of Lewandowski’s Severance Package From Trump Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    CNN host Jake Tapper did not report that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is still being paid severance by Trump’s campaign while simultaneously receiving a salary as a CNN contributor, in Lewandowski’s first appearance since the network’s acknowledgment of the severance package drew criticism.

    CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and host Don Lemon disclosed in July 11 and July 12 segments that Lewandowski is “still receiving severance from the Trump campaign” while he is drawing a salary from the network as a CNN contributor to discuss the candidate on-air. Several media outlets criticized CNN after Media Matters drew attention to that new disclosure in a July 13 post.

    Though Lewandowski was hired by CNN on June 23, it appears the network did not report the severance arrangement for three weeks, which raised a series of ethical questions about the network’s awareness of arrangements between Lewandowski and Trump -- including a non-disclosure and possible non-disparagement agreement --   at the time of Lewandowski’s hiring.

    During the July 17 edition of CNN’s State of the Union -- Lewandowski’s first CNN appearance since the severance package was first disclosed -- host Jake Tapper introduced Lewandowski as “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager,” but did not note the severance package his colleagues reported just five days prior.

    It is unclear whether Lewandowski is still receiving severance from the Trump campaign, but after the severance package was first reported, CNN “did not explain why the new step is being taken,” according to the Associated Press.

    Media observers, including CNN’s own staff, have widely criticized the network over Lewandowski’s hiring, noting the various ethical conflicts surrounding Lewandowski’s likely non-disparagement agreement, an ongoing defamation suit against Lewandowski and Trump, and Lewandowski’s continued role as a Trump adviser while being paid by CNN.

  • STUDY: Sunday Shows Less Likely Than Weekday Competitors To Discuss Poverty

    Fox News Talks A Lot About Inequality And Poverty, But Promotes Policies That Would Make The Problems Worse

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the first quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets mentioned poverty during roughly 55 percent of their discussions of economic inequality in the United States. During the same time period, Sunday political talk shows mentioned poverty in only 33 percent of discussions of economic inequality.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast News Try To Cover The Economy Without Economists

    Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.

  • Sunday Show Sameness: Republicans Aren't The Only Ones Resisting Diversity

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In case you missed it over the weekend, something remarkable happened on Meet The Press during a round table discussion about the state of the 2016 campaign: Moderator Chuck Todd hosted an all-female panel, featuring NBC correspondents Hallie Jackson, Katy Tur, Kristen Welker and Andrea Mitchell.

    The good news is that Meet the Press deserves credit for bucking a long Sunday morning trend in which male guests dominate the discussions and set the Beltway policy agenda. The bad news is that it's still considered a newsworthy event when Meet the Press, or any of the Sunday shows, features an all-female discussion, especially when the topic isn't considered to be a gender-based one, such as contraception and choice.

    Does the recent Meet the Press episode suggest the Sunday shows are finally going to get serious about trying to address their stubborn lack of diversity? Let's hope so. Media Matters has been documenting the trend for years and our latest study, for 2015, confirmed the unfortunate imbalances: The Sunday shows, those elite bastions of public policy debate, remain wed to conservative, traditional bookings, where conservative white men still dominate. (Yes, even with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans pile up more appearances.)

    "In 2015, the guests on the five Sunday morning political talk shows were once again overwhelmingly white, conservative, and male in every category measured," Media Matters reported. Last year, while the campaign season featuring Hillary Clinton was in full bloom, 27 percent of the guests on the Sunday shows were women.  

    But here's the truly strange part about the overall lack of diversity today: It comes at time when the political press has reported, analyzed, and even lectured the Republican Party about how it needs to embrace diversity in order to thrive in a changing America. (And if not embrace, then to at least not purposefully offend and drive away non-white voters.)

    "Republicans Can't Win With White Voters Alone," wrote Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic years ago. The Washington Post confirmed the point this election cycle, writing, "Winning more and more of the white vote will become an increasingly futile endeavor for Republicans if they can't find a way to win more of the Hispanic and/or black vote."

    As lots of analysts have pointed out, white voters aren't driving the 2016 election. In fact, it's very likely that if Clinton wins the presidency, she will have done so without winning a majority of white voters. In fact, thanks to America's shifting demographics, she doesn't even have to come close to winning the white vote.  

    Just ask Mitt Romney. He won the white vote by 20 points in 2012 and lost to Barack Obama badly on Election Day. And obviously, if Clinton does especially well among women, she won't need a majority of male voters to win in November.

    But turn on the Sunday shows, and white men are dominating the conversation. And white conservative men in particular seem to be in charge. White Republicans were the largest group of elected and administration guests on the Sunday shows, according to Media Matters' data. And on four of the five shows, conservative men made up the largest group of journalists invited as guests.

    Question: Why do the Sunday shows reflect a center-right white country that doesn't actually exist? (Note that the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as "liberal" has surged in recent years.)

    Like the Republican Party, the Beltway press corps -- and specifically the very elite members who appear on the Sunday morning talk shows -- often refuses to embrace the increasingly diverse United States, despite the possibility that Democrats may shatter another diversity milestone by nominating the first women to become president.

    In many ways, diversity is defining the 2016 campaign season. But the Sunday shows, whose editorial focus has remained transfixed on the 2016 campaign since last summer, appear to be detached from the rapidly changing political landscape. Rather than mirror the transformation, the Sunday shows too often remain entrenched, manning the ramparts against change.   

    Some other diversity lowlights of 2015, as documented by Media Matters:

    * Men represented between two-thirds and three-quarters of all Sunday show guests.

    * Men made up more than four-fifths of all elected and administration guests.

    * Whites comprised three-quarters or more of all elected and administration guests on all shows.

    * Whites made up two-thirds or more of all journalist guests on the Sunday shows.

    * Whites comprised more than three-quarters of all guests.

    * There were twice as many conservative men guests as compared to progressive men.

    This problem is hardly a new one. Four years ago, in February 2012, I noted:

    This past Sunday, for instance, NBC's Meet the Press, CBS's Face The Nation, ABC's This Week, Fox News Sunday and CNN's State of The Union hosted 16 interview subjects, 14 of which were with men. That imbalance has been consistent throughout the month. A total of 56 guests were booked on the Sunday programs to discuss national affairs in February. Of those, 52 were men. 

    Especially galling was the discussion Sunday shows held in February 2012, when controversy erupted regarding the administration's plan to require religious institutions to offer contraception as part of their health care plan for employees. The Sunday programs discussed that story with 24 of their newsmaker guests, but only two of them were women -- Republican women.

    Yes, but Sunday show producers are limited in terms of their booking choices, and if Beltway politics is driven by men, then producers have to invite lots and lots of men on the shows, right?

    Wrong, because the numbers, as reported by Talking Points Memo, tell a much different story about the makeup of Beltway politics and especially the Democratic Party (emphasis added):

    By House Democratic leadership's count, there are 78 white men who are Democrats, out of 188 Democratic members in the chamber. This means that white men do not make up a majority of the House Democratic caucus.

    So how is it that political press stalwarts, such as the Sunday shows, remain stubbornly white, male and conservative while the rest of the country, and the rest of our politics, moves in the opposite direction?

  • AP Highlights The Growing Backlash To Trump's Reliance On Phone Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Associated Press highlighted the backlash to Donald Trump's "fondness" for phone interviews, writing that the practice "is changing habits and causing consternation in newsrooms, while challenging political traditions."

    Media critics have called out news channels' new habit of granting phone interviews to Trump -- an advantage AP explains has not been granted by Sunday political talk shows to any other candidate -- arguing that the format "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" and "is also more difficult to follow-up and put the subject on the spot to answer questions more directly." Bloomberg View columnist Al Hunt also pointed out that "a phone interview is a lot easier than an in-person interview, and Trump almost always does well in those situations." As AP reported, Media Matters and MomsRising have launched petitions to ask the media to end Trump's phone privilege.

    In a March 26 article, AP examined Trump's phone interview privileges with the media and the growing backlash to them, writing that the practice "often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached." AP also noted that Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace and Meet the Press' Chuck Todd are refusing to grant Trump phone interviews:

    In television news, a telephone interview is typically frowned upon. Donald Trump's fondness for them is changing habits and causing consternation in newsrooms, while challenging political traditions.

    Two organizations are circulating petitions to encourage Sunday morning political shows to hang up on Trump. Some prominent holdouts, like Fox's Chris Wallace, refuse to do on-air phoners. Others argue that a phone interview is better than no interview at all.

    Except in news emergencies, producers usually avoid phoners because television is a visual medium -- a face-to-face discussion between a newsmaker and questioner is preferable to a picture of an anchor listening to a disembodied voice.

    It's easy to see why Trump likes them. There's no travel or TV makeup involved; if he wishes to, Trump can talk to Matt Lauer without changing out of his pajamas. They often put an interviewer at a disadvantage, since it's harder to interrupt or ask follow-up questions, and impossible to tell if a subject is being coached.

    Face-to-face interviews let viewers see a candidate physically react to a tough question and think on his feet, said Chris Licht, executive producer of "CBS This Morning." Sometimes that's as important as what is being said.

    Trump tends to take over phone interviews and can get his message out with little challenge, Wallace said.

    "The Sunday show, in the broadcast landscape, I feel is a gold standard for probing interviews," said Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday." ''The idea that you would do a phone interview, not face-to-face or not by satellite, with a presidential candidate -- I'd never seen it before, and I was quite frankly shocked that my competitors were doing it."

    [...]

    Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," has done phoners with Trump but now said he's decided to stick to in-person interviews on his Sunday show. He's no absolutist, though.

    "It's a much better viewer experience when it's in person," Todd said. "Satellite and phoners are a little harder, there's no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, you'll take something over nothing."

    [...]

    Since the campaign began, Trump has appeared for 29 phone interviews on the five Sunday political panel shows, according to the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America. Through last Sunday, ABC's "This Week" has done it 10 times, CBS' "Face the Nation" seven and six times each on "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union."

    None of these shows has done phoners with Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, said Media Matters, which is urging that the practice be discontinued.

    The activist group MomsRising said the disparity "sends the message that some candidates can play by different rules, without consequences, and that's just un-American."

  • Sunday Shows Allow Mitch McConnell To Push False "Biden Rule" As Precedent For SCOTUS Obstruction

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cited what he called the "Biden rule" on several Sunday political talk shows as precedent for not holding hearings or a vote on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, which the Sunday show hosts did question. Yet the "rule" McConnell was referencing was, in fact, a call for a "compromise" nominee and was in reference to a hypothetical vacancy by resignation, not a vacancy caused by death.