The Washington Post

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  • WaPo’s The Fix Highlights Journalists “Counseling” Trump Through Interviews

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s The Fix highlighted CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s observation that journalists are “counseling [Trump] through interviews,” suggesting answers “instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.”

    Cuomo has noted that during interviews with Donald Trump, interviewers ask questions framed to push him toward a better answer, saying that journalists suggest to Trump, “When you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?” instead of asking open-ended questions. Other journalists such as CNN’s Brian Stelter have criticized media for not pressing Trump hard enough. Stelter said that “we have to address” Trump’s misinformation “head-on as journalists."

    Trump has benefited from countless softball interviews. For example, on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the hosts asked Trump questions such as “Were you right?” following the Brussels terrorist attack. In addition, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly came under fire for her “fluff” interview with Trump on her Fox Broadcasting special, Megyn Kelly Presents. A May 22 panel on CNN’s Reliable Sources criticized her “softball” interview, repeatedly noting that “she didn’t press him” on a number of issues. Many of her questions directly echoed queries that her colleagues at Fox had asked Trump over the past year.

    In The Washington Post’s The Fix blog, politics and media reporter Callum Borchers highlighted Cuomo’s critique of the way Trump is interviewed and asserted that journalists play an additional role in vetting Donald Trump: “counselors.” Borchers noted that “interviewers do Trump’s job for him -- suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions.” After an analysis of Trump’s interviews on controversial subjects, Borchers said, “Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.” From the May 23 article (emphasis original):

    It's the media's job to vet presidential candidates, so journalists often serve as critics, pointing out inconsistencies and potential weaknesses voters should know about.

    But with Donald Trump, they also play another role, according to CNN's Chris Cuomo: counselors.

    Discussing media coverage on Trump with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on Friday, the "New Day" co-host observed what he called "the dynamic of kind of counseling [Trump] through interviews." Cuomo offered a generic example of the kinds questions he's talking about: "Like, when you say this, you know, so you mean like you would just kind of do it this way?"

    Cuomo's observation is that his fellow interviewers do Trump's job for him — suggesting what he must have really meant, instead of asking wide-open questions that force the presumptive Republican nominee to clarify all on his own.

    A review of Trump interviews on controversial subjects suggests Cuomo has a point. Whether they mean to or not, journalists often nudge the billionaire toward safer ground when he ventures down what looks like a politically dangerous path.

    Trump, of course, doesn't always take the hint or doesn't care. And it's possible — or perhaps even likely — that reporters aren't so much trying to protect him as simply reacting with disbelief to the often-unprecedented and surprising things he's saying.

    Whatever the cause, the result is that questions to Trump often come with the "right" answer built in. And this habit of throwing him a line could help explain why some voters believe the media have been too soft on the real estate magnate.

    [...]

    The challenge for journalists is to suppress their shock and let Trump speak for himself. Are you endorsing internment camps? Was the Heidi Cruz retweet a mistake? Do you want the KKK's support?

  • Media Slam Trump's "Totally Irresponsible" Response To EgyptAir Crash, While Fox Defends It

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures criticized Donald Trump’s response to the EgyptAir crash saying that it was “totally irresponsible” and “bad practice” for Trump to blame the crash on terrorism despite having no information at the time. Meanwhile, Fox News defended Trump’s “strong statement,” and praised him for saying “exactly what’s on everyone’s mind.”

  • Washington Post’s Erik Wemple Slams Megyn Kelly’s “Unfortunate” And “Scandalous” Trump Interview

    Wemple: Kelly “Withheld Details Of Her Ordeal In A Performance That Assisted Trump With His General-Election Pivot”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted the “downright scandalous” nature of Megyn Kelly’s highly anticipated interview with Trump, noting that she held back details from her highly publicized spat with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in an effort to push her upcoming book – which will be available only after the general election in November.

    Kelly’s May 17 debut of Megyn Kelly Presents on the Fox Broadcasting Network was widely criticized for the lack of substance and the softball questions she lobbed at Trump. During the special, Kelly promoted her new book Settle For More, which she claimed will have more details about her experience with Trump.

    After the interview, Wemple wrote that Kelly is entitled to deal with “Trump’s Twitter offensive” on her own schedule, “unless that schedule…is dictated by a book launch.” Wemple went on to describe her decision to withhold details as “unfortunate” and “scandalous” and to point out that the publishing company that gave her a multimillion-dollar contract, which is part of Fox News’ parent company, News Corp, “appear poised to postpone the whole Kelly-Trump story until after the election.”

    What was missing from this interview was Kelly getting personal about what Trump had done to her. She came close with this question: “Have you given any thought in this position to the power that your messaging has on the lives of the people you target and the millions of people who take their cue from you?” Trump responded that he was indeed cognizant of his power.

    Deference is generally appropriate in these situations — Kelly’s ordeal at the hands of Trump’s Twitter offensive is still pretty fresh, so she’s entitled to deal with it on her own schedule. Unless that schedule…is dictated by a book launch. At the end of “Megyn Kelly Presents,” the host said this: “In addition to the ‘Kelly File,’ I’ve been working on a project: A book which I’m unveiling right now. It’s called ‘Settle for More,'” said Kelly. In the book, continued Kelly, “For the first time, I’ll speak openly about my year with Donald Trump. You can pre-order it now wherever books are sold.”

    No problem, right? If the book comes out in a couple of months, readers can get the full story detailing the impact of Trump’s sexism on the life of one of American journalism’s biggest names. They can then use the information to assist them at the voting booth! Oh, wait: The election is Nov. 8, and the publication date is Nov. 15.

    It’s unfortunate enough that Kelly apparently withheld details of her ordeal in a performance that assisted Trump with his general-election pivot. It’s downright scandalous that Kelly, Fox News and the publishing company that gave her the multimillion dollar contract — HarperCollins, a unit of News Corp., part of the Fox News extended corporate family — appear poised to postpone the whole Kelly-Trump story until after the election.

  • WSJ Publishes Pro-Trump Op-Ed Without Disclosing Its Author Works For Trump Campaign

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    The Wall Street Journal published a pro-Donald Trump op-ed without disclosing that its author, Anthony Scaramucci, works as part of the Trump campaign’s national finance committee. 

    The Journal wrote that Scaramucci is “the founder and co-managing partner of SkyBridge Capital,” failing to mention that he joined  the Trump campaign  as part of Trump’s “nascent national finance committee.” According to The Washington Post, Scaramucci was “one of the first traditional bundlers to join the Trump campaign.”

    In his May 15 op-ed, titled, “The Entrepreneur’s Case For Trump,” Scaramucci hyped Trump as a “pragmatic entrepreneur,” “team builder,” and a candidate with “empathy” who can win. Scaramucci concluded his piece urging his “fellow Republicans to listen to the will of people” and “unite not only for the good of the party, but for the good of the nation”.

    Trump responded to Scaramucci’s op-ed, tweeting, “Thank you, Anthony Scaramucci”:

    During the 2012 presidential campaign, the Journal repeatedly failed to disclose op-eds written by advisers to then-GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. A Media Matters study found that 70 percent of the Journal’s op-eds written by Romney advisers lacked disclosure.

  • Wash. Post, CBS Tout Shoddy Report That Caitlyn Jenner Will “De-transition”

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Washington Post and CBS both parroted a shoddy report  that Olympic athlete and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner might “de-transition,” citing a celebrity biographer who has a history of making sensational and unsubstantiated claims about the Kardashian family. Jenner’s representatives have since called the story “idiotic.”

    In a May 11 interview with TheWrap.com, celebrity biographer Ian Halperin claimed unnamed sources believed Jenner -- stepparent to reality TV star Kim Kardashian -- would “de-transition ‘in the next couple of years’,” citing her alleged regrets about transitioning. Halperin based the claim on research from his unauthorized biography on the Kardashian family, which also alleges that Jenner came out as transgender to avoid manslaughter charges stemming from a 2015 car accident. Halperin has a history of making absurd accusations about the Kardashians, including claiming that Jenner and Lamar Odom, a retired basketball player and Khloé Kardashian’s estranged husband, are “intimate.”

    Halperin also wrote a 2004 book peddling the conspiracy theory that Kurt Cobain was murdered.

    Halperin’s history of peddling absurd claims about the Kardashians didn’t stop The Washington Post and CBS from parroting his claims without doing additional fact-checking.

    In a May 12 article, The Washington Post’s Early Lead blog repeated Halperin’s unsubstantiated allegations, including conflating sexual orientation and gender identity:

    “It hasn’t been easy for Caitlyn. It’s been very hard,” Halperin says a friend of Jenner’s told him. “She’s thrilled she has raised awareness about how transgender people have long been discriminated against, but I think there’s a chance she’ll de-transition in the next couple years. I don’t think it would surprise anybody in her inner circle. It has been much harder than she anticipated. My heart goes out to her and I know her true friends will be there to support her on whatever path she chooses.”

    He added that multiple sources had told him that part of the reason Jenner, who has been married three times and has six children, may de-transition is that she is interested in women. According to Halperin, multiple sources close to the Kardashian family told him that Jenner retains her interest in females.

    A CBS report similarly ran with the comments, reporting that “Caitlyn Jenner may ‘de-transition’” because she is “still interested in women:”

    Following those reports, Jenner’s representative firmly dismissed the claims, telling the New York Daily News that it’s “not worth commenting on such an idiotic report. Of course it’s not true.”

    By repeating the sensational claims of a disreputable celebrity biographer without waiting for comment from Jenner herself, CBS and the Post helped mainstream the conservative anti-LGBT myth that many transgender people experience “transition regret.”

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & JARED HOLT

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • A Journalism Professor Exposes The Weakness In How The Press Interviews Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post pointing out that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump “regularly runs circles around interviewers because they pare their follow-up questions down to a minimum, or none at all” and throw him “softballs,” and explained how journalists can “hold Trump’s feet to the fire.” 

    The media have failed to rigorously cover Trump since he announced his candidacy in June. Trump has received a record-breaking amount of free media coverage, softball interviews, few probing follow-up questions, and unprecedented phone interview privileges. Veteran journalists and historians have ripped the media’s “pathetic” and “fawning” coverage of Trump and argued that Trump has made “monkeys” out of the news media.

    In his May 12 article, Gitlin wrote that Trump “cracked campaign reporters’ code” and “takes advantage of the slipshod, shallow techniques journalism has made routine.” Gitlin argued that “It’s time for journalists to honor the good name of their profession and take off the kid gloves,” writing that interviewers must “do their homework,” “follow up by asking how, specifically” Trump plans to implement his proposals, and “remind Trump, and voters, of the many times he’s claimed as fact something demonstrated to be false”:

    Early in this campaign season, Sunday morning network news hosts granted Trump the special prerogative of phoning in for interviews, off camera, making it impossible to know, in real time, if he was consulting notes or advisers during interviews. And because of an early polling lead based in large measure on his near-universal name recognition, Trump was center-stage getting most of the air time during every GOP primary debate.

    In those debates, and in interviews, Trump regularly runs circles around interviewers because they pare their follow-up questions down to a minimum, or none at all. After 30-plus years in the media spotlight, he knows how to wait out an interviewer, offering noncommittal soundbites and incoherent rejoinders until he hears the phrase, “let’s move on.” He takes advantage of the slipshod, shallow techniques journalism has made routine, particularly on TV — techniques that, in the past, were sufficient to trip up less-media-savvy candidates — but that Trump knows how to sidestep.

    [...]

    Trump is a master of darting from slogan to slogan. That’s why interviewers must do their homework and be prepared to go at least 2-3 questions deep on any issue.

    When Trump makes a blunt, sweeping statement like saying he’d “get along very well” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, journalists have to follow up by asking how, specifically, he thinks Putin would respond to increased economic sanctions. If he won’t answer, they should do what conservative Wisconsin talk radio host Charlie Sykes did back in March. Interviewers should say, flatly, “You’re not answering my question.”

    [...]

    Journalists need to remind Trump, and voters, of the many times he’s claimed as fact something demonstrated to be false — that on 9/11, for example, “thousands and thousands of people” in New Jersey Arab American communities cheered the destruction of the Twin Towers. If Trump says he can’t remember, remind him he claimed to have “the world’s greatest memory.”

    It is possible to hold Trump’s feet to the fire. You have to be resolute and persistent.

    [...]

    The general election is upon us. There won’t be any do-overs. It’s time for journalists to honor the good name of their profession and take off the kid gloves. If they don’t put down their softballs, if they don’t stop letting simple-minded questions substitute for serious exploration, they’ll share responsibility for enabling — and helping elect — President Donald J. Trump.

  • Media Slam Trump’s “Insane” Plan To Default On U.S. Debt

    Analysts Explain That Real Estate Gimmicks Don’t Work For The American Economy

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    During a lengthy phone interview with CNBC, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump outlined a plan to partially default on the United States’ outstanding sovereign debt obligations in hopes of eventually negotiating lower rates of repayment. The tactic is common in the types of commercial real estate dealings Trump is familiar with, but journalists and financial analysts stressed that employing such a strategy with American debt would undermine global financial stability and potentially drive the American economy into a deep recession.

  • Wash. Post Fact Checker Slams Media For Their Reluctance To Challenge “Trump’s Repeated Misstatements” 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post reporter and fact checker Glenn Kessler slammed media for their reluctance to “challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false” and allowing the presumptive Republican nominee to make “Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again.”

    Trump has repeatedly hyped falsehoods and conspiracy theories, including his claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the start. Though this is demonstrably false, Trump made this claim 16 times without being fact-checked by the media. Trump also edits other parts of his own record, often with no pushback from reporters. Trump’s preference for phone interviews instead of face-to-face interviews allows him to have “an upper hand” and gives him the power to “diminish the interview.”

    In his May 7 article, Kessler writes that the media have “no excuse” for not challenging Trump on his claims. Kessler even suggested that “TV hosts should have a list of Trump’s repeated misstatements so that if he repeats them, as he often does, he can be challenged”:

    Fact checks are intended to inform voters and explain complicated issues.

    Still, most politicians will drop a talking point if it gets labeled with Four Pinocchios by The Fact Checker or “Pants on Fire” by PolitiFact. No one wants to be tagged as a liar or misinformed, and we have found most politicians are interested in getting the facts straight. So the claim might be uttered once or twice, but then it gets quietly dropped or altered.

    But the news media now faces the challenge of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. He appears to care little about the facts; his staff does not even bother to respond to fact-checking inquiries.

    But, astonishingly, television hosts rarely challenge Trump when he makes a claim that already has been found to be false. For instance, Trump says he was against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but research by BuzzFeed found that he did express support for an attack. He said the White House even sent a delegation to tell him to tone down his statements —and we found that also to be false.

    Yet at least a dozen television hosts in the past two months allowed Trump to make this claim and failed to challenge him. There is no excuse for this. TV hosts should have a list of Trump’s repeated misstatements so that if he repeats them, as he often does, he can be challenged on his claims.

    [...]

    The online version of the Fact Checker keeps a running list of Trump’s Four-Pinocchio statements. He now has 26, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of Trump’s statements that have been fact checked.

  • 16 Times The Media Let Trump Falsely Claim He Opposed The Iraq War From The Beginning

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, NICK FERNANDEZ & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Media figures and outlets have repeatedly pushed the myth, or allowed Donald Trump to push the myth, that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. There is no evidence to support this claim and February reporting from BuzzFeed News showed Trump voiced support “for invading Iraq” in 2002 and termed it a "tremendous success" after the invasion began.

  • Wash. Post: College Debt Forces Students To Take Jobs “Without Long-Term Prospects”

    Research Shows Economic Difficulties Are Still A Major Concern For Recent Graduates, Especially Women And African-Americans

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post reported on the economic prospects of the Class of 2016, saying that while the economy has improved, wages are still down for recent graduates, and the mounting debt thrust onto students forces many to take jobs with poor advancement opportunities.

    In a May 2 article for The Washington Post’s Grade Point education news blog, reporter Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reported that while hiring continues to improve for recent college graduates, job prospects are still poor, and the increasing debt burden faced by graduates forces them to take jobs -- if they can find one -- that may have no chance of wage growth or career development. The Post highlighted findings from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) showing that nearly seven years after the end of the Great Recession, recent graduates still face many employment hurdles, namely lower pay and higher amounts of student debt.

    While the unemployment rate for recent graduates is “only a tenth of a percentage point” above pre-recession levels, the Post wrote, “nearly 13 percent of young college graduates are currently underemployed, compared to 9.6 percent nine years ago.” As wages are still low for recent graduates, student debt burdens continue to climb and the Post reported that it is likely “the average Class of 2016 graduate will leave school with five-figure debt.” The piece said student debt burdens “likely will force graduates to accept jobs without long-term prospects for career or wage growth.” These and other factors spurred EPI to conclude that new graduates likely will earn less in the next decade than those who graduated before the recession.

    EPI also found that prospects for recent graduates are bleaker for women and African-Americans, a point Media Matters has also highlighted. According to the Post, the national average unemployment rate for college graduates is 5.6 percent, nearly double the 9.4 percent unemployment rate EPI found for black college graduates. Since 2000, the gender gap for recent graduates has widened; female graduates today make 6.8 percent less than their counterparts did in 2000 compared to male college graduates, who now earn 8 percent more than male graduates did 16 years ago.

    From The Washington Post:

    If the last few years are any indication, the average Class of 2016 graduate will leave school with five-figure debt. That albatross likely will force graduates to accept jobs without long-term prospects for career or wage growth, according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute. Analysts at the think tank say that despite the rosy overall employment picture, graduates actually face a tougher labor market than they would have before the 2008 recession. Degree-holders, they say, still contend with elevated levels of unemployment and underemployment, and a large share are neither employed nor pursuing advanced degrees — in other words, they are idling.

    “Although there have been small improvements, there is still a lot that’s problematic about this economy for young college grads,” said Teresa Kroeger, a research assistant at EPI who co-authored the study. “Wages are still performing poorly. And we see still disparities between genders and racial groups.”

    […]

    Analysts at EPI say unemployment for young black college graduates hovers at 9.4 percent, higher than the peak unemployment rate for young white college grads during the recession. And gender wage inequality has grown, with male college grads earning 8 percent more this year than in 2000, while young women with degrees earned 6.8 percent less than in 2000.

    Perhaps the most troubling prediction from the institute posits that newly minted grads as a whole likely will earn less and have more spells of unemployment during the next 10 to 15 years than if they had graduated before the downturn.

  • George Will: Republicans Must Keep Trump Out Of The White House Even If He's The Nominee

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will urged Republicans to keep Donald Trump out of the White House if he is selected as the Republican nominee for president, writing that political prudence “demands the prevention of a Trump presidency.”

    Many right-wing media pundits and commentators have expressed their fear of a Trump nomination, with some joining the so-called “Never Trump” movement. Those conservative have vowed that they would actively oppose Trump even if he became the nominee, with some like Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol vowing to recruit a third-party candidate to run against Trump, and others stating they would vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump if she becomes the Democratic nominee.

    In his April 29 Washington Post column headlined “If Trump is nominated, the GOP must keep him out of the White House,” Will committed himself to this movement, arguing that the GOP needs to be rebuilt from the damage Trump has done to the party, and urging voters to support Cruz so that the Republican convention can “choose a plausible nominee” who might win a general election, instead of “passively affirm[ing] the will of a mere plurality of voters.” If Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president, Will wrote, conservatives have the task of “help[ing] him lose 50 states” so the GOP can preserve its identity:

    Donald Trump’s damage to the Republican Party, although already extensive, has barely begun. Republican quislings will multiply, slinking into support of the most anti-conservative presidential aspirant in their party’s history. These collaborationists will render themselves ineligible to participate in the party’s reconstruction.

    […]

    Republican voters, particularly in Indiana and California, can, by supporting Cruz, make the Republican convention a deliberative body rather than one that merely ratifies decisions made elsewhere, some of them six months earlier. A convention’s sovereign duty is to choose a plausible nominee who has a reasonable chance to win, not to passively affirm the will of a mere plurality of voters recorded episodically in a protracted process.

    Trump would be the most unpopular nominee ever, unable to even come close to Mitt Romney’s insufficient support among women, minorities and young people. In losing disastrously, Trump probably would create down-ballot carnage sufficient to end even Republican control of the House.

    […]

    The minority of people who pay close attention to politics includes those who define an ideal political outcome and pursue it, and those who focus on the worst possible outcome and strive to avoid it. The former experience the excitements of utopianism, the latter settle for prudence’s mild pleasure of avoiding disappointed dreams. Both sensibilities have their uses, but this is a time for prudence, which demands the prevention of a Trump presidency.

    Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life.

    […]

    If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power.