The Washington Post

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  • Too Little, Too Late: Weeks After Election, Media See Trump's Conflicts, Potential Self-Dealings, And Corruption

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    New York Times editors and reporters might’ve thought they were going to be congratulated by readers for Sunday’s front-page, six-reporter expose on President-elect Donald Trump’s nearly endless business conflicts. But a chorus of media observers and critics had other ideas.

    Rather than applaud the Times for its report, lots of commentators wondered why the newspaper waited until after the election to wave large red flags about Trump’s obvious conflicts, especially when the Times -- and so much of the campaign press -- spent an extraordinary amount of energy obsessing over potential conflicts of interest, and possible ethical lapses, supposedly surrounding Hillary Clinton.

    Looking back, there certainly seems to be a perception that the political press didn’t really care about Trump’s looming, impossible-to-miss conflicts or the bad “optics” they might produce. And it appears that the press was overly infatuated with conflict questions about Clinton -- questions today that seem quaint compared to Trump’s far-flung business dealings, which represent a possible gateway to corruption.

    That’s not to say the topic wasn’t addressed or that some journalists didn’t tackle it in real time during the campaign season. Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek produced a helpful deep dive back in September. And the business press was urgent and upfront in detailing the unprecedented nature of Trump’s looming problem. Bloomberg in June: “Conflicts of Interest? President Trump's Would Be Amazing.”

    But in general, the political press seemed less engaged with this issue and appeared reluctant to tag the obvious Trump storyline as a campaign priority. There didn’t seem to be an institutional commitment to pursuing and documenting that storyline, even though the potential problems for Trump were obvious and the story might have disqualified him.

    Even today, the story isn’t being treated with the urgency it deserves. Yes, more new organizations are tepidly acknowledging the colossal conflicts and looming inside deals, but so much of the coverage still lacks resolve. Question for journalists: If Clinton arrived at the White House with open and boundless business conflicts, how would you cover that story? What kind of outraged, lecturing tone would you take? Now treat the Trump story the same way.

    Newsrooms need to learn from their lackluster campaign coverage and treat the unfolding Trump controversy as a permanent beat inside newsrooms for the next four years. It certainly demands that kind of attention and focus.

    Note that aside from the Times’ big Sunday Trump conflict piece, the newspaper also published detailed articles on the topic November 21 and 14, and before the election on November 5. But aside from a few exceptions, in the months prior to Election Day, when voters were assessing the candidates, the intense focus on Trump’s conflicts just wasn’t there. (As Media Matters reported, the same trend played out on network newscasts, which devoted scant time to Trump’s conflicts of interest before the election only to ramp up coverage after Trump’s victory.)

    Where was there lots of media campaign interest? (And also lots of bad journalism?) Trying to detail Clinton’s possible conflicts, a storyline forever deemed by the press to be a Very Big Deal.

    Recall that the Times and The Washington Post considered potential Clinton conflicts stemming from the family charity to be so pressing that both newspapers entered into unusual exclusive editorial agreements with Peter Schweizer, the partisan Republican author who wrote the Breitbart-backed book Clinton Cash. (The Times also breathlessly hyped the book in its news pages.)

    And that was 18 months before Election Day. The topic remained a media priority throughout the campaign.

    Clinton Cash, a hodgepodge of innuendo and connect-the-dot allegations, was riddled with errorsU.S. News & World Report described the book as a "somewhat problematic" look at the Clintons' financial dealings, while Time noted that one of the book’s central claims was "based on little evidence.”

    Yet Clinton’s alleged conflicts were considered to be so important inside newsrooms -- and it was deemed so crucial for the Beltway press to suss out every conceivable detail -- that the Times and the Post were willing to make dubious alliances with GOP operatives.

    Needless to say, no such partisan unions were formed to report out Trump’s massive business conflicts. Indeed, most news consumers would be hard-pressed to suggest Trump’s obvious business conflicts constituted a centerpiece of his campaign coverage for the previous 18 months.

    Meanwhile, recall that lots of media elites demanded Clinton take action before the election in order to eliminate the supposed conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation. During August and September, that topic created yet another wave of frenzied Clinton coverage, fueled by the media’s “optics” obsession

    At the time, NBC’s Chuck Todd perfectly summed up the media’s weird pursuit when he announced, “Let’s be clear, this is all innuendo at this point. No pay for play has been proven. No smoking gun has been found.” Todd then quickly added, “But like many of these Clinton scandals, it looks bad.”

    From NPR:

    There's no question the optics are bad for Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. But no proof has emerged that any official favors -- regulations, government contracts, international deals -- were curried in exchange for donations or pledges.

    And from Time:

    If she didn’t do anything wrong, why won’t she defend herself? By avoiding taking responsibility, Clinton only exacerbates the perception she is dishonest and untrustworthy, the primary hurdle on her path to the White House. Optics matter when the issue is transparency.

    According to the media mantra, Clinton’s possible big-money conflicts looked really, really bad. Reporters hammered the theme for weeks and months, while only occasionally glancing over in the direction of Trump’s concrete conflicts.

    Today, coverage of Trump’s conflicts and self-dealing has belatedly arrived. But it often comes with an odd sense of delayed wonder, as if journalists are just now realizing the epic size of the pay-for-play problem at hand for the country, while still hedging their bets. 

    For instance, the headline for the Post’s November 25 article announced, “Trump’s Presidency, Overseas Business Deals And Relations With Foreign Governments Could All Become Intertwined.”

    Could? The president-elect’s business dealing could be a conflict for U.S. foreign policy? That Post framing seems to dramatically underplay what’s currently unfolding. As the Post itself has reported, “Trump has done little to set boundaries between his personal and official business since winning the presidency.”

    Indeed, Trump’s refusal to divest himself from a sprawling array of business interests is certain to create an ethical morass that even Republican attorneys insist will produce endless, possibly debilitating, conflicts for Trump.

    The media mostly missed this pressing story once during the campaign. They can’t afford to overlook it a second time. 

  • O'Reilly’s Refusal To Discuss “Unsavory” Allegations Against Roger Ailes Makes Him “The Ultimate Fox News Tool”

    Wemple: O'Reilly’s Refusal To Discuss “Unsavory Matters” About The Network, Ensures No Internal Reform Will Happen At The Network 

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s refusal to address recent sexual harassment scandals at Fox News proves O’Reilly to be a “loyal soldier” to the network’s internal culture of suppressing “unsavory matters,” including allegations of sexual harassment that continues to plague the network.

    During an interview on CBS This Morning, O’Reilly refused to answer questions from CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell about Fox News host Megyn Kelly’s allegations she was sexually harassed by former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes because he was “not interested” in making Fox News “look bad.” O’Reilly insisted that Fox is “a good place to work” and said he was “not going to buy into let’s use the Fox News Channel as a piñata.”

    Wemple criticized O’Reilly’s stance, writing that his refusal to address Fox News’ sexual harassment issues is the “very mentality enabled Ailes for decades” of “keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public.” Despite Ailes having resigned, Wemple wrote, “O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik” to “suppress dissent.” From the November 15 article:

    After concluding the discussion of childhood civility, co-host Norah O’Donnell pressed [Bill] O’Reilly on whether he’d read “Settle for More,” the memoir by Fox News host Megyn Kelly in which she recounts experiencing sexual harassment at Fox News at the hands of Ailes, who lost his job over the summer following a plume of such allegations. Kelly writes that he tried to grab and kiss her, then asked her when her contract was up — an “ominous” question, in Kelly’s tale. (Ailes has denied all of this.) Another accuser, former host Gretchen Carlson, received a $20 million settlement from Fox News’s parent company, and former host Andrea Tantaros’s litigation — also for sexual harassment allegedly from Ailes — remains active.

    [...]

    Had O’Reilly been the editor of “Settle for More,” however, readers would have had to settle for less. “I want to be very candid here: I’m not that interested in this,” said O’Reilly in his “CBS This Morning” interview. Pressed on whether he was saying he wasn’t interested in sexual harassment, O’Reilly made plain, “I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished that makes my network look bad, okay, I’m not interested in making my network look bad at all. That doesn’t interest me one bit. I’m not going to even bother with it. I’ve got a country that’s in a political transition. I’ve got a kids book that I want millions of kids to look at. That’s what I’m interested in, not making my network look bad.”

    A few points here:

    *O’Reilly, your network already looks bad. A full-on sexual harassment crisis swept through its halls this past summer. More than a dozen women who’d allegedly been harassed or demeaned by Ailes came forward to tell their stories. Nothing that Kelly puts in her book will exacerbate that set of facts.

    *This very mentality enabled Ailes for decades. The message from O’Reilly here is this: Shut the heck up, colleagues. Don’t discuss in public unsavory matters that could lead to internal reform. Suppress dissent. Over his two decades atop Fox News, Ailes enforced just those rules, keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public. Though Ailes is gone from Fox News, O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik. A loyal soldier to the end.

  • Journalists Condemn CNN's Lewandowski Embarrassment After Trump Campaign Manager's "#teamwork" Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    CNN’s ethical dilemma over its employment of Corey Lewandowski, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, as a political analyst was on display once again when current campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her and Lewandowski with the caption “#teamwork #NH.”

    CNN’s use of on-air Trump surrogates has drawn widespread condemnation, with media critics pointing out that the practice has undercut the “work of [CNN’s] journalists.” Despite these concerns, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker has stood by the network’s decision to give Trump surrogates a platform to spread lies and derogatory rhetoric, claiming that CNN has a responsibility “to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for” Trump, rather than to provide viewers with accurate analysis.

    Lewandowski has been at the center of CNN’s ethical dilemma, with many criticizing the network for employing him as an analyst while he was still receiving payments from the Trump campaign, advising the Trump campaign, working on debate prep for the Trump campaign, traveling with the Trump campaign, and campaigning with Trump.

    A week after calling on the “@CNN Dream Team” of Trump surrogates to “stay strong,” on November 4, current Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a picture of her, press secretary Hope Hicks, and Lewandowski, captioning the tweet “#teamwork.” The tweet spurred criticism from members of the media, with The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple saying it “should shame everyone at CNN” and noting that “now we know that officially and unequivocally, the Trump campaign regards a paid CNN commentator as part of the team.” Others called the tweet -- and what it signifies about the relationship between a CNN analyst and the Trump campaign -- “totally inappropriate.”

    Sign Media Matters petition and tell CNN to cut ties with Corey Lewandowski immediately.

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Discriminatory Effort To Discourage Early Voting

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Several Fox News hosts have recently been critical of early voting, a process that is especially important to voters of color who face systemic barriers to voting on Election Day. Fox hosts baselessly claimed that voters who already took advantage of early voting now want to change their votes and suggested voters “don’t know all of the information” prior to voting, which raises questions about “the wisdom of early voting.” Right-wing media figures’ contempt for early voting is not new.

  • Journalists Blast The FBI For Meddling In 2016 Election

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Media outlets and journalists sharply criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for interfering in the presidential election after Director James Comey violated precedent and policy by sending a letter to Congress saying the agency is reviewing newly discovered emails surrounding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state. That announcement was followed by a series of additional leaks from the FBI.

  • Pundits Credited Trump With Not Creating His Own Controversy This Weekend. Here's What They Ignored.

    Joe Scarborough, Brian Kilmeade Congratulate Trump For Not Making A Mess

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Some media figures praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for not making “himself the story” this past weekend and thus allowing the press to focus on the news regarding the FBI’s investigation of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server. But in doing so they ignored a series of outrageous claims Trump made, including his baseless comment that Clinton could “triple the size of our country in one week” by admitting “650 million” immigrants, his call to reinstate banned torture techniques, and his accusation that Twitter, Google, and Facebook are burying new developments in the FBI probe.

  • FBI Director's Letter Receives Criticism From Across The Political Spectrum

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media figures from across the political spectrum are criticizing FBI Director James Comey for defying Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the Bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. The journalists and pundits called the timing of Comey’s letter “unfortunate, given its potential to affect a democratic process in which millions of people are already voting,” with some going so far as to say Comey’s letter “both disgraces and politicizes the FBI.”

  • Three Ways Fox Is Attempting To Delegitimize Clinton’s Lead In The Polls

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fox News has attempted to delegitimize Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls for months, claiming that the polls are skewed due to oversampling, that the size of rallies Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds is more indicative of his support than polls, and that there are “secret” Trump supporters who are too embarrassed to tell pollsters whom they support. However, other media outlets have explained that concerns about oversampling are “laughably incorrect,” and that claims that crowds are more accurate than polling are some of “the most idiotic claims out there.”

  • Conservative CNN Commentator Torches GOP For Abandoning Women

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative CNN commentator Amanda Carpenter penned a Washington Post op-ed slamming the Republican Party for making women “out for fools” by ignoring and excusing a “brazen and unapologetic misogynist” in their nominee, Donald Trump.

    Trump’s history of misogynistic comments drew new scrutiny after a 2005 tape surfaced of Trump bragging about allegedly sexually assaulting women, followed by 11 women coming forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Nevertheless, Trump’s backers have jumped to his defense, trying to discredit the accusers’ claims, attacking and victim-blaming them, and claiming Trump’s comments may have been an exaggeration. Many attempted to use Trump’s spin that his lewd comments about assault were simply “locker room banter.”

    In an October 25 op-ed, Carpenter, a former communications adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), decried the GOP for abandoning the party’s women, who she says have “eagerly defended the party from charges of sexism” only to be made “out for fools” by the party. Carpenter wrote that the party refused to “defend women from this raging sexist,” calling Trump “a brazen and unapologetic misogynist.” According to Carpenter, Republicans found it more important to appeal to the types of Trump voters who call Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a “bitch” and a “cunt” than to appeal to women voters.

    Carpenter also condemned the conservative “locker room” spin, stating that Trump’s comments were “a confession of assault.” Carpenter also pointed out that her party could not have been surprised by the tapes, noting that “Trump’s chauvinism was well-documented in decades’ worth” of material. Carpenter ended her op-ed with an ultimatum for the Republican Party and the women’s vote: “defend us or lose us.” From the October 25 Washington Post op-ed:

    As a former communications aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and former senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), I can personally testify that Republican women have, for years, fended off accusations from the Democrats of the party’s allegedly anti-woman beliefs. What did we get for it? The nomination — by way of a largely older, male voting base — of a brazen and unapologetic misogynist.

    I want to ask the men leading the GOP some questions. Why didn’t you defend women from this raging sexist especially after so many Republican women — for so many years — eagerly defended the party from charges of sexism? You must make us out for fools.

    Over the course of the GOP primary, it became clear that too many Republicans felt it was too politically risky to do anything that would offend the types of voters Trump was attracting in droves — the types who showed up at rallies wearing T-shirts that said, “Trump that b—-” and “She’s a c—, vote for Trump.”

    Somehow, in some amorphous but unambiguous way, it was decided that appealing to those voters was more important than appealing to women.

    Trump’s men have told women this is “locker room” talk — that we should accept this is how men speak behind closed doors, get over it, and vote Trump.

    Perhaps, they should talk to some rape survivors. They need to hear what those women heard when Trump bragged about grabbing a woman’s genitals, aggressively kissing women without consent, and getting away with it because he’s rich and famous. That wasn’t boyish banter. That was a confession of assault.

    [...]

    I expect that Republicans will try to pretend, postelection, as if those recordings were some one-off, unpredictable revelation. They’ll say they didn’t know he was so deviant.

    But I won’t accept that explanation. Trump’s chauvinism was well-documented in decades’ worth of publicly available smutty television, radio and print interviews long before he became the nominee.

    Yet, the Republican Party ignored it all.

    [...]

    I will not vote for Trump. I’ll remain a committed conservative and will vote for down-ballot Republicans, but the top of the ticket will be blank. I didn’t leave the GOP — the GOP left me for Trump.

    Now, I don’t purport to speak for all women, but I know I am not alone. I am one of the many women the Republican Party left behind this election.

    The GOP is about to learn a hard lesson when it comes to the women’s vote: defend us or lose us.

  • Trump's Last Resort: Right-Wing Media Lies About Voter Fraud

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the presidential election will be “rigged” because of widespread voter fraud is based on a series of myths that the right-wing media has pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.

  • What Supreme Court Experts Want You To Know Before The Last Presidential Debate

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & PAM VOGEL

    The Supreme Court will be one of the topics discussed at the final presidential debate of this election, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on October 19. Supreme Court reporters and legal experts have been explaining the significance of the court throughout the election season, because of the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and the implications for the ideological direction of the court stemming from the election of a new president.

  • How Trump's "Rigged Election" Claims Impact The Latino Community

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Latinos in the media are condemning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s baseless claims about the presidential election being “rigged,” calling his unfounded claims “irresponsible” and “reckless” and noting that this tactic “grazes a dangerous line between legal and illegal.” 

  • The Washington Post: CNN’s Zucker Defends Corey Lewandowski And Ignores The Ethical Problems With His Employment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker for skirting the issue of hiring former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski by offering a dishonest defense of the decision.

    CNN hired the Republican presidential nominee’s former campaign manager in June, a week after he was fired from the campaign for allegedly manhandling a reporter. Since joining the news organization, Lewandowski has echoed and defended Trump’s most questionable statements, including reviving Trump’s birther claims against President Obama and recommending that the Republican nominee sue The New York Times “into oblivion.”

    Jeff Zucker’s decision to hire Lewandowski came under fire after it was discovered that he was still being paid by the Trump campaign, which CNN said was severance pay. In August, Lewandowski announced on Twitter he was joining Donald Trump and his campaign in New Hampshire. In September, The Washington Post discovered Lewandowski was doing “consulting work” for Trump, and he recently joined the campaign for more events in Maine and New Jersey.

    Zucker defended hiring Corey Lewandowski during an October 14 interview at the Harvard Institute of Politics, claiming it is necessary to have someone who represents the “14 million people who voted for” Donald Trump, and that opposition to Lewandowski’s presence at CNN is “because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy.” Wemple discounted Zucker’s defense, explaining that “the critical case against” employing Lewandowski “rests on ethical considerations.” From Wemple’s October 17 Washington Post blog post:      

    In an extensive interview on Friday at the Harvard Institute of Politics, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker faced a question about the No. 1 ethical issue facing the 24/7 cable network over the course of campaign 2016. “What was your thought process in hiring [Donald] Trump’s former campaign manager and surrogates in general and where do you draw the line for CNN between reporting on the campaign and becoming a mouthpiece for the campaigns?” asked a member of the audience.

    No stranger to tough questions about CNN’s moves, Zucker, a Harvard graduate, took this one in stride. For months, critics of the channel have ripped the June decision to hire Corey Lewandowski just after he’d been fired from his job as Donald Trump’s campaign manager. As he broke into the CNN commentating lineup, he was asked about any nondisclosure and non disparagement clauses that might swamp his candor. His responses were unconvincing. Then CNN revealed that he was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign — payments that continued in July and August; a final pay-out occurred last month.

    [...]

    Speaking specifically to the Lewandowski situation, Zucker said this: “So, look, you know — the Trump surrogate voices, including Corey Lewandowski … are there to represent those 13-14 million voters who have voted for him. Now, I know that there’s are a lot of people who don’t like Corey Lewandowski or the other Trump surrogates that we have on staff,” he said. “I think a lot of that is because they don’t like the idea of the Trump candidacy and that’s just a projection of ‘How could you have those people on the set?’ Well, we have them on the set because somebody’s got to represent 14 million people who voted for the guy. I understand that there are people who might not like that, who might not like those people who are supporting him, but that’s what happened.”

    CNN is entitled to rejigger its lineup of commentators in reaction to political events. Such is its prerogative. What it may not do, however, is recast the controversy over Lewandowski’s employment as a matter of taste. Though some folks surely object to Lewandowski because they simply do not like him, the critical case against the move rests on ethical considerations. Lewandowski was hired fresh off the Trump campaign, and evidence is strong that he remains part of its inner circle, as both Politico and the New York Times reported last month.

    [...]

    Though many commentators have certain loyalties and affections, Lewandowski is all but prohibited from indulging in Trump-oriented skepticism while on CNN airwaves. That is the problem with Lewandowski. Not that certain people don’t like him.

  • How Breitbart Laid The Groundwork for Trump’s War On Paul Ryan

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s new attacks on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) have “deeper roots” than Ryan’s pledge to stop supporting Trump, according to new evidence that Trump’s campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, has a long-standing feud with the speaker. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has spent years laying the groundwork for Trump’s war on Ryan.