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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.
Trump’s Damage Control After NY Times Tax Bombshell At Odds With His Own Tax Plan That Favors His Own Businesses
Following The New York Times’ report that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may have been able to avoid federal income taxes for 18 years after declaring a $916 million loss in 1995 as his businesses collapsed, some pundits are adopting the Trump campaign’s spin that the story proves that Trump “knows the tax code far better than anyone … and he is the only one that knows how to fix it.” In fact, Trump’s tax plan “doesn’t just preserve those breaks, it piles on new ones for real estate developers like Mr. Trump himself,” according to The Washington Post. The proposal would deliver a massive tax cut to Trump’s own businesses while providing a multi-trillion dollar tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump updated his tax reform plan in a September 15 speech, just over a month after his initial August 9 revision of the plan. The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation has now scored Trump’s latest tax plan and found it would still cost trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue and would overwhelmingly benefit higher-income earners. Mainstream media are using these findings to push back on Trump’s claims that he supports the middle class and to shine a spotlight on the contradicting statements about the economy his campaign has made.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump once again updated his tax and economic policy proposals during a September 15 speech at the Economic Club of New York. Journalists and experts immediately slammed Trump’s plan as “a total fantasy,” “pretty much impossible,” and “pie in the sky.”
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board criticized Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe for continuing his effort to restore voting rights to former felons, echoing an unfounded Virginia GOP claim that McAuliffe, a Democrat, “is acting in contempt of the court that has rebuked him.”
On April 22, McAuliffe issued an order restoring voting rights to approximately 206,000 Virginians who lost them due to prior felony convictions. Nearly 13,000 Virginians subsequently registered to vote. But the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, William Howell, filed a lawsuit against McAuliffe seeking to stop the restoration of rights to this group of people, arguing the governor did not use his authority properly. The Virginia Supreme Court agreed, halting McAuliffe’s executive action and bumping those who had registered off the voting rolls.
After the state Supreme Court ruled, McAuliffe again began restoring voting rights to former felons, but on a case-by-case basis, which the court had specifically suggested as an acceptable alternative. As explained by the governor’s office, “While it is our position that the Governor’s April 22nd action was clearly constitutional by any reasonable standard, he will proceed with individual restorations in accordance with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before him.”
But the Journal still took issue with the latest round of restorations in a August 12 editorial, baselessly suggesting that McAuliffe “is acting in contempt of the court that has rebuked him” and claiming that if McAuliffe “gets away with” restoring voting rights, we would be “well down the road to tyranny”:
President Obama has charted new levels of executive defiance, but even he hasn’t refused to obey a Supreme Court ruling. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has sought to follow Mr. Obama’s executive hubris, and now he’s gone further and is acting in contempt of the court that has rebuked him.
In July the Virginia Supreme Court struck down his executive order restoring voting rights to 206,000 felons. Under Virginia law the Governor can grant clemency on an individual basis. But the justices wrote that “Governor McAuliffe’s assertion of ‘absolute’ power to issue his executive order” runs “afoul of the separation-of-powers principle” in the Virginia constitution. The individual clemency power, the court admonished, “does not mean he can effectively rewrite the general rule of law.”
The Democratic Governor claims he is restoring these voting rights by the thousands on an “individual” basis. And he says he plans to do so for all of the more than 200,000 remaining felons by the time his term ends.
This is contempt of both the court and the legislature, or what is known as the “suspension” of a law simply because an executive disagrees with it. This is why the Founders wrote the Constitution to protect against such actions by kings, and Virginia Republicans have now gone to court again to stop him. Their filing last week, submitted by former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Chuck Cooper, argues that Mr. McAuliffe’s mass restoration orders “have precisely the same scope, precisely the same effect, and accomplish precisely the same unconstitutional suspension of Virginia’s felon-disenfranchisement law.”
The Journal provides no proof that McAuliffe is violating any court order or not evaluating the restorations on a case-to-case basis as his office described, a process which the Journal explicitly admits is legal under Virginia law, noting that the “Governor can grant clemency on an individual basis.” As McAuliffe’s court filing explains, voting rights were individually restored to “most but not all of the [12,521] people who had previously registered” and to “an additional 6,957 persons, all of whom had requested to have their rights restored, and he did so, again, through individualized orders after a case-by-case review process.” This procedure follows the guidance of the court, which found such an individualized review to be unobjectionable, affirming that “the Governor can use his clemency powers to mitigate a general rule of law on a case-by-case basis.”
The Journal is no friend to expanded voting rights, especially when the denial of rights disproportionately harms minorities, as barring former felons from voting does. Its opinion pages have argued against the restoration of the Voting Rights Act and for restrictive Voter ID laws.
And that background makes the Journal’s hostility to McAuliffe’s actions unsurprising. The denial of voting rights for felons has long had a disproportionately negative impact on African-Americans in Virginia. As Erika Wood, the former deputy director at the Brennan Center for Justice, explained in a 2010 Richmond Times Dispatch op-ed, “There is ample evidence in the historical record that” the law denying former felons the right to vote “is firmly rooted in Jim Crow, and its intended effects continue today,” when “one in every six African Americans in Virginia, and one in four African-American men, is permanently disenfranchised under this law. African Americans make up only one fifth of Virginia’s population, but over half of those are disenfranchised.”
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Wall Street Journal Scandalizes Hillary Clinton's Attendance At Her Husband's Birthday Party
A new report from The Wall Street Journal provides an excellent example of the media’s tendency to suggest malfeasance around events related to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, even when they have found no evidence to support that impression. Based on documents and spin from a right-wing organization, the story actually scandalizes Clinton’s attendance at her husband’s birthday party.
Publication bias -- the tendency to publish stories regardless of whether they prove the premise the reporters set out to investigate -- is one of the most pernicious aspects of press coverage of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias has put it, “Journalists need to admit when we’ve struck out” in order to avoid providing readers “a distorted picture of reality simply because everyone is trying to be interesting.”
Here’s a sentence-by-sentence breakdown of how that played out in a September 6 Journal report headlined “Calendar Shows Hillary Clinton Meetings With Foundation Donors.”
Hillary Clinton as secretary of state attended high-profile events and functions where donors to her family’s charitable foundation were in attendance, calendar records show.
The story opens with an over-promise suggesting that it will contain a number of conflicts of interest regarding Clinton and her foundation. As we will see, that does not occur.
Records for a six-month stretch in 2011 show her attending a foundation plenary session in New York in September, when she was interviewed by her daughter, Chelsea.
This isn’t news -- the 2011 interview at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting was covered at the time by ABC, NBC, CNN, and The Associated Press. None of those outlets suggested there was anything untoward about the appearance. You can watch video of the event here.
Three weeks later, she attended what was billed as a Clinton Foundation dinner in Los Angeles.
The dinner occurred at a concert that “doubled as Bill Clinton’s 65th birthday party,” according to a contemporaneous 2011 Los Angeles Times report.
The following day, she was scheduled to attend a brunch at the home of media billionaire Haim Saban, whose family foundation has given more than $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
The calendar says she and her husband were to “mix and mingle with guests.”
The Journal’s analysis reduces Saban to nothing more than a Clinton Foundation donor; mentioning Clinton’s attendance at a brunch at Saban’s home makes sense in this article only under that frame. In reality, Saban has known and supported the Clintons since Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Drawing a line from the Clinton Foundation donation to the brunch appearance is nonsensical.
The records were provided by Citizens United, a conservative group that obtained them through a public-records lawsuit against the State Department. David Bossie, president of Citizens United, said last week he would take a leave of absence to join the Trump campaign.
This is an acknowledgment that the contents of this article are based on documents provided by a right-wing organization that has been attacking the Clintons for decades. Journalists are less likely to continue to receive access to such documents if they report that the documents show nothing shady occurred (one might call that a bit of a journalistic quid pro quo).
Mrs. Clinton has faced questions about the family foundation and whether donors received access to her top deputies at the State Department. In an interview to air Tuesday on ABC, Mrs. Clinton said, “What I made a decision based on was what was good for the United States, what was good for our values, our interests, and our security.”
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and history professor at Rice University, said that “a lot of politics is perception” and that the Clinton Foundation’s “endless tangle of relationships” have amounted to a drag on her candidacy.
These paragraphs put the article’s supposed revelations in the context of “questions” Clinton has faced about purported play-to-play surrounding the foundation, notwithstanding the article’s failure to identify such a case.
The calendar shows that on Sept. 16, 2011, Mrs. Clinton convened a summit in San Francisco, where she gave a speech on empowering women. Before the speech, according to her calendar, Mrs. Clinton met with nine executives from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for which she once served on the board.
A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to comment about the meeting, which included Doug McMillon, now the company’s CEO. The Clinton campaign said the meeting related to a company initiative aimed at boosting women-owned businesses.
In the spring of the next year, Wal-Mart pledged to help women in Latin America with a $1.5 million donation in grants to 55,000 women entrepreneurs through a public-private partnership Mrs. Clinton created at the State Department. Wal-Mart also gave $500,000 for Vital Voices, a charity she co-founded.
Later in 2012, Mrs. Clinton visited India and made an argument to loosen the nation’s restrictions on big-box retailers.
A Clinton representative has said she was advocating on behalf of American companies in general.
As secretary of state, Clinton promoted women-owned businesses abroad, including through public-private partnerships, and advocated for U.S. companies in foreign countries. In other words, she did her job. But the article scandalizes these typical job responsibilities by placing them in the context of “questions” raised about the foundation. Vital Voices is a nonprofit that grew out of a U.S. government program Clinton and then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright founded in 1997 to “promote the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy goal.”
“The idea that attending her husband’s birthday party, being interviewed by her daughter on live TV or meeting with a company announcing a major global initiative to help empower women economically—all of which was covered in the press at the time—is somehow now retroactively scandalous is absurd,” said Josh Schwerin, Clinton campaign spokesman.
The last paragraph of the article is a statement from a Clinton campaign spokesman explaining why the piece’s premise makes no sense and why it shouldn’t have been published.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow ridiculed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after a Wall Street Journal survey found not a single former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) would support his presidency.
Maddow opened the August 25 edition of her program by blasting Trump over a Wall Street Journal survey that revealed that no former CEA members would state support for the GOP nominee. Maddow reported that while this “very diverse group” of 45 economists had served eight different presidents -- including five Republicans -- “the one thing they all have in common is that not a single one of them supports Donald Trump for president.”
According to the Journal, no Democratic or Republican advisers expressed support for Trump. Two former Republican advisers (Matthew Slaughter and Richard Schmalensee) crossed party lines to offer support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. And two GOP advisers (former Reagan appointees William Poole and Jerry Jordan) even stated their support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson over their own party’s nominee. Maddow called the survey result “stunning,” and compared the economists’ “profound rejection” of Trump to being passed over at a dance. Maddow noted that it was like asking someone to dance, “and everybody in the world decides they will never dance again because of you” (emphasis added):
RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): It's one thing to have, you know, some dissident Republicans rejecting a party's presidential nominee. It happens here and there. It happens, to a greater or lesser extent, with almost every nominee from both major parties every election cycle. There's always a dissenter here or there, but when it's everyone alive who has ever worked for any American president as an economic adviser including the last five Republican presidents, and they all reject you. That’s not like, you ask somebody to dance and they say, “no I don't want to dance with you.” That's like, you ask someone to dance and everybody in the world decides they will never dance again because of you. I mean, this is just -- this is profound rejection. I find that just stunning.
During the segment, Maddow also highlighted a bitingly critical indictment of Trump that Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, a former CEA chairman under President Reagan, told to The Wall Street Journal:
“I have known personally every Republican president since Richard Nixon. They all showed a real understanding of economics and international affairs. The same was true of Mitt Romney. Donald Trump does not have that understanding and does not seem to be concerned about it. That alone disqualifies him in my judgement.”
The revelations from the Journal’s survey were also a topic of conversation on the August 26 edition of CNN’s New Day, during which Trump booster Steve Forbes dismissed the revelation and pivoted to highlight the supposed strength of Trump's advisers: Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow. Moore and Kudlow have been dogged for making inaccurate statements and failed predictions over the years. Moore was accused of having “a troubled relationship with facts” by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who went on to say that Moore may be maintaining a career in conservative economics only because “incompetence is actually desirable at some level” in those circles. Meanwhile, Kudlow recently lectured single parents that they are partly to blame for poverty even though he admitted to having "virtually no knowledge in this field.”
The Journal's failure to find a single Democratic or Republican supporter of Trump among 45 former presidential economic advisers follows an August 22 report from the paper that hundreds of business economists overwhelmingly prefer Clinton as the best candidate on the economy. Clinton received the support of 55 percent of 414 economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics (NABE). Trump drew votes from just 14 percent of NABE members, once again registering less support on the economy than Gary Johnson, who garned 15 percent.
The almost complete lack of support for Trump on the economy comes despite months of the GOP nominee being the dominant force in cable news discussions of the economy -- thanks in part to appearing on Fox News’ Hannity 24 times during the first six months of 2016.
Fox News host Stuart Varney mischaracterized new details about the United States’ $400 million payment to the Iranian government, claiming that the State Department admitted that the money was a “ransom payment” for American prisoners. In reality the payment, stemming from a “decades-old” agreement, was “conducted separately from the prisoner talks” and was withheld as “leverage until the US citizens had left Iran.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on August 3 that the Obama administration “organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.”
Right-wing media distorted news of the cash transfer -- which related to a settlement reached in 1979 “over a failed arms deal” that was resolved in The Hague -- to falsely claim the transfer had been done in secret and that the payment was ransom.
The Journal then reported on August 18 that the cash exchange was “specifically timed to the release of several American prisoners held in Iran.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby reportedly said that although “the US withheld delivery of the cash as leverage until the US citizens had left Iran,” the negotiations over transferring the money were “conducted separately from the prisoner talks.”
Fox host Stuart Varney seized upon Kirby’s statement to falsely claim that the State Department “basically admitted that the Journal story is correct,” and that “this is a ransom payment.” Varney also said, “[it’s] very difficult to say that’s not ransom.”
But the payment indeed was not ransom, as Kirby explained in an August 18 State Department press briefing. Kirby noted that the money was given to Iran after the prisoners had been released in an effort to “retain maximum leverage,” not before, as a ransom payment typically happens.
Kirby also noted that the payment was timed with the prisoner release because “We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24 hour period, including implementation of the nuclear deal, the prisoner talks, and the settlement” in question. Kirby made clear that “we deliberately leveraged that moment to finalize these outstanding issues nearly simultaneously” because of “concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release” and “mutual mistrust” between the two countries.
Donald Trump’s new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has long been a fixture in right-wing media and has a history of inflammatory statements, including claiming that “revulsion towards men” is “part and parcel of the feminist movement,” asserting that people “don’t want their kids looking at a cartoon with a bunch of lesbians,” and using false statistics on live television to claim sex-selection abortion is pervasive in the United States.
Media are rushing to promote a new email dump from the conservative group Judicial Watch that they suggest, in the words of The New York Times, shows that the Clinton Foundation “worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department” under Hillary Clinton. But a closer look at the Judicial Watch emails suggests there is far less to the story than it appears and brings into question the conclusions the Times and other outlets have inferred from the newly released emails. Indeed, the very details that undermine those conclusions are frequently included in the reports themselves.
Judicial Watch’s press release framed the emails as showing “Clinton Foundation Donor Demands on State Department,” and focused on two email exchanges in particular:
The new documents reveal that in April 2009 controversial Clinton Foundation official Doug Band pushed for a job for an associate. In the email Band tells Hillary Clinton’s former aides at the State Department Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin that it is “important to take care of [Redacted]. Band is reassured by Abedin that “Personnel has been sending him options.” Band was co-founder of Teneo Strategy with Bill Clinton and a top official of the Clinton Foundation, including its Clinton Global Initiative.
Included in the new document production is a 2009 email in which Band, directs Abedin and Mills to put Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire and Clinton Foundation donor Gilbert Chagoury in touch with the State Department’s “substance person” on Lebanon. Band notes that Chagoury is “key guy there [Lebanon] and to us,” and insists that Abedin call Amb. Jeffrey Feltman to connect him to Chagoury.
Media outlets across the spectrum immediately ran with the story, speculating the emails may, as the Times put it, raise “questions about whether [the Clinton Foundation] worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department.” The Wall Street Journal ran the headline “Newly Released Emails Highlight Clinton Foundation’s Ties to State Department.” A CNN.com article stated, “Newly released Clinton emails shed light on relationship between State Dept. and Clinton Foundation.”
On New Day, CNN’s Brianna Keilar called the Times’ allegations “unseemly at best,” suggesting the emails may have been inappropriate. Co-host Chris Cuomo said the Times’ report “show[s] pretty clear overlapping between what was going on at the Clinton Global Initiative and what was going on with Secretary Clinton.”
Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, called the emails “fairly significant” and said they show at least “one example of the Clinton Foundation getting probably millions of dollars … and then having the foundation pick up the phone and say ‘help our donor over here.’”
Co-host of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Steve Doocy said, “when you look at these particular email that you have released, it's pretty clear, if you want access to the State Department officials, big top government people, or even jobs, just give the Clinton family foundation a lot of money.”
These accounts adopt Judicial Watch’s frame that Band, acting as an agent of the Clinton Foundation on behalf of Clinton Foundation donors, was wielding influence in the State Department. But Band was also a personal aide to President Clinton during this time period, and, as the Times noted, the Clinton campaign says he was acting in that capacity in these emails, which they say do not “involve the secretary or relate to the foundation’s work.” A fact sheet distributed to surrogates by the Clinton campaign and obtained by Media Matters states that Band sent the emails “on behalf of President Clinton from his presidentclinton.org email, not on behalf of the Foundation.”
Moreover, neither the emails nor the news reports provide any evidence that Clinton Foundation donors impacted decisions Clinton made at the State Department. According to the Times, Band attempted to “connect” Chagoury with someone at the State Department to discuss “his interests in Lebanon.” But the actual email exchange provides no support for this claim -- Band gives no explanation for why Chagoury wants to speak to a “substance person re Lebanon.” The Clinton surrogates fact sheet states that Chagoury, who is of Lebanese descent, “was simply seeking to share his insights on the upcoming Lebanese election with the right person at the Department of State for whom this information might be helpful. In seeking to provide information, he was not seeking action by the Department.”
Nor does the Times explain what Chagoury’s “interests in Lebanon” are -- while the language suggests he has business interests in the country, the paper provides no evidence that is the case. Chagoury has engaged in philanthropic ventures in Lebanon. In 2008, Chagoury made a $10 million donation “to fund the medical school” at the Lebanese American University and has been involved with a charity called In Defense Of Christians, which, according to its mission statement, seeks “to ensure the protection and preservation of Christianity and Christian culture in the Middle East.”
Likewise, the Times report and other similar accounts also allege that “the foundation” attempted to influence Clinton aides to “help find a job for a foundation associate,” based on a Band email highlighted by Judicial Watch. But the email exchange these reports are pointing to clearly shows the “foundation associate” the Times refers to was never employed by the Clinton Foundation, according to the Clinton campaign, and the email exchanges themselves indicate that the State Department aides were already intending to offer the candidate a position. In comments to ABC News, State Department spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau also noted that the State Department “hires political appointees through a ‘variety of avenues’ and suggested there was nothing unusual about this exchange,” adding “State Department officials are regularly in touch with a range of outside individuals and organizations including non-profits, NGOs, think tanks, and others.”
Judicial Watch is a right-wing organization with a history of duping the press on Clinton email stories. The media should not be so quick to adopt their framing as the truth.
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Conservative media have mischaracterized Hillary Clinton’s policy plan to expand funding and support for child care and early education programs, suggesting the presidential nominee is offering voters “goodies,” fearmongering about government overreach in preschool programs, and ignoring the economic boost that quality early learning programs can offer. Here are the facts about the short- and long-term economic benefits of supporting greater access to quality early education programs, particularly for single mothers and low-income families.