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Jared Holt

Author ››› Jared Holt
  • Vice Presidential Debate Shows What Happens When Moderators Don’t Fact-Check

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Moderator Elaine Quijano failed to fact-check Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence during the vice presidential debate, enabling him to freely lie about positions advocated by his running mate, Donald Trump, with no repercussions or corrections, highlighting the necessity of moderator fact checks.

    At the debate table, Democratic candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) challenged Pence to answer for a number of Trump’s previously criticized policy positions and statements, including a proposal to create a “deportation task force,” his praise for Vladimir Putin, his advocacy for a ban on Muslim immigrants, and his claim that there “has to be some form of punishment” for women who seek abortions. Pence responded by whitewashing Trump’s past and denying that Trump made the remarks he did. Media, in turn, criticized Pence for defending Trump “by conjuring a candidate who does not exist.”

    For her part, Quijano failed her obligation to clarify the facts to viewers and let audiences know that Pence was lying about Trump’s expressed positions. Quijano could have clarified that Kaine’s questions to Pence contained truth, but instead she allowed Pence to disavow Kaine’s questions as “insults” and deny the validity of his claims.

    Quijano also missed several opportunities to correct Pence’s lies that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton supports aborting full-term babies (she doesn’t), is responsible for withdrawing troops from Iraq in 2011 (she’s not), and wants to turn the Affordable Care Act into a single-payer system (not true).

    Journalists have repeatedly stressed the “obligation” moderators have to their audiences to fact-check candidates during debates, arguing that journalists selected to moderate a debate must distinguish reality from fiction by “asking tough follow-up questions” and adding “clarity if needed.” Research suggests that people who encounter fact-checked news feel more confident that they know what is fact than those contemplating unchecked “he-said-she-said” information.

    Last month, Lester Holt’s moderation of the September 26 presidential debate demonstrated the need for moderators to prove real-time fact checks of blatantly false information, and Matt Lauer’s moderation of the NBC News Commander-in-Chief Forum demonstrated the risks of having moderators who won’t.

    Pence’s freedom to deceive and smear during the vice presidential debate reminds us of the duty moderators have to hold political candidates accountable to the public. Quijano’s failure to push back on Pence’s falsehoods demonstrates the consequences of moderating debates unchecked.

    Fox News host Chris Wallace, who will moderate the final debate this fall, has already declared that he does not intend to ensure candidates are honest, claiming it is not his job "to be a truth squad." Media Matters founder David Brock has penned a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking members to reconsider Wallace's selection.

  • Trump Ally Roger Stone’s Teleconference Was Full Of Lies And Smears

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Political trickster Roger Stone, a close confidant of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, used his biweekly open teleconference with the public to push numerous lies and smears in an effort to damage Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign

    Stone is a discredited author and a Republican political operative with a history of racism and sexism. He is an informal adviser to the candidate. He has previously peddled falsehoods about election rigging, 9/11, and the Clinton and Bush families committing murders, including of John F. Kennedy Jr., among other conspiracies. CNN and MSNBC have banned Stone from appearing on air because of his offensive rhetoric and disregard for truth. Even so, the Trump campaign’s recent shift in campaign strategy to focus on the Clintons’ personal affairs indicates it will follow an election strategy laid out by Stone.

    During his September 29 “Insider Teleconference,” Stone continued to spread conspiracy theories and smears about the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, and billionaire George Soros.

    Stone Claimed Clinton Wore An Earpiece During Debate: “The Fix Was In”

    During the live teleconference, Stone falsely claimed Clinton was “quite clearly operating with an earpiece” to receive answers to questions during the September 26 presidential debate because “she can’t remember anything.”

    He also falsely alleged that Clinton “clearly had advance notice to the questions” at the debate and accused NBC of “some funny business,” including sending an intern to Clinton’s campaign headquarters ahead of the debate to help prepare. Stone added that it was “clear” that “the mainstream media fix was in,” and he attacked moderator Lester Holt. This conspiracy theory, also pushed by fellow Trump ally Newt Gingrich, originated from a fake news website.

    Stone Warned That Clinton Could Rig Voting Machines “For A Desired Result”

    Stone warned his listeners that Clinton may rig voting machines to defeat Trump. Stone said “there is no doubt” that voter machines are “easy to manipulate” and “program to have a desired result.” He baselessly claimed there was evidence showing voting machines were “rigged by Hillary to screw Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries,” and that “if Hillary will cheat Bernie, she’ll cheat Donald Trump and the American people.” Trump has also pushed the “rigged” claim, and numerous media figures have condemned it as “preposterous” and “irresponsible.”

    Stone leads the pro-Trump group Stop The Steal, which aims to “stop the Democrats from stealing the election from Donald Trump.” The group claims that it will “[d]emand inspection of the software used to program the voting machines in every jurisdiction prior to the beginning of voting by an independent and truly non-partisan third party” and “[c]onduct targeted EXIT-POLLING in targeted states and targeted localities that we believe the Democrats could manipulate.”

    Stone Called Billionaire George Soros A “Nazi War Criminal”

    Stone encouraged listeners to join his “Defend the Donald” blogging campaign aimed at fighting Trump criticism online. Stone also attacked Media Matters, which he claimed receives funding from billionaire political activist George Soros, who is Jewish and who Stone called a “Nazi war criminal.” The smear against Soros, who has donated to Media Matters in the past, has previously been debunked

    Stone tweeted in 2014 that Soros should be “detained, charged, tried, convicted and executed. He is a cancer on the body politic.”

    Stone Doubted CIA Reports On Russian Hackers And Claimed CIA Director Works For Clinton’s Campaign

    Stone also raised doubts about CIA Director John Brennan’s finding that the United States should be concerned about Russian cyberattacks and attempts to influence the 2016 election, calling such concerns “laughable.” Stone challenged Brennan to put forth evidence, said that the director “has been politicized,” and accused him of “reading the talking points from the Clinton campaign, presumably because he wants to keep his job.” Brennan’s warning came after security officials agreed that Russian hackers were most likely responsible for stealing email records from the Democratic National Committee over the summer and noted that there was evidence they were behind other hacking attempts.

    Stone also called concerns about Trump’s connections to Russia “the new McCarthyism” despite Trump’s numerous campaign connections to Russia and Trump’s support and praise for Russia’s president and policies.

  • Sunday News Shows Omit Coverage Of Trump Foundation Investigation, Conflicts Of Interest

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Sunday morning political news programs neglected two major news stories that raise ethical questions about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s family charity and his business interests, including reports that Trump’s charitable foundation is under investigation by the New York Attorney General and the conflicts of interest the Trump Organization would raise in a Trump presidency.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a September 13 CNN interview that his office is investigating Trump’s charitable foundation over concerns that it “engaged in some impropriety” as related to New York charity laws. The investigation launched amid reports from The Washington Post that Trump spent money from his charity on items meant to benefit himself, such as a $20,000 oil painting of himself and a $12,000 autographed football helmet, and also recycled others’ contributions “to make them appear to have come from him” although he “hasn’t given to the foundation since 2008.”

    In Newsweek’s September 23 cover story, Kurt Eichenwald reported that Trump’s business interests “will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” if Trump wins the presidency and does not sever all connections to the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization, Eichenwald reported, has been “largely ignored” by media, yet would cause “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” in nearly all foreign policy decisions a president Trump would make. Eichenwald’s report explains that the Trump Organization’s enterprise includes “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians and even criminals,” and “reveals a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled” which could conflict with major national security decisions and negotiations required by the presidential elect.

    Yet none of the Sunday morning political news shows dedicated substantial coverage to either report on September 18.

    NBC’s Meet The Press briefly alluded to reports that the Trump Organization could pose conflicts of interest without mentioning the Newsweek report directly. Host Chuck Todd asked Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway whether Trump would offer an “explanation of how he will wall off his business so that there are not even illusions or any sort of cloud that would hang over foreign policy decisions and his international business dealings.”

    But ABC’s This Week, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox Broadcasting’s Fox News Sunday, and CBS’ Face the Nation all completely ignored the stories about Trump’s foundation and business empire, even though each featured interviews with Trump surrogates who could have been asked about them. Meet the Press did not reference Trump’s foundation.

    Journalists have been criticized for the “double standard” in the ways they cover Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Earlier this month, cable news programs devoted 13 times more coverage to Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis as The Washington Post’s reporting about the Trump Foundation. This week, both the Trump Foundation and Trump Organization stories were given short shrift by the broadcast news programs in favor of coverage of Donald Trump’s Dr. Oz stunt.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters conducted a SnapStream search for any coverage of both reports on Sunday morning political news shows including: ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face The Nation, NBC’s Meet The Press, Fox Broadcasting’s Fox News Sunday, and CNN’s State of the Union. The search was conducted using search terms “Newsweek,” “Eichenwald,” “Trump Organization,” “Fahrenthold,” “Trump Foundation,” “Trump Charity,” and “Charity.” 

  • Trump Campaign Statement Clashes With Recent Birther Claims Made By Trump And Surrogates To The Media

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & JARED HOLT

    Donald Trump’s campaign released a statement claiming Trump now admits President Obama was born in the United States, and “was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion” in 2011. In fact, Trump has pushed racist birther attacks on President Obama after 2011, and campaign surrogates have repeatedly defended his birtherism in the media.

  • Right-Wing Media Figures Push Trump’s Suggestion That Ford Is Sending Jobs To Mexico

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Right-wing media figures advanced Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s suggestion that Ford Motor Company was sending Michigan auto jobs to Mexico despite the fact that Ford CEO Mark Fields said Trump’s innuendo was “absolutely not true” and that “zero” jobs are being exported from Michigan. The auto giant is retooling its Michigan Assembly Plant to focus exclusively on large, profitable trucks and SUVs while reallocating production of less profitable small cars to Mexico in response to changing consumer preferences in the United States.

  • ABC World News Tonight Ignores Report On New Investigation Into Trump Foundation

    CBS And NBC Devote Segments To The Breaking News Story

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    While broadcast news programs on NBC and CBS covered reports that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating whether Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s charitable foundation complied with laws governing charities in New York, ABC’s World News Tonight failed to report on the development. 

    On September 14, Schneiderman told CNN his office is investigating The Donald J. Trump Foundation over concerns that the charity may have “engaged in some impropriety” regarding New York state non-profit regulations.

    Reports of the Attorney General’s investigation followed a series of reports by The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold that stated Trump’s charity appeared “to have repeatedly broken IRS rules,” contained little of Trump’s own money, and occasionally purchased things “that seemed to benefit only Trump.” Fahrenthold also reported that Trump’s charity had been “retooled” to “spend other people’s money” on things such as a $20,000 portrait of Trump and a $12,000 autographed football helmet, therefore allowing “a rich man to be philanthropic for free.”

    NBC and CBS both included segments about Schneiderman’s inquiry during their September 14 evening news programs, but ABC neglected to include the report in its network’s programing.

    Media have brushed aside revelations about the Trump Foundation to devote airtime to hyping questions about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton

  • Media Finally Admit The Bar Is Lower For Trump. But Can They Fix It?

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Memo to the media: You cannot have it both ways on the double standard applied to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    After NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, reporters and pundits proclaimed that media have held the two presidential nominees to different standards of knowledge and conduct, yet these media figures have also perpetuated the double standard by excusing Trump’s behavior and applauding him any time he shows a veneer of conventionality.

    Numerous media figures criticized Matt Lauer, host of the September 7 forum, for employing different questioning toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Lauer allowed Trump to lie about opposing the Iraq war, yet he used eight of his first nine questions for Clinton to grill her over her emails. Several media figures said Lauer’s line of questioning embodied the “double standard” that reporters across the board use to analyze the two candidates.

    If Media Figures Note The Double Standard ... 

    • MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: Trump Is The "Continued Beneficiary Of A Huge Double Standard." The morning after the forum, MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle told Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough that Lauer interviewed Trump “as if he were the co-host or the host of The Apprentice,” rather than a presidential candidate, noting, “Syria wasn’t mentioned. Aleppo wasn’t mentioned. The refugee crisis wasn’t mentioned.” He noted that the forum showed Trump is the “continued beneficiary of a huge double standard.”
       
    • Wash. Post Contributor Paul Waldman: “Hillary Clinton Gets Examined In A Very Different Way Than Donald Trump Does.” Following the forum, Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman explained that Clinton “gets examined in a very different way than Trump does” by the media. Speaking on the September 7 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Waldman faulted media for taking an “all hands on deck mentality” when reporting Clinton news -- saying that “everybody will investigate every nook and cranny to see if there’s anything there that looks untoward. And even if there isn’t, it becomes this story that drags out over the course of days and even weeks” -- as opposed to “strings of issues” about Trump that are reported once and then forgotten.
       
    • Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin: “Trump Is Being Held To A Less High Standard.” ” Prior to the forum, Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin told co-host John Heilemann that “the Clinton campaign is right” that “Trump is being held to a less high standard” by reporters and that “the press is just not holding him accountable.” Halperin continued, “Trump is doing things that if Clinton did, she would be hit a lot harder,” and he urged media to “work on fixing that.” Co-host John Heilemann agreed with Halperin, despite having defended the double standard the week prior, when he said that “sometimes … you have to set the bar low” for Trump.
       
    • NY Times' Maggie Haberman: "The Bar Has Been Lowered For Trump Repeatedly." New York Times political correspondent Maggie Haberman said on CNN’s New Day leading up to the forum that Trump “keeps getting graded on a curve” and “the bar has been lowered for Trump repeatedly.” Haberman criticized media figures who assess Trump by asking, “Does he merely pass?” And then if he does, they record it as Trump “did very well.”
       
    • NY Times’ James Poniewozik Slams Lauer For Questioning Trump On A Curve. New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik scolded Lauer for treating Clinton “like someone running for president” but Trump “like someone running to figure out how to be president, eventually.” Poniewozik wrote that after grilling Clinton on her private email server, Lauer pitched Trump “the kind of whiffle ball job-interview” questions “you ask the boss’s nephew you know you have to hire anyway.”
       
    • CNN’s Brian Stelter: “It Is True That Trump Is Held To A Different Standard Than Clinton.” The day after the forum, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter told CNN host Ashleigh Banfield that “it is true that Trump is held to a different standard than Clinton” and said that “no doubt, at the forum, there was different treatment for Trump versus Clinton.”

    ... But Have Perpetuated It ...

    Despite all this commentary, media figures have consistently perpetuated the double standard, holding Trump to a lower bar than they do Clinton in terms of behavioral and ethical conduct -- and in measures of veracity. Most recently, when a report came out that Trump paid a fine to the IRS for making an illegal $25,000 donation to the 2013 re-election campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, broadcast news networks devoted a third as much as time to the matter as they provided to a flawed Associated Press story on the Clinton Foundation that proved no ethics breaches.

    Media figures have previously repeatedly pardoned Trump’s widely criticized rhetoric, policy flip-flops, and divisive comments because he’s “not a politician” and is “learning as he goes”:

    • Fox Hosts Excused Trump's Abortion Comments Because "He's Learning As He Goes." Hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends excused Trump’s statement in March that there should be some kind of punishment for women who obtain abortions, suggesting that Trump should not be expected to answer questions about abortion because they’re usually reserved for more experienced politicians. Co-host Steve Doocy excused Trump, saying, “He only became a politician about six or seven months ago.”
       
    • CNN’s Mark Preston: “You Have To Expect” Trump Will Abandon His Positions; He Can’t Be Thought Of In “Conventional Terms.” CNN political executive editor Mark Preston told New Day host Chris Cuomo in May that he was not surprised the presumptive nominee “took a half-step back” on banning Muslim immigrants because he can't be thought of in “conventional terms,” but rather “in Donald Trump terms.”
       
    • The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich: “Consistency Should Be An Argument Against Donald Trump,” But Trump “Isn’t A Normal Candidate.” Daily Beast Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich claimed in May that while “consistency should be an argument against” Trump “in a normal political system,” Trump is “not a normal candidate” and thus his policy reversals might not affect him.

    Media have also absurdly applauded Trump any time he has appeared to assume even the slightest veneer of conventional, tempered behavior:

    • Reading A Speech From A Teleprompter: Media figures praised Trump as “presidential” in early June for delivering one speech with the aid of a teleprompter. Fox anchor Megyn Kelly praised Trump for being “a little bit more controlled using the teleprompter, which is something we almost never see him do, staying on message.”
       
    • Delivering One Speech Devoid Of Racist Attacks: Following the same speech, media figures also praised Trump as “presidential” for refraining from launching racist attacks against the federal judge presiding over Trump University lawsuits, which Trump had done for multiple days prior. CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.”
       
    • Rebutting A Joke About His Penis Size: Fox doctor Keith Ablow praised Donald Trump for “show[ing] an incredible degree of psychological strength” in responding to a joke about the size of his hands by referencing the size of his penis.
       
    • Not Calling Then-Opponent Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted”: Following Trump’s April victory in the New York primary, Fox’s Megyn Kelly and ABC’s Tom Llamas said Trump was becoming “more presidential” and “trying out a more presidential style” because he did not call his opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump returned to using the phrase the next day.

    ... Will They Change? 

    Now that political media have admitted their own shortcomings in the cautionary tale of Lauer, will they level the playing field between Clinton and Trump?

    Researcher Tyler Cherry contributed research to this post.

  • Right-Wing Radio Host Howie Carr Defends Trump Immigration Plan With 30 Minutes Of Racism

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Boston Herald columnist and syndicated radio host Howie Carr spent the first 30 minutes of his August 31 radio show using anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim rhetoric to defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s trip to Mexico and his proposed immigration policies. Carr, who has backed Trump throughout his campaign, also used anti-immigrant slurs such as “illegal alien” and “anchor baby” and said Mexican immigrants are “undesirables” who don’t work.