Lis Power

Author ››› Lis Power
  • Fox's chief intelligence correspondent edited out mention of Russian government when quoting Trump Jr. emails

    A Fox host also praised Trump Jr. for "trying to make this as most transparent as possible" 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    One of Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherie Herridge's earliest reports on the new revelations regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s willingness to receive damaging information against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton from the Russian government edited out key parts of the email exchange that showed that Trump Jr. knew the information was indeed from the Russian government. Additonally, during reporting of Fox News' Outnumbered, host Sandra Smith praised the president’s son for “trying to make this as most transparent as possible.”

    On July 11, The New York Times published the email correspondence setting up a meeting between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin. (Trump Jr., in an apparent attempt to pre-empt the Times report, released some of the emails himself on Twitter shortly before the report was posted.) In the initial email, “a trusted intermediary” wrote (emphasis added), “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responded, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

    During Fox News’ Outnumbered, chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported on the developments, reading “key sections” from the email chain between Trump Jr. and the intermediary, Rob Goldstone. Herridge read:

    But, as the ellipses show, Herridge omitted a key section of the quote. Goldstone’s reference to “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” was not included in the on-screen graphic, and Herridge did not mention that part of the quote during her report.

    Following Herridge’s report, host Sandra Smith praised Trump Jr. for releasing the emails himself and “trying to make this as most transparent as possible.” Smith also attempted to move the goalposts, asking whether there’s “any evidence” that “tells us that [Trump Jr.] reached out to anyone within the campaign immediately after receiving that email.” The question seemed to be an attempt to deflect from the fact that simply by seeking the information, the younger Trump may have violated laws barring contributions to political campaigns from foreign nationals.

    Shortly after Herridge's report, co-host Meghan McCain filled in the missing quote about the Russian government, noting that it is "the biggest concern in these emails."

    Fox has consistently tried to either ignore, or downplay news surrounding Trump and Russia, and has gone as far as creating an alternate reality to distract its viewers. The network's reaction to these new developments is just the latest example.

  • The Sexual Harassment Crisis Is Bigger Than Just Bill O'Reilly

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is facing backlash following a New York Times report revealing that he and Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, have paid a total of nearly $13 million to avoid lawsuits pertaining to reports of sexual harassment and other misconduct by O’Reilly. Following the Times' article, advertisers began to pull their ads from The O’Reilly Factor’s time slot. Abandoning O’Reilly’s show is a good first step, but it’s not nearly enough to actually address the widespread culture of sexual harassment that is rampant both at Fox News and in society at large.

    On April 1, The New York Times reported that five women had received payments totaling nearly $13 million from either O’Reilly or 21st Century Fox “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their” reports about of sexual harassment involving O’Reilly. The incidents include claims of “verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.”

    Following the report, over 45 companies pulled their ads from airing during The O’Reilly Factor. Many issued statements explaining their decision, noting that they “condemn all forms of harassment,” that they have a “strong commitment to inclusion, respect and tolerance in the workplace,” and that “the allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”

    While at least one organization, the Society for Human Resource Management, decided to pull its ads from the network at large, the majority have simply redistributed their ads to other Fox News shows, as noted by Fox’s executive vice president of advertising sales, who issued a statement saying

    "We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about the O'Reilly Factor," Rittenberg said. "At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs."

     Although pulling advertisements from O’Reilly’s program is a good first step, the problem of sexual harassment at Fox News is not singular to O’Reilly. If advertisers are serious about confronting sexual harassment, they must stop financially supporting a company that has shown little desire to resolve its toxic culture of harassment.

    For more than a decade, Fox News has been embroiled in sexual harassment and sexual misconduct settlements and reports. A timeline depicting the totality of sexual harassment reports against Fox News and powerful Fox figures over the years shows a clear pattern of corporate retaliation, victim-blaming, and million dollar payouts for silence that simultaneously protect and defend the accused. Given the sheer number of social, political, and economic risks survivors face when reporting sexual assault and harassment, it is entirely possible the number of incidents is even higher than the current paper trail suggests. 

    O’Reilly isn’t the only problematic figure when it comes to sexual harassment at Fox News. Fox’s former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes was forced out after multiple reports of sexual harassment. Fox News co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy have both been accused of participating in Fox’s culture of silence when it comes to sexual harassment. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that Shine and other executives were not only aware of Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment of Fox News employees, but were also actively involved in helping Ailes “cover up” his actions. Despite claiming to investigate and take seriously this culture of rampant sexual harassment, the network chose to renew O’Reilly’s contract last week. Just this week, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky said in a lawsuit that Ailes and the network “discriminated against Roginsky on the basis of her gender” and “retaliated” against her “when she refused to have a sexual relationship with Ailes.” Roginsky’s suit also says that “Fox News never investigated Roginsky’s complaints.”

    The systematic harassment and silencing of female employees at Fox News is well-documented and abundantly clear. If advertisers are truly serious about condemning “all forms of harassment” and advertising only in environments that highlight “the importance of women,” it should be unthinkable to continue to advertise on Fox News -- a network that has shown time and time again that it doesn’t take sexual harassment seriously.

    The problem of workplace sexual harassment certainly isn’t unique to O’Reilly or Fox News. According to a 2015 survey, one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 has been sexually harassed at work. Additionally, according to the survey, of those who had “experienced workplace sexual harassment, 29 percent reported the issue while 71 percent did not.”

    The economic consequences of workplace harassment can be devastating. A 2014 report from Equal Rights Advocates found that sexual harassment has a variety of underrecognized economic impacts on women, who can be “denied or deterred from promotions, fired, or forced to leave their jobs, regardless of whether they file.” The consequences for low-wage workers can be even more severe, as they “often have little bargaining power” and “are least able to absorb the financial blow of a reduction in hours, or of sudden changes in their work schedules that make it difficult for them to arrange child care or transportation to work.”

    Advertisers are right to pull their ads from The O’Reilly Factor, but if they’re serious about addressing sexual assault and harassment, that’s not nearly enough. By continuing to advertise on Fox News, companies aren’t living up to their commitment to fight “any and all forms of sexual harassment.” O’Reilly is just one (albeit very public) example of what happens when organizations condone and enable systemic sexual harassment. Although it’s important that advertisers hold O’Reilly and Fox News accountable, they should not treat this situation as an isolated “scandal” and satisfy themselves with reallocating ads elsewhere on the network. Sexual assault and harassment are larger societal problems, and while the outrage currently aimed at O’Reilly is valid and necessary, advertisers should be sure they don’t lose sight of the the bigger picture.

  • Trump Advocated White Nationalism With An "Indoor Voice," And Pundits Loved It 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    After President Donald Trump gave a speech to joint members of Congress filled with exaggerations, lies, and policy plans that contained no specifics -- and in many cases were based on propagating fear about and demonizing immigrants -- the takeaway from pundits and talking heads was somehow that he sounded “presidential.”

    That's how low the bar has been set. So low that because the president sounded like an adult for an hour and refrained from transparently attacking people of color, allies, or the press, media figures forgot the glaring abnormalities of Trump’s presidency thus far. To some in the media, the speech was a “reset” for the new president.

    As soon as he finished speaking, the accolades from pundits began to roll in. Fox’s Chris Wallace said, “I feel like tonight, Donald Trump became the president of the United States.” ABC’s Alex Castellanos similarly said Trump “became president tonight. I think we saw the long-awaited pivot.” MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki claimed that Trump had “a more presidential tone, a more optimistic tone,” and Fox’s Chris Stirewalt said Trump “did sound like the president, look like the president, act like the president.” They weren’t the only ones.

    It wasn’t just pundits on TV either. Newspaper headlines also lauded “a more temperate Trump,” his supposed “milder tones,” and his call for an “end to ‘trivial fights.’”

    Essentially, the media set the bar so low for the speech that when Trump, the president of the United States, sounded like the president of the United States, it was lauded as a victory.

    Not only was that an absurd measure, but the praise delivered by pundits across the broadcast and cable news stations, for the most part, entirely lacked context. One prominent example of this failure was the reaction to Trump’s comments about a slain Navy SEAL officer, William “Ryan” Owens. During his speech, Trump acknowledged Owens’ widow and said that “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.” That portion of the speech was cited by many as a highlight and an “extraordinary moment”:

    CNN’s Van Jones: “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.”

    Politico’s John Bresnahan: “That was a Reaganesque moment for Trump.”

    CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Powerful moment.”

    But there’s a lot more to this story. As NBC’s Katy Tur properly noted, while it was an emotional moment in the speech, it “came after Trump seemed to blame his generals/Obama for Owen’s death” just that morning, and after NBC reported that “senior intelligence sources dispute” the White House’s “characterization of [the] raid as a success.” As Tur pointed out, NBC’s reporting “would mean that Trump isn’t being honest with a grieving wife. And that is anything BUT presidential.”

    The praise also ignored the actual content of Trump’s address. Those lauding the speech as “normal” ignored what was extraordinarily abnormal about it of it. As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted, “President Trump’s maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies.” And while large parts of the speech simply featured Trump touting what he’s done so far as president, not much about those actions is normal either. According to a New York Times analysis, most of the significant actions and events in Trump’s presidency thus far have been “abnormal.” 

    Those praising parts of the speech also seemed unable to acknowledge the startling differences between the Trump who gave that speech and the Trump from just that morning. Some examples:

    • Some pundits praised Trump for addressing the recent wave of threats against Jewish Community centers. But just hours prior to the address, Trump seemed to imply that those threats could be false flags -- a suggestion he has made before.
    • Many pundits cheered Trump for honoring the Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid. Yet earlier that day, Trump blamed the military for Owens’ death, telling Fox & Friends hosts, “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals. ... And they lost Ryan.”
    • And all those cheering how “presidential” and “normal” the speech was must have missed the stark and pervasive demonization of immigrants -- from Trump’s announcement that he would set up an office for “victims of immigration crime” to his decision to bring three guests whose family members had been killed by immigrants.

    These remarks, particularly on immigration, served a clear purpose that the fawning punditry seemed to miss. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, talking to a “senior White House official,” reported that the aide said the speech was aimed to be “‘nationalism with an indoor voice,’” and that Trump “backed off exactly none of his previous policies.”

    Perhaps because Trump’s speech didn’t indicate any real change in policy, the high praise from the press has apparently even caught some of his aides off guard. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, even “some sources in [the White House] are frankly surprised at how pundits are warming to the speech,” noting that “Trump has not changed,” and there is “no big shift in policy coming."

    It’s not the first time the media has fallen for this ruse. Over the past year, media figures have repeatedly either predicted that Trump would finally start acting more respectable or claimed that it had already happened -- that he had finally pivoted. Yet time and time again Trump has reverted back to his usual style, leaving the media the Charlie Brown to Trump’s football-wielding Lucy.

    So yes, Trump may have sounded more like a president than we expected. But a normal-sounding speech isn’t nearly enough to erase the first month of his presidency, which was distinguished by abnormal -- and extremely problematic -- actions, attacks, and rhetoric. With promises of worse to come, it’s crucial that media stop setting the bar so low and start demanding more.

  • Front Page Headlines Fall For Trump’s Press Conference Trap

    ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Following a press conference featuring many questions about ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign was in frequent communication with Russia, front page newspaper headlines the next day hyped “ringmaster Don” and his assertion that he “inherited a mess” while de-emphasizing unanswered questions and new reporting about the Flynn and Russia controversies.

  • Right-Wing Media Are Using The Term “Fake News” To Attack Credible News Sources

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Some right-wing media figures and outlets are attempting to twist and confuse the term “fake news” -- a specific phenomenon in which information is clearly and demonstrably fabricated, then packaged and distributed to appear as a legitimate source of news -- to attack outlets they disagree with. By redefining fake news in their own terms and claiming that reporting by outlets such as The New York Times and CNN constitute fake news, right-wing media figures are bolstering President-elect Donald Trump’s continued efforts to delegitimize mainstream news sources and their reporting, and muddling real concerns about fake news used as a weapon of active disinformation.

    As public discussions about fake news reach critical mass, right-wing media figures and outlets have attempted to redefine “fake news” completely, downplaying the problem it poses. Rush Limbaugh claimed that fake news is largely “satire and parody that liberals don’t understand because they don’t have a sense of humor.” The Washington Free Beacon’s Bill McMorris described fake news as “whatever people living in the liberal bubble determine to be believed by the right.”

    Other conservatives are even using fake news to describe reporting from credible news outlets with which they disagree. Fringe right-wing conspiracy site Infowars.com declared that “The mainstream media is the primary source of the most harmful, most inaccurate news ever,” and included outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, and Politico (and Media Matters, for good measure) on their “full list of fake news outlets.” Fox contributor Newt Gingrich lamented the Times’ reporting on the fake news phenomenon, arguing,“The idea of The New York Times being worried about fake news is really weird. The New York Times is fake news.” Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham -- a contender for Trump’s press secretary -- lashed out at CNN while appearing on Fox News’ Hannity, stating “the folks over at CNN” and “the kind of little games they’re playing are so transparent … they’re the fake news organizations.”

    While there isn’t an official, universally accepted definition of fake news, a variety of outlets and experts across the ideological spectrum have identified common themes. BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman, one of the first to report frequently and extensively on the fake news phenomenon, defines fake news as “false … stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs.” The New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernese wrote that, “Narrowly defined, ‘fake news’ means a made-up story with an intention to deceive, often geared toward getting clicks." David Mikkelson, the founder of the fact-checking website Snopes.com, describes fake news as “completely fabricated information that has little or no intersection with real-world events.” Mikkelson goes on to explain, “not all bad news reporting is ‘fake,’ and that distinction should be kept clear.” Slate senior technology writer Will Oremus argues fake news is “fabricated,” “sensational stories” that imitate “the style and appearance of real news articles.” Fox media analyst Howard Kurtz defines fake news as “made-up-stuff being merchandized for clicks and profits,” clarifying that he doesn’t “mean the major media stories that some ... find unfair or exaggerated.” And CNN and Conservative Review’s Amanda Carpenter wrote that “fake news is malicious, false information that somehow becomes credible” often “printed on what appears to be a professional looking website.” Carpenter also distinguished fake news from “commentary that never purported to be straight news in the first place” or “political speech someone doesn’t happen to agree with.”

    None of these definitions are even remotely similar to how right-wing media figures are trying to redefine fake news.

    Right-wing media’s attempt to conflate fake news with reporting from legitimate journalistic institutions feeds into a larger conservative effort, led by President-elect Trump, to delegitimize mainstream media outlets. Trump, who has long waged a war on the press, has consistently expressed his contempt for journalists and news organizations and violated the norms of any president or president-elect when it comes to his relations with the media. During the month of November, Trump repeatedly attacked media outlets, calling The New York Times “dishonest,” decrying the “the crooked media” for investigating his unprecedented business conflicts of interest, and suggesting that CNN has gotten “worse” since the election. In a December 7 interview on NBC’s Today, Trump admitted he uses Twitter to bypass the media and “dishonest reporters.”

    Some experts have suggested Trump’s attacks on the media are part of a concerted effort to discredit journalists and outlets and thereby “inoculate” himself from reporting that could be damaging. On CNN’s Reliable Sources, former Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief John Huey argued that Trump used “demagogic techniques” that “smack of authoritarianism” during the campaign because “the media poses a real threat to him.”

    Attacking mainstream outlets as “fake” is the latest step in a conservative-media-fueled campaign to delegitimize credible news sources -- a dangerous path in a media landscape where people are already too willing to accept actual fake news, but are hard-pressed to believe real reporting. 

  • Media Outlets Oversell -- Then Walk Back -- Headlines On FBI’s Clinton Email Announcement

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Media outlets were quick to follow the lead of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who claimed that a letter from FBI Director James Comey indicated that the FBI had “reopened” its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. However, as the facts started to trickle in, outlets scrambled to walk back their headlines to more accurately portray the information.

    This afternoon, Comey released a letter to congressional leaders stating, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” and “I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” Comey noted that he was not sure how long the review will take and the FBI “cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant.”

    Media outlets were quick to blast out the story mostly running with Chaffetz’s framing, that a new investigation surrounding Clinton was being conducted -- with several having to walk back their headlines as it became clear that the story was significantly less dramatic.

    The Washington Post’s report was initially headlined “FBI to conduct new investigation of emails from Clinton’s private server.” 

    The article was subsequently updated with the new headline “FBI to take new ‘investigative steps’ on Clinton emails.” 

    The Post wasn’t the only media organization fooled. Politico’s initial tweet stated “#BREAKING: FBI reopens @HillaryClinton email server investigation.”

    But the current headline on the Politico article states “FBI reviewing new evidence in Clinton email probe.” 

    CNN.com also sent some mixed signals, with the front page reading “FBI reopens Clinton email probe,” the breaking news banner reading “The FBI is reopening the investigation into Clinton’s personal email server,” and the article headlined “FBI reviewing new emails in classified information probe.” 

    As Politico’s Hadas Gold noted, because Rep. Chaffetz claimed that the FBI was reopening the case, there was mass confusion in the reporting after the fact, leading outlets to run with headlines that didn’t reflect reality. 

  • CNN Trump Supporter Is Wrong. Mike Pence Has No Standing To Attack Clinton’s Ethics.

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    A CNN Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany, claimed Republican vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, could "draw a contrast of what a politician should be" because he's not in it for "personal enrichment." McEnany's claim ignores reports on Pence's use of campaign funds "for a slew of personal purposes" and his history of legislative decisions favorable to campaign donors.

    During a CNN panel discussion previewing the October 4 vice presidential debate, McEnany claimed that Republican vice presidential nominee Indiana Gov. Mike Pence would be a good contrast to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton because he's not in politics for "personal enrichment."

    KAYLEIGH MCENANY: I think Mike Pence has a really unique opportunity here to draw a contrast of what a politician should be. A politician should go in and engage in public service, not personal enrichment. Mike Pence is a guy who has never taken a salary above$200,000, and he can contrast his record with that of Hillary Clinton who went into the White House, came out dead broke, and somehow personally enriched herself and her husband to the tune of $100 million dollars via the Clinton Foundation's revolving doors of access.

    VAN JONES: Kayleigh, the first thing he ever did, was get in trouble, if you want to talk about Pence, was get in trouble for using campaign cash for personal reasons. So the idea that he's the person who's going to prosecute a case about personal enrichment? That's the first thing he ever did.

    MCENANY: He's going to prosecute this case flawlessly. Because he has trained for this, he has prepared for this moment.

    McEnany's assertion ignored numerous reports of Pence using campaign funds for "personal reasons," as CNN's Van Jones noted. According to a July 16 New York Daily News article, Pence used $13,000 in campaign funds "for a slew of personal purposes, including paying down his mortgage and covering golf tournament fees." Additionally, Pence has faced questions over his reversal on legislation regarding the gaming industry after "Indiana gaming interests gave more than $2 million to groups supporting Pence,” and the International Business Times wrote in a October 4 report that while Trump has claimed "his personal wealth would insulate his administrations from donor influence, his running mate's action on the gaming issue challenge that pledge."

    A July 14 ThinkProgress article ​also noted that Pence "has consistently carried the tobacco industry's water," and “In return, they rewarded him with more than $100,000 in campaign donations.”

  • Media: Meet Donald Trump’s New Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & LIS POWER

    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.

  • “Note The Contrast”: Pundits Point Out The Glaring Differences Between Clinton And Trump VP Announcements

    ››› ››› LIS POWER

    Media figures pointed out the “interesting contrast” in presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s introduction of her running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as opposed to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s introduction of his VP pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Journalists noted that Clinton was “more familiar” with Kaine’s accomplishments and that Clinton “did the opposite” of Trump by talking about her running mate rather than herself.