Author Page | Media Matters for America

Sergio Munoz

Author ››› Sergio Munoz
  • Faced With Trump's Media Blacklist, Broadcast Evening News Shows Roll Over

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    The broadcast network evening newscasts all referenced that the White House barred their colleagues at The New York Times, CNN, and other outlets from a briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer. But ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News neglected to mention that their representatives did not join the spontaneous boycott of the briefing started by the Associated Press, Time, and USA Today, and gave no indication that their networks will refuse to participate in any similarly restrictive briefing in the future. 

    The press "gaggle" called by Spicer that pointedly excluded the Times and CNN was another attempt by the White House to discredit these media outlets' recent and explosive reporting that the Trump administration has been pressuring the FBI to downplay the results of the investigation into possible illegal collusion between Russian officials and President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. 

    In the wake of the restricted briefing, several outlets -- including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and McClatchy -- announced that they will not participate in future closed briefings. It is imperative that other media organizations join the boycott of the Trump administration's blacklist. As Media Matters' Angelo Carusone explained, outlets that participate in briefings while their colleagues are banned "lend legitimacy to a process that is fundamentally inconsistent with a free press."

    More than 320,000 people have signed Media Matters' petition urging members of the White House press corps to band together to stand up against Trump’s media blacklist and threats to punish journalists for accurate reporting.

    From ABC World News Tonight:

    From CBS Evening News:

    From NBC Nightly News:

  • We Know The Charlatans Trump Is Relying On For His Dangerous Voter Fraud Lies

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    In a series of tweets by The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, we learned President Donald Trump was relying on “anecdotes about alleged fraud from sprawling network of friends & associates” to enable his latest temper tantrum about nonexistent voter fraud making him the popular vote loser.

    Since the election, Trump has repeatedly claimed that millions of illegal votes swung the popular vote in favor of former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. After Trump reportedly raised the issue in a meeting with congressional leaders earlier this week, claiming three to five million illegal ballots were cast, he announced on Twitter this morning that he would seek a “major investigation” of supposed voter fraud.

    We know exactly where Trump’s blatant lie came from, and we know exactly who is in the network of hucksters that supplied it to him.

    For the past twelve years, Media Matters has been tracking the nexus between right-wing media and a collection of pseudo-academics and dark money-funded conservative lawyers and activists whose mission has been to roll back decades-old civil rights law, in particular those laws that did so much to help America’s communities of color.

    For these far-right activists, voting rights have always been at the top of their target list, and lies about the prevalence of what is in fact virtually non-existent voter fraud has been their ammunition of choice.

    From conservative pundits like John Fund, Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, and Roger Stone to right-wing media platforms supplied by the “alt-right” fringes, Alex Jones, and Fox News, to the lawyers and statehouses who have pushed their reactionary rhetoric, the assault on the Second Reconstruction and core civil rights laws like the Voting Rights Act and various components of the Civil Rights Act has been relentless, and increasingly successful.

    And now, the president is repeating one of their core and repeatedly disproven lies -- that election fraud is a systemic problem. We all have a big problem now, and nonexistent voter fraud sure isn’t it.

    There is literally no honest debate to be had on this point. Voter fraud is not, and never has been, a systemic problem in modern American history. Anyone who tells you differently is lying, and anyone who humors the theory with false equivalence or “devil’s advocacy” is enabling the lie.

    The real problem and horrifying prospect is that the successor to Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama -- all presidents who expanded or protected the franchise -- either believes in this manufactured falsehood, or is happy to spin it further and louder for his personal political vanity.

    Media Matters will continue with allies to expose this lie and its roots in media misinformation and fakery for as long as we can, and we encourage responsible journalists to continue pushing back aggressively on this flagrantly undemocratic and frankly un-American posturing of our newest president.

    And to all the enablers of the voter fraud lie, the self-interested proponents of strict voter ID, the turnout conspiracy theorists, the historical “colorblind constitution” revisionists, the political beneficiaries of voter suppression and purges, now that the President of the United States has caught the carrot -- think hard about what comes next in your role as self-professed guardians of democracy.

    If President Trump sees non-existent voter fraud when he wins, what’s going to happen when he loses?

  • Trump And The Pitfalls Of Relying On Stop-And-Frisk Myths Three Years Too Late

     After Lester Holt Fact Check, Trump Now Confused About What Version Of Stop And Frisk He Wants

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    One of the dangers of haphazardly reviving right-wing media myths is that some falsehoods are much trickier than others to walk back. During the first presidential debate of 2016, GOP nominee Donald Trump learned this the hard way, when moderator Lester Holt of NBC News fact-checked him cold about the unconstitutional version of stop and frisk that the Republican presidential nominee recently proposed as a nationwide model.

    During the September 26 debate, Trump once again invoked his support for New York City’s past application of stop and frisk, which was struck down by a federal judge three years ago and abandoned on appeal, much to the disappointment of right-wing media proponents of “order” over constitutional protections. When Holt responded that “stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men,” Trump snapped back, “No, you’re wrong. … If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it's allowed.”

    But Holt was right. And that’s true without even getting into the fact that contrary to Trump’s assertions, the tactic was a proven failure at reducing violent crime in New York City.

    The generalized police practice of stop and frisk may be a common one used across the country, but if the way it’s specifically practiced results in racial profiling, it violates the federal Constitution’s protections against equal protection violations and unlawful search and seizure. That’s exactly what happened in the since-abandoned version practiced in New York City, which was exactly what Holt pointed out. If that’s the version Trump supports, he is supporting an unconstitutional policy that impermissibly discriminates on the basis of race. If he instead merely supports the version that is “allowed” “throughout the country,” then how is that a solution for reducing crime rates when it’s already in effect?

    This issue first cropped up during this campaign season on September 21, when Fox News’ Sean Hannity hosted a town hall for Trump, this one advertised as part of the nominee’s outreach to African-American voters. During the recorded event (which was bumped from airing that night due to protests over another questionable police shooting of a black man, this time in Charlotte, NC), Trump made the surprising proposal that his plan for protecting black residents of the “inner cities” was to bring back the widely reviled New York twist on stop and frisk that was struck down in federal court as unconstitutional racial profiling.

    When Trump’s unaired comments leaked, media outlets immediately began calling out his support for an abandoned and racially discriminatory policing method as a peculiar form of outreach to black voters. In response, the next morning Trump falsely claimed on the September 22 edition of Fox & Friends that he really only meant that it should be brought back in Chicago – a city he apparently was unaware already employs the practice.

    It was these confusing contradictions -- and Trump’s refusal to admit that his much-promoted “outreach” to African-American voters included a promise to stop and search them on the street because of the color of their skin -- that led Holt to try to set the record straight during the debate.

    In the wake of this and the many other aspects of Trump’s disastrous debate performance, the nominee’s supporters began spinning hard, including by making the false claim that Holt had somehow claimed stop and frisk was unconstitutional everywhere. Trump supporter, former New York City mayor, and frequent stop-and-frisk defender Rudolph Giuliani was particularly vocal. First he falsely smeared Holt’s fact check, arguing on Fox News that “Lester Holt's statement was completely ignorant and completely uncalled for, and he shouldn't get involved in a legal issue he doesn't know a darn thing about.” Later, Giuliani added Clinton to his criticism on the issue, saying she’s “totally wrong and completely ignorant” about stop and frisk. He also tried to separate himself from the actions of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who were at the helm when the stop-and-frisk policies they inherited from Giuliani’s mayorship were ruled unconstitutional. “It’s not unconstitutional if you do it the right way -- and that's what [Trump] is talking about, doing it the right way,” said Giuliani. “It was never found unconstitutional when I did it.”

    But Trump has specifically praised Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policies that were ruled unconstitutional – and he recently affirmed (intentionally or not) that this unconstitutional version of the practice still has his support.

    And this was the dilemma Trump faced as Holt accurately fact-checked his embrace of New York City’s past application of unconstitutional stop and frisk. The right-wing media bubble out of which Trump plucked his stop-and-frisk soundbite has regularly been concerned with “order” first and the U.S. Constitution second (if ever). If he stuck with that, at least it would be intellectually honest. On the other hand, the “doing it the right way” stop and frisk approach Giuliani is falling back on to cover up for Trump has been in place for almost 50 years under the Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio -- so there’s no need for Trump to claim he’ll bring it back.

    So which one is it?

    It’s not Lester Holt’s fault that Trump and his surrogates can’t or won’t explain themselves. Some myths can’t survive outside the bubble.

  • Former Trump Business Associate Speaks Out About Sexual Assault Allegations Against Trump, As Media Blackout Continues

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Television news all but ignored Jill Harth’s allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault against Donald Trump, her former business associate, when The New York Times reported on the story in May. In the months since, major news networks have continued their underreporting about the serious allegations facing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

    In an exclusive interview posted on July 18 with ABC News legal affairs anchor and LawNewz founder Dan Abrams, Harth reiterated her allegations that Trump illegally sexually harassed and assaulted her when they worked together in the early 1990s. Although Harth’s claims have been reported before in the context of Trump’s well-known misogyny -- most recently by The New York Times and The Boston Globe -- media outlets continue to ignore the fact that Harth is specifically alleging unlawful conduct on the part of the self-proclaimed “law and order” candidate.

    The last time Harth’s allegations were prominently reported was on May 14 by the Times, in a front page story based on over 50 interviews with women who have dealt with Trump as well as court records. Those varied accounts “reveal[ed] unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” by Trump, according to the Times. One of the examples was Harth’s account, which the Globe had detailed extensively in April and which could at a minimum constitute illegal sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. As explained by the Globe, Trump allegedly sexually assaulted Harth on multiple occasions after Trump, Harth, and her former boyfriend entered into a business partnership related to a beauty pageant around 1993. After the short-lived business relationship collapsed, Trump and Harth were involved in a breach of contract dispute and a subsequent lawsuit that included Harth’s sexual harassment and assault claims.

    In the July 18 post accompanying Abrams’ new interview, LawNewz reported that Harth “withdrew [her sexual harassment lawsuit] after she said Trump agreed to settle with her husband on the contract claims. Abrams questioned why she would do that if she claims the allegations are true. ‘I was under the control of my husband who was kind of the boss, I wanted to be over with and done with,’ she said, adding that it was a stipulation of the settlement that she withdraw her sexual harassment claims.”

    According to a Media Matters analysis of television news coverage conducted a week after the Times story was published, although news outlets discussed Trump’s sexism and misogynistic conduct in general, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC all virtually ignored Harth’s specific allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault. A narrower search of Nexis transcripts for coverage from May 23 through the July 18 posting of Abrams’ interview with Harth revealed a similar pattern. Media Matters found no mentions of Harth by name, nor any discussion of her allegations of illegal sexual harassment and assault against Trump, in available Nexis transcripts for this time period.

    In an update to the July 18 post, LawNewz reported that “about 8 minutes” after the Abrams interview was posted, the Trump campaign and then the candidate himself contacted LawNewz in the middle of the Republican National Convention to deny the allegations. LawNewz reported that Trump, citing the National Enquirer, whose chief executive is reportedly a close friend of his, said in a phone call, “‘If you look in the National Enquirer, there was a story in there that she was in love with me. The woman has real problems…It’s ridiculous, I’ve never touched this woman.’”

    Watch Abrams’ interview with Harth and her lawyer Lisa Bloom, who is also currently involved in legal actions against Bill Cosby, here:

    Methodology: For the time period between May 14 and May 22, Media Matters searched Nexis and Snapstream transcripts for coverage on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC using the terms "Jill Harth," "Harth," "Sexual harassment AND Trump," “Trump AND Harth,” "Sexual assault AND Trump,'" and “Brewer Lane.”

    For the time period between May 23 and July 18, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for coverage on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC using the terms "Jill Harth," "Harth," "Sexual harassment AND Trump," “Trump AND Harth,” and "Sexual assault AND Trump.” Nexis transcripts include all-day programming on CNN, evening programming on MSNBC and Fox News, and morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on the broadcast networks. 

  • The Right-Wing Media's Deceptive Playbook On Obama's Nominees Is The Same As It Ever Was

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    Supreme CourtThe right-wing media playbook on how to lie, distort, and smear the president's pending appointment to the Supreme Court has already been written. The identity of the actual nominee is only a formality.

    If the nominee has bothered to follow civil rights precedent, they will be labeled a "radical." If the nominee bothered to adhere to such stare decisis and is a person of color, they will be labeled a "racist." If the right-wing media figure is queasy about the awkwardness of labeling a civil rights advocate a racist, they will switch to "racialist," which is the nonsense term it seems.

    If the nominee tried to stay true to long-accepted First Amendment principles on the separation of church and state, watch for the cries of anti-Christian bias. (That one is also useful if the nominee had the temerity to follow Roe v. Wade, or thinks access to contraception is still protected.)

    Impeccable credentials? Cite anonymous sources for what they are really like (it's the only way to claim that Ivy League-educated lawyers are actually stupid) or maybe even offer criticisms of their temperament that would garner praise if they were a white man. Can't get a conservative clerk or member of the bar to disparage a liberal judge on the record? Then go for the "principle, not person" argument to justify obstruction, or even redefine what a principle like "court packing" means all together in order to enforce a judicial nomination blockade on an unprecedented scale.

    Speaking of unprecedented -- who cares that there is broad agreement that what the Republicans are doing now is wildly out of step with bipartisan precedent? The logical endpoint of Senate Republicans' slow-walking of the president's executive nominees -- as promised, since he entered office -- was always destined to be the senatorial equivalent of a toy-grabbing temper tantrum. Unfortunately in this case, the consequences are grave. 

    Is the nominee a woman? Can't the president stop nominating people just because they're a woman?

    Did they ever do criminal defense work? Isn't it just like Democrats to even consider a cop-killer's coddler?

    Is the nominee Jewish? There are too many Jews on the Supreme Court!

    Is the nominee gay? We may be about to find out how far Fox News will countenance blatantly false and homophobic smears in 2016.

    All this, and more. Could conservatives add any more embarrassment to an election season already plunging to new lows? They can -- especially when GOP senators start to willingly and shamelessly adopt the half-baked lies, distortions, smears, and outright blunders funneled to them by right-wing media. Throw the old conservative media playbook into the misogynistic, xenophobic, fact-averse cesspool that is the Republican primary season, and we may be about to see an enabling of attacks on a judicial nominee of a sort we haven't seen before.

    That's what will be truly unprecedented, not this "gotcha" game of selected quotes and video from decades-old nomination fights that prove nothing. For all those lamenting the substance-free contributions of the primary season to the national discourse, it's about to get worse.

    Which is precisely why the media should be very careful when handling the inevitable attacks on the president's nominee. And remember: the right-wing media playbook was already written; the identity of the actual nominee never really mattered.

  • As Primaries Kick Off, NY Post Recycles More Baseless Speculation About Clinton Email Conspiracies

    ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    The New York Post continues to publish dubiously sourced and baseless speculation about investigations around Hillary Clinton's emails as secretary of state. The paper is now reporting that there was a premeditated conspiracy to share classified information, citing claims from a former federal investigator who resigned after he was accused of corruption.

  • If Media Can't Explain This Clear Campaign Finance Violation, We All Have A Serious Problem

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    It's true: campaign finance law is absurdly difficult for media to explain to American voters. The numbers are abstractly large, the rules are complicated, and everyone wonders if American voters actually care.

    The polls certainly seem to say Americans are concerned. Across the political spectrum, voters consistently tell the media the tidal wave of money in politics is a grave problem and the case that opened the flood gates -- Citizens United --  should be overturned. Whether it's Republicans complaining about the "special interests" of Washington, D.C. or Democrats warning about the billionaires running our campaigns, the message is clear: clean elections matter.

    The editorial boards and television pundits seem to agree. Like clockwork, with every new discouraging development handed down by the courts on campaign finance law, every new revelation of the monied power brokers pulling politicians' strings, every new failure to effectively enforce the election regulations on the books, solemn editorials are written and monologues are delivered warning American voters that the system has become at-risk to rampant corruption and conflicts of interest.

    And yet here we are: live on Fox Business Network during their televised presidential debate, under questioning from FBN's Maria Bartiromo, a major presidential candidate just admitted he violated a basic campaign finance transparency rule in a fashion that runs antithetical to his core political image and he seems to think no one cares. He certainly doesn't seem to be afraid of the media calling him out, although some are trying. How else do we describe the embarrassing image of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), ostensibly one of the most intelligent legislators in Congress, brazenly admitting in a live presidential debate he broke the law as a senatorial candidate by taking a roughly million dollar campaign loan from Goldman Sachs and Citibank without properly disclosing the sources to the Federal Election Commission (FEC)?

    Maybe the reason Bartiromo didn't follow up her original question with anything more than a "thank you" was that she was as stunned as the rest of us.

    Yes, the candidate also misled about the details of his election violation on national television and media fact checkers duly called out the bait-and-switch after. Disclosing the possible conflict of interest in receiving a million dollars from Goldman Sachs (this Goldman Sachs) and Citibank while you're campaigning as a man of the people railing against the big bad establishment is not the same thing as disclosing the possible conflict of interest after you've been elected, a conflation the candidate nevertheless attempted to sell with a straight face during the debate. That's like a voter explaining they didn't properly register before they cast a ballot but did so afterwards, so it's all good.

    That's not how it works.

    Election disclosure laws are supposed to inform Americans before they vote so they can make an educated decision. In fact, this principle of mandated disclosure may have been the only reason Citizens United was allowed in the first place -- as a counterbalance to the obvious conflicts of interest the Supreme Court was about to tempt politicians with. The entire point behind the legal argument that led the conservatives on the Supreme Court to allow the 1% more unfiltered access to campaigning politicians was the idea that at least Americans would know who was potentially buying influence. In the case of Cruz, who rails against big money and the elite as a point of pride, such information may have been particularly interesting to the Tea Partiers who voted for him.

    But again, here we are. A major presidential candidate seems to think either voters are idiots, or the media are.

    So it's a challenge. The number is a cool million, easy for the typical news consumer to grasp. The case law and implementing disclosure regulations are cut and dry -- if you take money from a bank for your campaign, you have to identify the bank to the FEC. It boils down to the third problem of campaign finance reporting -- does the American public care? They say they do, over and over again, and the media keeps telling us this is an important part of American democracy, so what's the disconnect, if any?

    With this ridiculously clear campaign finance violation on display for all to see, we're about to find out.

    If media can't get the American public to understand why this sort of behavior, certainly not unique to Cruz, is a big problem, it's no longer the fault of the American public. They aren't the experts. It's the media's job to provide the expertise. But if the media can't effectively explain this one to its audience -- it's time to rethink how campaign finance reporting is done.

    After all, Cruz is basically daring you.

  • Politico Acknowledges DOJ Confirmation That Clinton's Email Deletions Were Proper, But Still Gets The Facts Wrong

    Department of Justice: "There Is No Question That Former Secretary Clinton Had Authority" To Delete Emails

    ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    In a new report about the FBI's investigation into the security of the private server Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state, Politico briefly mentioned the fact that the Department of Justice confirmed in a legal brief that Clinton had the authority to review and delete her personal emails. But Politico incorrectly went on to claim that the brief "stopp[ed] short" of confirming the appropriateness of such actions after Clinton left the State Department -- a claim contradicted by the brief itself.

  • How The NY Times Tried To Turn An Interagency FOIA Fight Into A "Clinton Scandal"

    ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    New information and widespread media criticism of the highly flawed New York Times story that falsely implied Hillary Clinton was the target of a criminal investigation over her email practices as secretary of state confirm the paper conflated two different stories to scandalize a routine bureaucratic process. In fact, the current Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) review of Clinton's emails that has led to interagency disputes over retroactive classification would have taken place regardless of whether Clinton used a private email account.

  • Wash. Times Fantasy Of Feds Seizing Clinton Email Server Based On Wildly Misrepresenting Gov't Factsheet

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    The Washington Times misleadingly cited a government factsheet to claim that a "U.S. policy" could authorize the confiscation of Hillary Clinton's personal email server. In fact, the authority to which the Times refers explicitly notes that its "advisories are NOT binding upon U.S. Government departments and agencies."

    On July 1, the Times published an article headlined "Admission Of Hillary's Classified Emails Opens Door For Feds To Seize Her Servers." The report suggested that because some information on Clinton's State Department emails has now been retroactively classified, the NSA could seize the private server on which she stored the emails in order to "destroy" it.

    The emails in question are part of a collection of the former Secretary of State's official business correspondence, which was conducted on a non-government email account, and which the State Department is currently reviewing and releasing to the public. According to the Times, the classification of "two dozen" of her thousands of emails could "trigger a U.S. policy that authorizes the government to take control of her private server and sanitize the contents":

    The State Department on Wednesday conceded that two dozen of Hillary Clinton's emails did contain classified information, a fact that could trigger a U.S. policy that authorizes the government to take control of her private server and sanitize the contents.

    A former senior intelligence official told The Washington Times the policy also requires the government to check other Internet paths her secret information could have taken.

    The procedures are spelled out by the National Security Agency's special panel on controlling leaked secrets, called the Committee on National Security Systems. It published a policy, "Securing Data and Handling Spillage Events," that fits Mrs. Clinton's unauthorized private server kept at her home while she was secretary of state, according to the retired officer's reading of the regulations.