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  • The top 6 tricks Scott Pruitt uses to outfox the media

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A version of this post was originally published on Grist.

    Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt might just be the most ruthlessly effective member of the Trump administration -- much to the ire of environmental activists, who recently launched a #BootPruitt campaign. One of Pruitt's trademark strategies is trying to tightly control media coverage of himself and his agency, a way to tamp down criticism of his industry-friendly agenda and extreme rollbacks of environmental protections.

    Pruitt has lost control of the media narrative in the past week, as numerous outlets have reported on his snowballing ethics scandals. But if he keeps his job -- there are reports that President Trump still has his back -- you can expect him to double down on his media machinations.

    Here are the key ways Pruitt manipulates and hampers the press:

    1. Pruitt goes to right-wing news outlets to push his messages out

    During his first year as head of the EPA, Pruitt appeared on Fox News, Trump's favorite network, 16 times -- more than twice as often as he appeared on the other major cable and broadcast networks combined. Fox hosts and interviewers tend to lob softballs at him and gloss over his numerous controversies and scandals.

    Pruitt gives interviews to other conservative outlets, too, from Breitbart News Daily to The Rush Limbaugh Show to the Christian Broadcasting Network. Last month, Pruitt went on conservative talk-radio shows to spread misleading talking points as he attempted to defend his extravagant travel spending.

    And when Pruitt announced a plan in March to severely restrict the kinds of scientific data that can be used in policymaking -- a change decried by scientists, environmentalists, and public health advocates -- he gave an exclusive interview to conservative news site The Daily Caller about it. The resulting article painted the shift in a positive light, of course.

    2. Pruitt gives interviews to generalists instead of environmental reporters

    Pruitt grants some interviews to mainstream news outlets, but when he does it's often with political reporters or generalists instead of reporters on the environmental beat who would know the right tough questions to ask.

    For instance, in February, Pruitt appeared on The New York Times' podcast The Daily. The interview was largely light and fluffy, letting Pruitt spout his talking points with little pushback, including a false claim that Congress would have to change the law in order for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. After the interview, it fell to Times environmental reporter Coral Davenport to point out that the Supreme Court had already granted authority to the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Too bad she wasn't the one who conducted the interview. The following week, when another Times environmental reporter, Lisa Friedman, asked for a comment from Pruitt for a piece on his views on climate science, an EPA spokesperson instead referred her to the interview with The Daily.

    The EPA administrator sat for another soft interview with a Washington Post political reporter that was published in the Post's political newsletter The Daily 202. The resulting piece quoted Pruitt defending his enforcement record -- “I don't hang with polluters; I prosecute them" -- and praising Trump for his "tremendous ideas."

    Contrast that with what happened when Pruitt gave a rare interview to two Post reporters, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, who've been doggedly covering his agency. They produced a substantive article on how Pruitt has been shifting the EPA to serve the interests of regulated companies; quotes from Pruitt in the piece are interspersed with quotes from experts and with reporting on Pruitt's moves to roll back environmental protections and enforcement.

    3. Pruitt's EPA withholds basic information from the press and the public

    Under Pruitt, the EPA has become extraordinarily secretive.

    Unlike previous EPA administrators, Pruitt has refused to publicly release his full schedule in anything close to real time. The EPA has barred reporters from attending events where Pruitt speaks, even threatening to call the police to remove them. Most recently, on April 3, the EPA blocked numerous journalists from attending his announcement about the loosening of auto fuel economy standards, enabling Pruitt to avoid hard questions.

    It's so hard to get information out of the agency that the Society of Environmental Journalists sent the EPA public affairs office a letter in January asking for such fundamental things as open press briefings, responses to reporters' inquiries, and distribution of press releases to everyone who requests them.

    As New York Times reporter Friedman said in October, "Covering the EPA is like covering the CIA. It is so secretive. It is so difficult even to get basic information.”

    It's no surprise, then, that Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the agency have soared under Pruitt.

    4. Pruitt's EPA sends reporters articles by climate deniers instead of useful information

    Over the last month, the EPA has sent out at least four "press releases" that did nothing more than promote articles or opinion pieces by right-wing figures that painted Pruitt in a positive light, as ThinkProgress reported.

    The most eye-popping press release was headlined "The Hill: Scott Pruitt is leading the EPA toward greatness." It pointed to a fawning opinion piece co-written by the head of the Heartland Institute, a notorious climate-denial think tank.

    But perhaps the most vexing to reporters was a press release that promoted the aforementioned Daily Caller article on Pruitt restricting the EPA’s use of scientific data. The agency sent it out in lieu of an informative press release and otherwise refused to answer reporters' questions about the action. This prompted the National Association of Science Writers to send a letter of protest to the head of the EPA press office, calling on her to "take steps immediately to prevent this unprofessional and unethical behavior from occurring again." The Society of Environmental Journalists followed up with a similar letter of its own.

    5. Pruitt repeats disingenuous, misleading talking points

    Unlike his boss, Pruitt is disciplined and on-message. In interviews, he turns again and again to the same tightly scripted talking points, many of which are misleading.

    Like this one: "We've seen an 18 percent reduction in our CO2 footprint from 2000 to 2014. We're at pre-1994 levels," Pruitt told Fox News Sunday in June, while defending Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. It's one of Pruitt's favorite lines. He's repeated it ad nauseum during his 13 months at the EPA.

    When he spouts this statistic, Pruitt is essentially bragging that the U.S. has already done a lot to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That might sound good on the surface, but Pruitt's claim is misleading -- he ignores the fact that emissions went down in part because of Obama-era policies that Pruitt and others in the Trump administration are now undoing. It's also just a really weird thing to boast about if you're a climate denier like Pruitt.

    Does Pruitt actually think it's a good thing that the U.S. reduced carbon dioxide emissions? Does that mean he acknowledges that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant? Does he then think it would be good for the U.S. to continue reducing CO2 emissions? Is he aware that CO2 emissions are projected to rise this year?

    These are follow-up questions that an interviewer who's knowledgeable about climate change might ask, but so far we haven't seen any such pushback. No wonder Pruitt keeps repeating the line.

    6. Pruitt's EPA retaliates against journalists

    Under Pruitt, the EPA's press office has taken the unprecedented step of personally attacking reporters whose work the leadership dislikes. In September, the office issued a press release bashing Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker over a story he co-wrote. "Biesecker had the audacity to imply that agencies aren’t being responsive to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey," the release read. "Unfortunately, the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker has a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story." The EPA then dropped Biesecker from its email press list.

    The agency's press office has also attacked New York Times reporter Eric Lipton, who's done deep-dive investigative reporting into Pruitt's EPA. In August, the office put out a press release that accused him of reporting "false facts." In October, Liz Bowman, head of the EPA's Office of Public Affairs, gave a snarky reply after Lipton requested information on agency actions, accusing Lipton of having a "continued fixation on writing elitist clickbait trying to attack qualified professionals committed to serving their country.”

    The bottom line: Why Pruitt’s media manipulation matters

    When Pruitt gets more positive media coverage for himself and the EPA, or at least less negative coverage, it can sway public opinion in favor of his right-wing agenda and make it easier for him to continue eviscerating environmental protections. His successes then help him curry favor with oil companies, the Koch network, and other monied interests that could fund a future Pruitt campaign for senator, governor, or even president. After all, the EPA administrator is notoriously ambitious.

    If Pruitt does ascend higher, you can expect to see a lot more anti-regulatory fervor and a lot more media manipulation and maltreatment.

  • Scott Pruitt appeared on Fox more than twice as often as other major TV networks combined in his first year at EPA

    Fox News, meanwhile, largely ignored controversies about Pruitt’s extravagant travel

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In his first year as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt appeared on Fox News more than twice as often as he did on the other major cable and broadcast networks combined. During the same period, Fox News devoted significantly less coverage to controversies about Pruitt’s costly travel than the other major cable news outlets, CNN and MSNBC.

    Pruitt’s preference for appearing on Fox News is part of a wider trend that extends across the Trump administration, with Fox News serving as the go-to network for administration officials. Fox News’ habit of ignoring unflattering news about Pruitt is also in line with the network’s tendency to ignore negative stories about President Donald Trump and his administration.

    In first year as EPA head, Pruitt appeared on Fox News more than twice as often as on the other major networks combined

    Scott Pruitt appeared on Fox News 16 times in his first year at EPA. A previous Media Matters study examining Pruitt’s first six months after taking office on February 17, 2017, found that he appeared on Fox News twice as often as he did on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. He continued that trend in his second six months in office, making four more appearances on Fox and only one additional appearance on a non-Fox outlet, CBS. In total, during his first year, he appeared 16 times on Fox and only seven times on the other networks combined.

    Pruitt rarely faced tough questioning during his appearances on Fox, with the exception of two interviews by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. During most of Pruitt's Fox appearances, he advocated for and defended the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, though he also went on the network to defend his rollbacks of other Obama-era environmental protections.

    The Fox program he appeared on most often was Fox & Friends, a show that wields agenda-setting influence with the president. Here are all of Pruitt's Fox News appearances from his first year at the EPA:

    *The segment on Your World with Neil Cavuto on October 17 used footage from an interview Pruitt did earlier on the same day on the Fox Business Network program Cavuto: Coast to Coast.

    Pruitt made just seven appearances on the other major cable and broadcast TV networks combined. In his first year leading the EPA, Pruitt made only seven appearances total on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC. In the majority of these, he defended U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, as he did during his Fox appearances. In other cases, he broadly discussed his agenda and priorities and defended rollbacks of environmental regulations.

    Here are Pruitt’s appearances on the major broadcast TV networks, CNN, and MSNBC during his first year:  

    • Two on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on March 26 and June 4.
    • One on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on February 28.
    • One on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper on June 1.
    • One on NBC’s Meet the Press on June 4.
    • One on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on June 6.
    • One on CBS Evening News on January 17.

    Fox News devoted significantly less coverage to Pruitt’s controversial use of taxpayer money than CNN and MSNBC

    On September 27, The Washington Post published an article about Pruitt taking “at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000.”

    The story received extensive mainstream media coverage, including on other cable news networks. During the week after the story broke, from September 27 to October 3, CNN and MSNBC aired 32 and 31 segments on the controversy, respectively, often mentioning other cabinet members' high travel expenses as well. But Fox News aired just seven segments about Pruitt’s costly charter and military flights. In one Fox segment, on the September 29 episode of Your World with Neil Cavuto, correspondent John Roberts stated, “Scott Pruitt took four, maybe five charter flights. Those were all approved by the EPA Office of Ethics, and he has come up with a full explanation for those. … It's my belief that the other departments, Interior, Treasury, EPA, whatever, are allowed to do those private flights, as long as they have pre-approval for that.”

    On February 11, 2018, The Washington Post again detailed Pruitt’s exorbitant spending in an article headlined “First-class travel distinguishes Scott Pruitt’s EPA tenure.” The Post reported that Pruitt racked up $90,000 in taxpayer-funded travel costs during one stretch in early June, and that figure did not include the additional travel costs for Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail. CBS News reported two days later that Pruitt broke with a government policy that officials fly on U.S. airlines by traveling on the luxury Emirates airline on a return trip from Milan, Italy. The story gained further traction after the EPA changed its tune about whether Pruitt had a blanket waiver to travel first class and clarified what security threats justified Pruitt’s use of first-class travel.

    Yet in the week following the Post’s article, from February 11 to February 17, Fox News did not mention the renewed controversy over Pruitt's travel costs even once.* CNN and MSNBC, by contrast, aired four and eight segments on his travel, respectively.

    *Fox News did air two segments on the latest Pruitt travel controversy on the February 19 episode of Shepard Smith Reporting and the February 28 episode of Special Report with Bret Baier, but these segments were aired more than a week after the Post story and fell outside the one-year time frame of our study.  

    On business news networks, Pruitt appeared on Fox Business four times as often as on CNBC

    Pruitt’s preference for Fox extended to the Fox Business Network. On the cable business news channels, Pruitt again demonstrated a predilection for Fox, making eight appearances on Fox Business, while appearing only twice on competitor CNBC. Fox Business Network has exhibited strong pro-Trump leanings, as outlets including USA Today and Business Insider have reported.

    Here are Pruitt's appearances on Fox Business shows:

    Fox Business defended Pruitt by attacking a CNN report. After Pruitt gave numerous interviews to Fox Business, the network did Pruitt a favor. In October, it aggressively and baselessly attacked a CNN investigation into moves Pruitt made to help a proposed mine in Alaska right after meeting with the CEO of the mining company pushing the project. The network aired four segments in two days that criticized CNN's story and defended the mine. On all four segments, the hosts and interviewees did not dispute any of the specific facts reported by CNN, but they used highly charged language to try to discredit the story, calling CNN's investigation a "smear," a "hit piece," and "dishonest reporting." (In January, Pruitt reversed his decision and reinstated restrictions on the mine project. Fox News did not report on this reversal.)

    Pruitt gave numerous interviews to right-wing radio programs and a variety of print outlets

    Pruitt frequently appeared on radio shows hosted by climate change deniers like Brian Kilmeade and Michael Savage. Media Matters' previous study on Pruitt's first six months in office found that he made half a dozen appearances on popular right-wing talk radio programs hosted by people who deny climate science. He continued that pattern in his second six months, making appearances on programs including The Rush Limbaugh Show (where he was interviewed by guest host and climate denier Mark Steyn), The Hugh Hewitt Show, The Savage Nation, The Brian Kilmeade Show, The David Webb Show, and Breitbart News Daily.

    Pruitt's print and online interviews included some mainstream outlets. While Pruitt leaned heavily on right-wing outlets when doing TV and radio, he granted interviews to a wider variety of newspapers, magazines, wire services, and online publications. Some of those interviews were with conservative outlets, including National Review, The Daily Caller, and The Daily Signal. Some were with the business press, like The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. And some were with prominent mainstream outlets, including The Washington Post, TIME, USA Today, Reuters, and The New York Times podcast The Daily.  

    Still, overall, Pruitt heavily favors conservative media when trying to push out his talking points. As Mother Jones recently reported in an in-depth profile of Pruitt, the EPA under his direction "has mostly focused on spreading its message through the right-wing media, talking frequently to Fox News and conservative radio hosts while dismissing less favorable coverage as fake."

    Pruitt's preference for right-wing media is continuing into his second year at the EPA. In the 16 days since his one-year anniversary, he has given interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network, The Daily Signal, and Fox News.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the following terms in Nexis and iQ Media to find Scott Pruitt's on-air TV appearances from the date of his swearing in as EPA administrator on February 17, 2017, to February 17, 2018: “Pruitt,” “Pruett,” "EPA administrator," "E.P.A. administrator," "EPA chief," "E.P.A. chief," "EPA head," "E.P.A. head," "head of the EPA," "head of the E.P.A.," "head of the Environmental Protection Agency," "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," or "Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency." We did not count instances of networks airing Pruitt’s appearance at the White House’s June 2 press briefing.

    We also used the same terms to search cable news networks’ coverage of Pruitt’s travel controversies from September 27 to October 3 and from February 11, 2018, to February 17, 2018. We did not count instances of networks airing White House briefings that discussed these controversies.

  • Trump's trans military ban eschews years of research in favor of junk science from a hate group

    ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on July 26 that he would reinstate a ban on transgender individuals serving in the United States military, citing “tremendous medical costs” and “disruption.” The announcement came just two days after anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council published a report on the issue -- which was parroted by right-wing media -- that stated the projected costs of trans-inclusive military service would amount to 8 times higher than previous estimates. FRC’s projections run counter to the large body of research and years of analysis that was used to inform then-President Barack Obama’s decision to allow transgender people to serve openly in the armed forces.

  • Trump’s shallow, congratulatory 700 Club interview is exactly what he wishes all interviews could be

    The president only wants to talk to people who will make him feel smart

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    President Donald Trump broke his streak of granting interviews exclusively to his friends at Fox to delve into an even safer space: talking about windmills with an octogenarian who hangs on his every word.

    This morning, the president’s interview with kooky bigot Pat Robertson aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)'s The 700 Club.

    Trump’s sit-down with Robertson is the first televised interview he’s granted to an outlet other than Fox News in two months. (He also gave an interview to Reuters’ Steve Holland on the same day.) With this interview, Trump has now granted more on-camera interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network (two) than he has to any other network besides Fox (11) since his inauguration.

    It’s telling that the president would turn to Robertson for a friendly media face as his administration continues to stifle press access in unprecedented ways -- he thinks critics of Trump are defying “God’s plan for America.” Robertson is also a deeply anti-LGBTQ figure on the evangelical right who has blamed feminists and the ACLU for 9/11 and thinks the Hurricane Katrina devastation was “connected” to abortion.

    Trump talked to Robertson because he knew the unabashed Trump fan wouldn't press him on any of the many scandals engulfing his administration, and Robertson didn't disappoint. Here are the highlights, speaking for themselves.

    Here’s Robertson opening the interview by telling Trump he’s “so proud of everything you’re doing”:

    Here is Trump showing off to Robertson that he knows how to pronounce Qatar:

    Here is Trump explaining to Robertson that the G20 Summit was a success because there were 20 countries represented there, and he got along well with everyone:

    Here is a hard-hitting exchange about Trump’s “good” and “not bad” meeting with Putin:

    Here is Trump sneaking in a little reference to windmills, one of his very favorite topics:

    Here’s Trump and Robertson talking about “thousands” of regulations Trump has purportedly lifted:

    Here’s the very in-depth answer Robertson got when he asked about the potential failure of the Republican health care bill:

    This one is just fun:

    And here’s Robertson predicting Trump will be re-elected and telling him that the “evangelicals of America” are praying for him: 

    There is no video of Trump talking about the ongoing investigations into his presidential campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, because it just never came up!

    The interview ended with Trump explaining, to Robertson’s visible delight, that he gave an interview to the host because he’s “treated very unfairly by the press” but Robertson has “people that I love.” “You will be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again very soon,” Trump assured him.

    Robertson then spent more time reflecting on his delightful time with the president and his staff and praising Trump’s “vision.” The televangelist also congratulated himself on not asking the president about any Russia “garbage.” Good job, Pat.

  • Trump’s next interviewer thinks his critics are serving Satan

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    After two months of cozy Fox News interviews, President Donald Trump finally plans to sit down with another network’s host tomorrow. But don’t expect the interview to shed much light on the numerous scandals currently drowning the Trump administration. The president will be questioned by the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson, who has said that Trump’s critics are defying God’s will and serving Satan.

    Trump has stopped granting televised interviews to media figures who aren't sycophants. According to a Media Matters review, he has done 17 television interviews since being sworn in, 12 of which were with the pro-Trump hosts of Fox News and Fox Business. He has done more interviews (four) with Fox & Friends than with ABC, CBS, and NBC combined. He has not been interviewed by a non-Fox host since his disastrous May appearance with NBC’s Lester Holt, during which he admitted that he had fired FBI Director James Comey because of his handling of the Russia investigation. Trump also has not done a full press conference since February, and his White House’s press briefings have become short, sporadic, and off-camera.

    Robertson makes Sean Hannity look like Rachel Maddow. He believes that God is working on Trump’s behalf and that the president’s opponents are “not only revolting against Trump, they’re revolting against what God’s plan is for America” due to a “satanic” desire to “destroy America.”

    The 700 Club host also has ties to Trump's personal attorney. Jay Sekulow has been chief counsel at the Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice since 1993.

    Robertson has a long history of making bizarre and offensive commentary, including:

    • Days after the 9/11 terror attacks, Robertson said he “totally concur[red]” with Rev. Jerry Falwell's statement blaming the attacks on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way.” He later called Falwell's comments "totally inappropriate."
    • Robertson claimed that a devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti happened because Haitians "swore a pact to the devil" to get "free from the French" and "ever since, they have been cursed."
    • Robertson blamed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on legalized abortion.
    • Robertson has called Islam a “political system” that is “bent on world domination” and urged that American Muslims be treated like communists or fascists. He has said that Osama bin Laden “may be one of the true disciples of the teaching of the Quran ... because he's following through literally word-for-word what it says,” and he has predicted “a holy war between Islam and Christianity.”
    • Robertson has labeled a wide range of things as demonic, including: feng shui, yoga, karate, horoscopes, Twilight, paintings of Buddha, television shows about ghosts, Halloween, psychics, young girls levitating their friends at sleepovers, and (sometimes) adopted children from other countries. He once urged a caller to burn a painting of Buddha to eliminate its “demonic power.”

    Shelby Jamerson and Rob Savillo provided additional research

  • Right-Wing Outlets Fabricate A Ben Carson Story

    Conservative Media And Fake News Purveyors Credit Carson With HUD Audit Actually Ordered Under Obama By The Inspector General

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Fringe outlets, forums, fake news purveyors, and right-wing media outlets incorrectly credited House and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson for an audit that found errors in financial statements at the agency. Carson had nothing to do with the audit, which was actually conducted during former President Barack Obama’s administration by the Office of the Inspector General.

  • Here Are 21 Times The White House And Media Allies Explained That The Muslim Ban Was About Muslims

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & BRENNAN SUEN

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, confirming that Trump and his supporters’ previous public statements expressing their intent to unconstitutionally discriminate against Muslims can “be used in proceedings.” Media Matters has compiled 21 quotes from Trump, his team, his cable news surrogates, and figures on Fox News admitting that the ban’s original intent was to single out Muslims.

  • How Right-Wing Media Are Lying To Protect Trump's Muslim Ban

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Since President Donald Trump signed a controversial executive order banning visitors and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, conservative media figures have defended him as being “within his mandate” as president and claimed the constitutionality of the order is “crystal clear,” but the recent federal appeals court decision against his order proves otherwise. Here are some of the right-wing media myths -- and the corresponding facts -- on Trump’s Muslim ban:

  • The Muslim Ban Is A Religious Test Built On A False Premise

    Right-Wing Media Adopt Trump’s Absurd Claim That His Executive Order Is Not A Muslim Ban

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    After Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, his administration and right-wing media allies defended the action as “perfectly legal” and “not a Muslim ban.” Yet mainstream media figures and experts explained that the executive order’s exception for religious minorities renders it a de facto religious test. Trump and his advisers explicitly called for a Muslim ban during the last year of his campaign, and the administration’s claim that the order’s religious exception is necessitated by disproportionate persecution of Christians in the Middle East has been debunked.

  • Trump Avoided Confronting His Scandals In The Media, Save For George Stephanopoulos

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was the only national reporter who questioned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about the many scandals that have dogged his campaign during his weeks-long appearance hiatus on all major cable news networks outside of Fox News.

    As the presidential debates approached, Trump deliberately retreated to Fox News, where he received softball interviews from friendly hosts such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Since the debates began, Trump has rarely appeared outside of conservative news outlets. Prior to interviews this week, Trump had not appeared on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, or MSNBC since September 7.

    Trump reappeared on mainstream networks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new hotel in Washington, D.C., but of the five outlets that received access, Stephanopoulos was the only reporter to ask Trump about the numerous scandals plaguing his presidential campaign.

    Stephanopoulos, unlike any other media figure who received one-on-one access at the hotel, pressed Trump on his threat to file lawsuits against the numerous women who have accused him of sexual assault and his assertion that the Clinton campaign orchestrated the women to lie about the allegations. He also forced Trump to answer to his claim that FBI director James Comey is corrupt, asked if he thinks he owes Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the family of Khizr Khan apologies, and corrected his false claim that he opposed the Iraq war from the start.

    Bloomberg News editor Mark Halperin and CNN reporter Dana Bash also spoke with Trump after his hotel ribbon cutting, but neither confronted problems that have weighed down Trump’s campaign in recent weeks, although Bash did question whether it was a good idea for Trump to take time out of campaigning to open his hotel. Halperin avoided the topics entirely, instead tossing Trump softball questions about his confidence in polling data and if he was feeling “under the weather” because he reportedly ate a throat lozenge.

    Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Trump granted interviews to only two non-Fox News sources. Trump phoned into radio host Rush Limbaugh’s show unannounced on October 25. Limbaugh sympathized with Trump’s claims that the media is conspiring against him and praised Trump for “fighting back” against his critics. Limbaugh also asked Trump how he would approach the Affordable Care Act. Christian Broadcasting Networks’ Pat Robertson also recieved on-camera time with Trump for The 700 Club on October 24, but chose to ask Trump about hiring employees, appointing women to his administration, nominating Supreme Court justices, and growing the economy through proposed tax cuts, rather than addressing any controversies surrounding his campaign.

    Trump’s strategy of retreating to conservative media outlets and blacking out interviews with non-Fox News media figures allowed him to bypass many of the scandals he created for himself, and to d successfully avoid being held accountable during the peak of each scandal. Interviewers who neglected to press Trump on his numerous scandals t failed in their fundamental duty of holding Trump accountable for the events that happen during his campaign.

  • Conservative Outlets Stick With Huckster Doc Scott Brown Abandoned

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    While Fox News contributor and former Sen. Scott Brown ended his financial relationship with the conservative website Newsmax after the company sent his email list controversial solicitations, National Review and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) tell Media Matters they will continue to let Newsmax send dubious ads to their own email lists.

    Newsmax previously used both outlets' email lists to send advertisements plugging the same questionable doctor that caused Brown to sever relations with the company this week.

    Brown cut ties with Newsmax on February 5, hours after the media began reporting on a missive the company had sent his political email list trumpeting the Alzheimer's disease cures of Dr. Russell Blaylock. In the email, Blaylock linked fluoridated water and flu vaccines to Alzheimer's and excessive exercise to Parkinson's disease.

    In recent years, several prominent conservative outlets and personalities have sent Newsmax-sponsored emails to their followers pushing Blaylock's questionable medicine. In addition to Brown, National Review, and CBN, similar email ads have been sent through Newsmax from Dick Morris, Mike Huckabee, and Herman Cain. Newsmax frequently advertises for dubious health and financial products.  

    When asked about the questionable claims made in Blaylock's ads and the decision of Sen. Brown to terminate his relationship, National Review Publisher Jack Fowler told Media Matters he had no plans to end his magazine's Newsmax agreements.

    "We have a relationship with Newsmax and that's all I'm going to say," Fowler said in an interview Thursday. "I can't speak for what Scott Brown does or doesn't do. I don't know who he has had a relationship with or whatever, but we have a relationship with Newsmax and that's it."

    Asked if he had concerns given the questionable elements of Blaylock's claims, Fowler said, "Have a good day."

    Chris Roslan, a spokesman for Christian Broadcasting Network, also defended the Newsmax/Blaylock email ads, describing Blaylock as a "qualified medical professional" and stating that "it is not uncommon for medical professionals to have differing points of view on medical conditions and their treatments." But he also pointed out that CBN includes a disclaimer in each email that states CBN does not endorse the products.

    Roslan's statement:

    CBN attempts to vet all potential advertisers based on multiple criteria including pending legal complaints or conflicts, general business practices and also to make certain that there is no offensive material. CBN also evaluates potential advertisers and products based on their compatibility with the online environment we strive to create and the shared common faith values with our website users. 

    Regarding Dr. Blaylock, he is a retired neurosurgeon and an author with a very large following. As an M.D. he is certainly qualified to weigh in on the tragic disease of Alzheimer's. 

    As it is not uncommon for medical professionals to have differing points of view on medical conditions and their treatments - case in point: the use of vitamin supplements ­­- CBN does not, and will not, attempt to validate medical opinions from qualified medical professionals in determining whether an advertisement is appropriate. 

    CBN includes a disclaimer in every sponsored email stating that the content is a paid advertisement and that it is not an endorsement by CBN. We feel our viewers can determine for themselves whether the content is valuable or not. We have not received a single complaint about this advertisement. 

    Dick Morris and Mike Huckabee did not respond to inquiries from Media Matters, while a spokesman for Herman Cain declined comment via email.

  • Republicans And Right-Wing Media Championed Discredited 60 Minutes Benghazi Report

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & ELLIE SANDMEYER

    Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.

  • Fox Nation Touts Fake Story About Transgender Student Harassing Girls In School Bathroom

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

    Fox Nation promoted a story claiming that a transgender student was "harassing" female students in the school bathroom, citing wildly inaccurate reporting from a conservative Christian news site that has been debunked by the school's superintendent.

    On October 14, Fox Nation touted an article by the Daily Mail which stated that a transgender student in at Colorado's Florence High School was "harassing female students in the girls room." According to the report:

    A male student at Florence (CO) High School who claims to be transgendered has caused controversy by harassing female students in the girls room, but will not face any discipline - this despite vocal protests from the girls' parents.

    The Daily Mail article has since been taken down, but the original post relied on the reporting of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which initially broke the story.

    According the school's superintendent, however, CBN's story is based on the complaint of a parent opposed to allowing transgender students to use appropriate bathroom facilities - not on any actual reported incidents of harassment. In an interview with The Transadvocate, Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti stated:

    VENDETTI: Nothing has actually been verified with us. This is one parent basically bringing their viewpoint about this situation to the media because they weren't getting the responses that they hoped they would get from the district, from parents of students at the high school, or from the board and myself. So I think it's just an attempt to elevate the situation to a point where maybe some more attention can be drawn to that in the hope of having a different outcome. But to our knowledge and based on our investigation, none of those things have actually happened. We do have a transgender student at the high school and she has been using the women's restroom. There has not been a situation.

    Vendetti's comments aren't surprising - fears about harassment or misbehavior in schools where transgender students are allowed to use appropriate school facilities have proven to be overblown

    But right-wing commentators, and especially Fox News personalities, have been desperate to promote the myth that equal treatment for transgender students will increase rates of sexual abuse in schools, even going so far as to cite their own alleged desires to harass women in restrooms. Citing a completely fabricated example of harassment as proof that their transphobic fears are justified is par for the course.