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  • Trump's "shithole" comments are racist. Everyone needs to just say that.

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump did something racist again. At what point will some media outlets just say that? 

    On January 11, The Washington Post first reported that in a meeting with lawmakers about immigration, when discussing "protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal," Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly added that he’d rather have more immigrants from countries like Norway.

    That is a racist statement, and Trump said that because he is racist.

    It’s far from the first overtly racist comment Trump has made in his life or even in his presidency.

    In fact, an undeniable shadow of racial animus hangs over Trump's every action, whether it’s playing footsie with white nationalists or denying black people housing access, picking public fights with black athletes and pundits and public figures or questioning President Barack Obama’s place of birth, calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists or calling for the death penalty for a group of innocent black and Latino teenagers.

    News outlets may hesitate to ascribe racist motivations to an individual, even if so many of their readers can see it clearly. That’s a bit understandable -- but describing concrete, individual actions and statements doesn’t require the same sort of divination.

    Yet some print outlets seem, still, to only feel comfortable calling Trump’s actions racist in the opinion section, or including words or sentiments from third parties that are more comfortable calling racist things racist (like many of their colleagues on mainstream cable news, finally) .

    At this point, major national papers are left to perform bizarre word acrobatics to avoid just saying it themselves. The reporting on Trump’s “shithole” remarks is the latest example.

    • In its report about the "shithole" remark itself, the Post wrote that Trump used “racially incendiary language” and described him as having a “long-standing tendency to make racially charged remarks.”
    • The New York Times wrote that Trump used “disparaging words” and “vulgar language” about the countries in “the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants.”
    • USA Today said Trump used “a crude description” because he “reportedly grew frustrated.”
    • The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump made “vulgar comments” during a “back-and-forth” on immigration.

    What more horrifying things does Trump need to do or say that would actually be labeled racist in a report? Judging from what’s been sugar-coated so far, I hope we never know the answer.

  • Stop blaming "the media" for Roy Moore

    Right-wing pundits sidestep their own movement’s toxic pathologies to blame the press for Moore’s potential win

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A recurring feature of conservative punditry in the age of Trump is the idea that Republican voters generally -- and the conservative movement specifically -- cannot be held to account for their excesses, moral failings, and political disasters. Each time Republicans and their voters act in ways that right-wing pundits acknowledge are deleterious to civic health and deeply immoral, there’s a mad rush to recast those behaviors as the fault of liberal failures. We’re seeing this dynamic play out as Alabama voters seem poised to elect Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate and right-wing pundits attempt to deflect blame for this potential outcome onto “the media.”

    Former George W. Bush speechwriter William McGurn wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal arguing that if Moore does win despite reports of child molestation and sexual assault, a large chunk of the blame will belong to “the liberals who are enabling him,” a group that includes “the national press corps.” Matt Latimer, another former Bush speechwriter, wrote a Politico op-ed arguing that “the real reason” Moore remains politically viable is “that the media has totally lost its connection with a large portion of the nation, almost all of them conservatives.” Over at The Federalist, Bethany Mandel argues that “it’s media’s fault” that a large majority of Alabama Republican voters don’t believe the Washington Post’s stories on Moore’s reported misconduct.

    This argument isn’t especially surprising given that one of the pillars of modern conservatism is reflexive animosity toward “the liberal media.” The popularity of outlets like Fox News and Breitbart.com stems directly from a concerted, decades-long effort across the entire conservative movement to render “mainstream” sources of news suspicious and inherently untrustworthy. But claiming that “the media” are to blame for Republicans backing Moore is a deflection that accomplishes little beyond confirming the biases of the writers while backhandedly affirming Moore’s claims that he’s under persecution by the press.  

    Writers like McGurn, Latimer, and Mandel are in a difficult spot because while they clearly believe the Post’s reporting and think it stands up (none make any attempt to rebut it or suggest that the case against Moore isn’t a solid one) their party’s voters are flatly disregarding those reports and are poised to elect Moore to the Senate (71 percent of likely Republicans voters in Alabama say the claims about him are false). They try to square that uncomfortable circle by cherry-picking other unrelated media failures -- like ABC News reporter Brian Ross’ botched story on former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s plea deal with federal prosecutors -- to exculpate conservative voters who refuse to believe the Post.

    “In their quest to tarnish the reputation of President Trump and try to remove him from office, the media has become particularly adept at getting more than a few things wrong,” Mandel writes. “They [Alabama Republican voters] may well be wrong about Mr. Moore and his accusers,” McGurn observes, “but is their skepticism really that difficult to understand?”

    Well, no, actually, but not for the reasons Mandel and McGurn offer. They’re attacking the media for not being credible enough to people who’ve been told for decades on end that the media aren’t credible. So it’s not surprising that Alabama voters distrust the media. But the fact that they refuse to see the truth that’s staring them in the face is less an indictment of the media than the toxicity of a conservative political culture that teaches voters to disbelieve all news they don’t want to hear and seek information only from outlets that reaffirm their existing viewpoints.

    Conservative media outlets Republican voters prefer over the “mainstream media” have embarked on a dishonest campaign of distraction and obfuscation to discredit the Post’s reporting and bolster Moore. Breitbart.com sent reporters down to Birmingham to (unsuccessfully) undermine the Post, but their failed efforts still resulted in splash-page “EXCLUSIVE” articles suggesting that Roy Moore had been the victim of a smear. Some Fox News figures lined up behind Moore and against the Post as they dutifully parroted the Moore campaign’s absurd attempts at discrediting the candidate’s accusers. Just hours after the Post's first Moore article was published, Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett told Hannity viewers, "I am suspicious of this because of the source, The Washington Post, which has a dog in this fight having endorsed his opponent."

    This isn’t merely a question of conservative voters thinking “the media” in general are untrustworthy -- they’re being specifically told by right-wing media that the Post’s story is false and that Moore is being unjustly attacked. So even in a situation where a media outlet meets the standard of accuracy and trustworthiness conservative pundits claim has been irretrievably lost, it still comes under assault from the right-wing press in a flagrantly dishonest attempt to discredit it.

    That feels like a significant part of the explanation for why Alabama Republicans are gearing up to make Roy Moore their next senator, and why they’re apparently more comfortable electing a reported sex criminal than a Democrat. But conservative pundits glide right past it so they can disingenuously argue, as McGurn does, that Moore’s election “may be as much the fault of those who opposed him as those who supported him.”

  • With Bannon gone, the far-right media trolls are ready to break up with the White House

    The anti-establishment trolls have lost their biggest White House ally and are starting to go after Pence. Prepare for the right-wing media food fight.

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Stephen Bannon is no longer the White House chief strategist. His departure, in addition to furthering the narrative of a Trump administration in constant chaos, is likely to become a source of acrimony between right-wing anti-establishment outlets and online trolls and those who remain in the Trump administration.

    Bannon’s departure has prompted a shift in amongst pro-Trump outlets and far-right trolls -- like The Gateway Pundit and Mike Cernovich -- who are now reporting that the White House is being taken over by a “deep state” coup led by Vice President Mike Pence. Cernovich is a right-wing opportunistic troll who rode to prominence by supporting President Donald Trump but has recently announced “a big pivot” away from the president. In response to the news about Bannon getting fired, Cernovich took to Periscope to claim that “there’s a full-on coup” organized by Pence but that Trump doesn’t deserve any sympathy because he’s “a 71-year old man” who chose to listen to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner instead of Bannon. Pro-Trump troll Jack Posobiec (who has also recently tried to move away from the “alt-right” movement) pushed the coup narrative as well, suggesting that the “RNC is counting impeachment votes from Congress against Trump,” adding, “They want rid of him.” Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing troll who was formerly employed by Breitbart.com, celebrated Bannon’s departure by launching Bannon 2020 merchandise on his online store and saying he looks forward to “having Steve back in the trenches again.” Yiannopoulos also said he wants to see “Bannon the Barbarian crush his enemies.”

    Bannon’s departure has other possible impacts for the far-right media universe. According to reports, Bannon might be returning to Breitbart, the Mercer-funded outlet he once claimed was “platform for the ‘alt-right,’” a term its current editors (much like former proud supporters of the movement) are trying to move away from. With Bannon in the White House, Breitbart behaved like any other pro-Trump outlet, showing little editorial independence and supporting Trump’s agenda (including his war on the press). But this support lasted as long as Trump’s agenda aligned with Bannon’s: Breitbart did not shy away from attacking Kushner, who is a White House senior adviser, to defend Bannon. With Bannon out, it seems like Breitbart will hold no punches in a war against a White House it now perceives as controlled by globalists.

    The right-wing media landscape is about to shift once more, putting the Bannon-loyalists, nationalist ideologues, and opportunistic trolls in a war against an establishment Republican Party faction they think is being led by Pence and, likely, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News and owner of the Wall Street Journal. It remains to be seen whether Trump and his White House will be caught in the middle.

  • Media coverage almost entirely whitewashed GOP health care rollback

    People of color have been ignored during the health care debate

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Republican Party’s plan to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will disproportionately hurt people of color -- a fact television and print news outlets have almost completely ignored in their coverage of ongoing health care debates.

    On May 4, President Donald Trump held a White House celebration with a predominantly white group of Republican members of Congress after the House of Representatives voted to fund tax cuts for high-income earners by cutting health care subsidies and loosening patient protections benefitting low- and middle-income Americans. On May 8, The New York Times reported that 13 white Republican men would draft the Senate’s version of a health care reform bill, which remained shrouded in secrecy until it was released on June 22. Almost as if taking their que from the GOP, broadcast and cable news outlets made little effort over the same time period to invite diverse guests to discuss the health care bill despite dedicating significant coverage to the issue.

    In fact, according to new research from Media Matters, news outlets have almost completely ignored how GOP health care plans would disproportionately impact people of color. A Media Matters review of the major broadcast and cable news providers available via Nexis (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) found only three significant stories from May 4 through July 9 on the health care bill’s disproportionate impact on communities of color. All three stories appeared on MSNBC's weekend program Politics Nation. Media Matters conducted the same analysis of five major print newspapers via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) and found only four print articles -- three in the Times and one in the Post -- highlighting that the GOP plans to repeal and replace the ACA would harm these already disadvantaged communities.

    One of the few pieces discussing communities of color was an in-depth June 6 report (published in-print on June 11) in The New York Times on an overlooked HIV epidemic in African-American communities in southern states. Phill Wilson, president of the Black AIDS Institute, told the Times that ACA repeal would halt momentum for treating HIV and that he feared people would die if coverage was taken away. From the article:

    “The key to ending the AIDS epidemic requires people to have either therapeutic or preventive treatments, so repealing the A.C.A. means that any momentum we have is dead on arrival,” said Phill Wilson, chief executive and president of the Black AIDS Institute, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. “For the most vulnerable, do we end up back in a time when people had only emergency care or no care and were literally dying on the streets? We don’t know yet, but we have to think about it.”

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the Senate’s health care overhaul would result in 22 million fewer people with health insurance by 2026, including 15 million fewer low-income Americans being enrolled in the Medicaid program. Communities of color are disproportionately likely to receive Medicaid and restrictions could leave millions of people in disadvantaged communities at a loss. The Commonwealth Fund reported in August 2016 that communities of color benefitted greatly from the ACA’s provisions aimed at reducing health care inequality, and those communities could be hammered by GOP proposals to roll back successful reforms:

    According to HuffPost contributor Richard Eskow, a senior fellow with the progressive group Campaign for America’s Future, Republican plans to gut the ACA “will disproportionately harm people of color” while the 400 wealthiest families in the United States would receive an average tax cut of $7 million. It is because GOP plans so directly harm people of color that journalist Vann Newkirk wrote in The Atlantic that health care is a civil rights issue for millions of Americans. On the July 10 edition of MSNBC’s Politics Nation, Newkirk discussed the importance for expanding access to health care as a means of reducing economic and health disparities that have existed along racial lines for generations:

    Republican plans to repeal the ACA will exact an extraordinary toll on millions of Americans, and will have a disproportionate impact on people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. That is why it is more important than ever for news outlets to contextualize this human cost.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 9, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.

    We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and non-editorial articles that included any of the following keywords: black or African-American or African American or hispanic or latina or latino or Asian or racism or racial or native american or people of color or indian or pacific islander within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.

  • Fox & Friends ignores WSJ report suggesting possible Russia collusion

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, completely ignored a Wall Street Journal report about a Republican Party operative who sought former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers and who may have been working with then-Trump senior adviser Michael Flynn.

    On June 29, the Journal (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News) reported that before the 2016 presidential election, GOP operative Peter Smith “mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.” Smith “implied that he was working” with Flynn during his “conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him,” according to the report. The FBI has previously said that it could not find definitive proof that Clinton’s server had been hacked.

    Media Matters searched SnapStream for “wall,” “street,” and “Flynn” on morning shows of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN that aired on June 30 and found that Fox & Friends did not mention the story even once. By contrast, CNN’s New Day covered the story in multiple segments, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosted the Journal reporter who broke the story to discuss it.

    Fox & Friends has repeatedly dismissed the investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and tried to delegitimize the FBI Russia probe, claiming there's "no evidence" of collusion. Their failure to report the story is yet another effort by the hosts to cover for Trump, who regularly watches and praises the show and has drawn upon it as a source for numerous policy and other ideas.

  • Newspapers buried reports on health care, while TV news missed the Senate’s back room dealmaking

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Television news largely missed reporting on Republican Senate leaders’ secretive drafting of its version of American Health Care Act (AHCA) that could radically alter health care for millions of Americans. New research from Media Matters has found that the five major newspapers almost completely ignored the GOP Senate leadership’s back room dealmaking on their front pages -- having a combined total of only two front page stories during a two-week period.

    On June 16, Vox asked eight Republican senators to explain their party’s prospective bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But the senators couldn’t “answer simple and critical questions” on their own bill. Vox Senior Editor Sarah Kliff pointed out on June 15 that “the Senate is running a remarkably closed process” to hide the bill; it has not released a draft to the public, has held no committee hearings, and has had no speeches “defending the policy provisions of the bill” on the Senate floor. The New York Times reported, also on June 15, that the “remarkable” secrecy around the bill has raised alarm with senators in both parties:

    “They’re ashamed of the bill,” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said. “If they liked the bill, they’d have brass bands marching down the middle of small-town America saying what a great bill it is. But they know it isn’t.”

    [...]

    Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, offered a hint of the same frustration felt by Democrats seeking more information about the bill.

    “I come from a manufacturing background,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’ve solved a lot of problems. It starts with information. Seems like around here, the last step is getting information, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily the most effective process.”

    The day Vox and the Times reported on the GOP senators’ unprecedented secrecy surrounding the bill, Media Matters released a report documenting the insufficient amount of weekday coverage on broadcast and cable news dedicated to the Senate health care bill from June 1 to June 14. Media Matters reported that the big three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) dedicated a fraction of their airtime -- roughly three minutes across all three networks -- to the Senate deliberations out of 15 total hours of scheduled weekday programming. The performance of cable news channels was not much better, as MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News provided just under two combined hours of coverage to the Senate bill out of 150 hours of scheduled weekday programming.

    Television news’ lack of coverage would help the Republican Party move the legislative process forward on this bill without a public debate that would highlight the real human cost of such legislation. Media Matters research also found that in addition to television channels falling flat, print media did not fair much better either on covering the the Senate health care bill.

    An analysis of five major newspapers -- Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- showed that though newspapers did provide more in-depth coverage than television news, those papers almost completely ignored the issue on the front page. In fact, Media Matters did not identify a single front page story on the Republican Senate’s health care bill in the Times, USA Today, or the LA Times from June 1-14 and only identified one front page story each in the Post and the Journal. On June 19, ThinkProgess reported on this lack of front page coverage (which had continued beyond June 14) and noted that it was also a problem with local papers in areas that supported President Donald Trump -- areas which ThinkProgress noted would be “hit hardest by Trumpcare.”

    In total, Media Matters identified 29 print edition news articles in these five major national newspapers that discussed the Senate health care bill from June 1 through June 14. Of these five outlets, the Post and the Times provided the most total coverage -- the Post published 11 articles on eight different days, and the Times published nine articles on seven different days. The Journal was third with six pieces published on five separate days. The Los Angeles Times published just two articles on two separate days, and Media Matters only identified one article in USA Today.

    The GOP is counting on media’s silence and right-wing media myths to push a train wreck of a health care bill that would strip health care from tens of millions to slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Right-wing media have repeatedly assisted the GOP with claims that ACA is in a “death spiral” and have attempted to discredit the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office after its report found that up to 24 million people would lose health insurance under the AHCA. Right-wing media have even tried to pacify millions of Americans that would lose access to insurance by absurdly telling them to just go to the emergency room. As Talk Poverty’s Jeremy Slevin pointed out, “It is the responsibility of the press to draw out the contents of the Senate’s health care bill—before it is too late.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. We identified and reviewed all non-editorial print content that included any of the following keywords: health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or affordable care act or cbo within 20 words of the word Senate.

    Media Matters conducted a Factiva search of print editions of The Wall Street Journal from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or affordable care act or cbo within 10 words of the word Senate (the maximum distance allowed by Factiva).

  • Here's how right-wing media have reacted to months of setbacks for Trump's Muslim bans

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    As President Trump's executive orders banning immigration from first seven, then six, majority-Muslim nations have moved through the U.S. court system, they've been met with a series of legal setbacks and direct action and have drawn extensive media coverage. What follows is a timeline of events surrounding the ban, with a focus on right-wing media hypocrisy, denial, and defense of the president's increasingly indefensible policy. This post will be updated.

  • Report: Fox News Chief Spied On Women Who Spoke Out About Sexual Harassment At Fox, Including Gretchen Carlson

    Bo Dietl Reportedly Admits Digging Up Dirt On Gretchen Carlson And Andrea Mackris

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal about the ongoing federal investigation into Fox News, Roger Ailes, who engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment against female Fox News employees and was forced to resign as president and CEO in July 2016, hired private investigator and former Fox contributor Bo Dietl to discredit the sexual harassment allegations made against himself and Bill O’Reilly. Dietl confirmed his involvement in an interview with the Journal.

    This revelation comes in the wake of significant ongoing turmoil at the network. Bill Shine, who was promoted to co-president of Fox News after Ailes’ departure, resigned after multiple reports named him as being complicit in burying sexual harassment complaints by helping to coordinate smear campaigns against women who came forward with reports. Shine has been replaced with Suzanne Scott, who was referenced in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the network, and has reportedly participated in Fox’s sexist culture and retaliation efforts against employees who reported sexual harassment. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Investigators are also looking at Mr. Ailes’s use of prominent private investigator Bo Dietl to probe the backgrounds of people perceived to be a threat to either Mr. Ailes or the channel, according to people familiar with the situation.

    Mr. Dietl said in an interview with the Journal that he was used by Fox News to look into the pasts of Ms. Carlson and Andrea Mackris, a former producer who sued Mr. O’Reilly for harassment in 2004 and received a $9 million settlement from Mr. O’Reilly. Mr. Dietl said he was hired to find information that could discredit the women’s claims.

    He said he had an investigator eavesdrop on Ms. Mackris’s conversations at an establishment, in an effort to show she wasn’t under duress from alleged harassment. A lawyer for Ms. Mackris didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

  • Day After Flynn Bombshell, Trump Calls On Only Murdoch Outlets At Press Conference

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Following a bombshell report that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, President Donald Trump called on reporters only from outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch at a February 10 U.S.-Japan joint press conference, favoring news sources that have been major supporters and receiving no questions about the Flynn report.

    Speaking at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump took questions from the New York Post’s Daniel Halper and Fox Business’ Blake Burman, both of whom asked about an appeals court decision upholding the suspension of his Muslim ban executive order. Neither reporter asked Trump about reports that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had spoken with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about Russian sanctions prior to Trump’s inauguration, which Trump aides had previously denied. If it’s true, Flynn could be in violation of the Logan Act, which, as The New York Times explains, “prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in disputes involving the American government.”

    Murdoch has staunchly supported Trump since he began his presidential campaign. The media mogul recently sat in on an interview Trump had with one of his British newspapers and, according to the Financial Times, Trump’s daughter Ivanka was until recently “a trustee for a large bloc of shares in 21st Century Fox and News Corp that belongs to Rupert Murdoch’s two youngest daughters.” Trump has also been helpful to Murdoch in return, asking for his input on Federal Communications Commission chairman nominees.

    Murdoch’s support of Trump has directly impacted the former’s outlets. The New York Post was one of the only papers in the country to endorse Trump during either the primary or general election campaign. And according to New York magazine, Fox News under Murdoch’s direction has been pushed to go “in a more pro-Trump direction.” Fox's pro-Trump direction can also be seen on Fox Business, where hosts have spun polls to push "Trumponomics." Reporters at another Murdoch-owned outlet, The Wall Street Journal, have expressed concerns that they have been pressured “to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints.”

    Trump’s decision to take questions from only these conservative-leaning outlets also fits into a broader administration approach of seemingly focusing on right-wing outlets in order to avoid challenging queries.

  • Wall Street Journal Reporters Concerned About Paper's Softer Trump Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Wall Street Journal staffers are increasingly concerned that the paper’s coverage of President Donald Trump is not critical enough and too willing to defend his actions rather than serve a watchdog role. In interviews with Media Matters, Journal reporters say that there has been pressure “to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints” in articles and that “everyone in the newsroom is concerned about it.”

    Earlier this week, BuzzFeed reported on a memo sent by Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker that “instructed editors to stop referring to the countries targeted in President Trump’s travel and refugee executive order as ‘seven majority Muslim countries’ in news coverage, a move that has irked some reporters in the paper’s Washington bureau.”

    Journal reporters who spoke to Media Matters said the memo is just one of many coverage concerns they have related to the new president.

    “The issue that is more subtle is the pressure to reflect pro-Trump viewpoints in the story, that’s growing,” said one veteran reporter who requested anonymity to avoid retribution. He added that it began during the campaign. “The Journal abdicated its responsibility to punch hard. They should have trained the D.C. bureau on Trump and hit hard.”

    Another reporter said the directives from above are unclear, prompting concern about how critical to be of Trump.

    “Everyone in the newsroom is concerned about it,” the reporter said. “The concern is that they are over-correcting a little bit, that is the worry, that we are not being as tough on the administration as we could.”

    The journalist also raised the issue of normalizing Trump’s behavior when his actions are treated like those of any president.

    “That’s the real issue, whether you’re a liberal or conservative outlet, that is the question you have to answer,” the reporter said. “What is the objective term to use to describe what is a lunatic policy? That is a really big worry, as the water drips and erodes this thing.”

    A third Journal reporter who requested anonymity told Media Matters: “We’d like to see more of a message that we are going to be really tough on this administration.”*

    Complaints from inside the Journal newsroom about its coverage of Trump aren’t new. In October, Politico quoted sources at the Journal lamenting that there had been “flattering access stories" on the front page, and that the coverage of then-candidate Trump had become “neutral to the point of being absurd.”

    The Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. 

    Tim Martell, executive director of Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees (IAPE) Local 1096, which represents 400 Journal newsroom staffers, said he is hearing even more anger now that Trump has taken office about a softer tone on some stories.

    “Members have expressed concern about the possibility of editorial interference regarding coverage of the president and the new administration,” said Martell. “We are watching. We are paying very close attention, and if we find that any sort of editorial interference does exist or if any of our members are subject to any type of disciplinary action, we will be sure to defend our members to the best of our ability.”

    Martell said the worries are greater than some past complaints related to Journal coverage of previous Republican administrations.

    “I think this seems like this is new ground,” he said. “Every news organization has the occasional clash between editor and reporter and that’s fine. If the company wants to set editorial policy, it’s their paper. But we’re concerned, there seems to be a greater level of concern these days than there has been. This has been percolating for a while.”

    *Additional reporting added after posting.  

  • STUDY: Evening Cable News Devoted Nearly 250 Segments To Wikileaks Emails In The 5 Weeks Before The Election

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & ROB SAVILLO

    In the five weeks before the November 8 presidential election, evening cable and broadcast news, major newspapers, and the Sunday morning broadcast network political talk shows combined to flood the media landscape with coverage of hacked emails released by Wikileaks, according to an analysis by Media Matters.

    After its July release of emails that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Wikileaks released a daily stream of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta starting in early October.

    Between October 4 and November 8, weekday evening cable news aired a combined 247 segments either about the emails or featuring significant discussion of them; evening broadcast news and the Sunday morning broadcast network political talk shows aired a combined 25 segments; and five of the country’s most-circulated daily newspapers -- Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- published a combined 96 articles about the emails released by Wikileaks in their print editions.

    Following Donald Trump’s presidential victory, the U.S. intelligence community released a report with its assessment that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The assessment, which represents the view of the 16 federal intelligence agencies, concluded “with high confidence” that as part of this effort, “Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

    In response to mounting evidence that Russia sought to swing the election in Trump’s favor, in part through allegedly releasing hacked emails through channels like Wikileaks, Trump and his allies have in recent months downplayed the impact of the hacks. Trump, who has repeatedly sought to de-emphasize Russia’s alleged role in the election-related hacking to begin with, has also argued that the hacks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome” of the election. As ThinkProgress noted, “This was not the view of candidate Trump, who talked about Wikileaks and the content of the emails it released at least 164 times in last month of the campaign.”

    And Trump wasn’t alone.

    Media Matters’ review shows that news media treated the emails released by Wikileaks a major news story in the lead-up to the election. (It’s important to note that this is only a quantitative study; Media Matters did not attempt to assess the quality of articles and news segments about the hacked emails. A segment or article criticizing coverage of the emails or highlighting suspicions about Russia’s potential involvement was counted the same as a segment or article breathlessly promoting the contents of the hacked emails.)

    Data-driven news site Fivethirtyeight.com determined that the hacked emails released by Wikileaks were “almost exclusively an October story. Over 72 percent of people who searched for Wikileaks from June onward did so during October or the first week of November. Interest really got going with [Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief] Julian Assange’s press conference on Oct. 4.” We reviewed transcripts and articles beginning on October 4, when Assange first announced during a press conference that Wikileaks would release additional information pertaining to the election, through November 8, Election Day.

    Evening cable news -- defined as shows airing weekdays from 5 p.m. through 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC -- devoted massive coverage to the Wikileaks story, with Fox leading the way. In total, Fox News aired 173 segments over the course of the period studied. Fox also aired teasers 64 times to keep audiences hooked throughout broadcasts. The hacked emails were also mentioned in passing by a guest, correspondent, or host 137 times during additional segments about other topics.

    Fox’s coverage was a near-daily obsession for its evening news hosts. Four of the six programs in the study ran at least one segment every weekday or nearly every weekday between October 7 and November 7. Special Report with Bret Baier ran segments every weekday between October 7 and November 4; On the Record with Brit Hume ran segments every weekday between October 7 and November 7; The Kelly File ran segments on all but four weekdays between October 7 and November 7 (and on those four days, Wikileaks was still mentioned in passing at least once); and Hannity ran segments nearly every weekday between October 7 and November 7 (excluding October 10 and 20, the latter of which featured at least one mention of the story).

    CNN aired the second most Wikileaks coverage, with 57 segments teased to audiences 21 times and an additional 75 mentions during segments about other topics. MSNBC aired only 17 segments teased six times and tallied 23 mentions during additional segments. (MSNBC’s 6 p.m. hour, which at the time aired With All Due Respect, was not available in Nexis and was therefore excluded from this analysis).

    On broadcast network news, the numbers are smaller, but over the course of the period studied, the networks each aired a significant number of segments on their evening news programs and Sunday morning political talk shows. ABC programs World News Tonight and This Week with George Stephanopoulos devoted the most coverage to the Wikileaks emails, with 10 segments and five mentions during additional segments combined. CBS’ Evening News and Face the Nation with John Dickerson followed, with nine segments and three mentions during additional segments combined. NBC’s Nightly News and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd aired just six segments and 12 mentions during additional segments combined.

    The five major newspapers we studied each published numerous articles in their print editions (we did not include online coverage) about the Wikileaks emails in the month before the election, but three stood out from the rest. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal each published 27 articles about the emails and mentioned them in 26 and 10 other articles, respectively. The Washington Post was the third paper in this group with 26 articles about the Wikileaks emails published and mentions in 14 additional articles.

    USA Today published 11 articles about the Wikileaks emails and mentioned them in three other articles while Los Angeles Times ran just five stories and mentioned the Wikileaks emails in only seven other articles.

    As was the case with Trump, conservative media figures who hyped and encouraged reporting on hacked emails quickly adjusted their views on the significance of the hacked emails during the presidential transition period. After touting the release of the stolen emails, credulously reporting on numerous illegally obtained emails published by Wikileaks, encouraging Trump to “just read” the stolen emails at campaign rallies, advising Trump to “study[] Wikileaks,” and repeatedly providing a platform for Assange to promote the publication of the stolen emails, right-wing media figures downplayed the influence the disclosure of the emails had on the 2016 campaign. Taking the lead from Trump's transition team, some right-wing media figures then argued that “no one can articulate or specify in any way that” the publication of the private emails “affected the outcome of our election.”

    Although right-wing media figures have claimed that there is “no indication that” the publication of the private emails “affected the election,” the breathless reporting on the contents of the Wikileaks disclosures by media outlets played into the hands of the Russian government’s “influence efforts to … amplif[y] stories on scandals about Secretary Clinton and the role of Wikileaks in the election campaign,” according to the intelligence community’s report. Days after the first trove of private emails was published by Wikileaks, a group of former top national security officials and outside experts warned “the press … to be cautious in the use of allegedly ‘leaked’ information,” which “follows a well-known Russian playbook.”

    The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum summarized the strategy in an interview with Slate months before the first disclosure of Podesta’s personal emails:

    I didn’t think about the United States because I thought the United States is too big, American politics isn’t moved by these smaller amounts of money the way that Czech politics are or Polish politics are. But I hadn’t thought through the idea that of course through hacking, which is something they’re famously very good at, that they could try and disrupt a campaign. And of course the pattern of this is something we’ve seen before: There’s a big leak, it’s right on an important political moment, it affects the way people think about the campaign, and of course instead of focusing on who did the leak and who’s interest it’s in, everyone focuses on the details, what’s in the emails, what did so-and-so write to so-and-so on Dec. 27, and that’s all that gets reported.

    The press could have seen this coming. On the August 24, 2016, edition of The Kelly File, then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly interviewed Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, who used the platform to hype the “material” Wikileaks planned to publish, and announced it would be released in “several batches.” Kelly asked Assange if he thought the information in his “possession could be a game changer in the US election.” Assange said the effectiveness of the release “depends on how it catches fire in the public and in the media.”

    Methodology

    Media Matters reviewed the Nexis database for news transcripts and articles that mentioned Julian Assange or Wikileaks approximately within the same paragraph as variations on any of the following terms: Hillary Clinton, Democratic National Committee, DNC, or John Podesta. We included cable news networks’ weekday evening programming (5:00 p.m. through 11:00 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC; the evening news shows (ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS’ Evening News, and NBC’s Nightly News) and Sunday morning political talk shows (ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS’ Face the Nation with John Dickerson, and NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd) on ABC, CBS, and NBC; and five of the most-circulated daily print newspapers: Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. (MSNBC’s 6:00 p.m. hour, which hosted With All Due Respect was not available in Nexis and was therefore excluded from the analysis).

    Data-driven news analysis website Fivethrityeight.com determined the hacked emails released by Wikileaks “was almost exclusively an October story. Over 72 percent of people who searched for Wikileaks from June onward did so during October or the first week of November. Interest really got going with Julian Assange’s press conference on Oct. 4.” Therefore, we reviewed articles beginning on October 4, 2016, when Assange first announced during a press conference that Wikileaks would release additional information pertaining to the election, through November 8, 2016, Election Day.

    For television, we coded as “segments” news segments where the hacked emails released by Wikileaks were the stated topic of discussion, and we also coded as “segments” when signification discussion about the hacked emails from Wikileaks occurred during segments with a different initially stated topic or during multi-topic segments. We defined significant discussion as at least two or more speakers discussing the hacked emails to one another during the course of the segment. We determined the start of a segment to be when the show’s host introduced either the topic or guests and determined the end of a segment to be when the show’s host concluded discussion or bid farewell to the show’s guests.

    We coded as “mentions” comments made by a speaker about the hacked emails without any other speaker in the segment engaging. We coded as “teasers” introductions by the host of upcoming segments on the hacked emails where the segment in question did not immediately follow.

    For print, we coded as “articles” news stories and opinion pieces where the hacked emails were mentioned in the headline or the lead of the story or article. If the hacked emails were used as a piece of evidence within a larger story or used to provide context, those were coded as “mentions within an article.”

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