David Urban | Media Matters for America

David Urban

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  • Broken record: CNN’s David Urban touts defense secretary, doesn’t disclose financial conflicts of interest

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    In what's become a troubling pattern, CNN failed to disclose that one of its main political commentators has financial entanglements with the subject he was discussing. 

    CNN political commentator David Urban appeared on the network and touted acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, listing him as one of the “credible people” that President Donald Trump can rely on and saying that the administration official has a “great relationship” with Trump. Urban personally lobbies the Defense Department on behalf of defense contractors and lobbied for defense giant Raytheon when Esper headed the company’s lobbying shop. 

    Urban serves as the president and part-owner of American Continental Group, a multimillion dollar lobbying firm. In 2017, when Trump was reportedly considering Urban as his White House chief of staff, Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay wrote that Urban has “not just a wealth of political experience but a roster of recent lobbying clients with business before the federal government and large sums riding on major administration policy decisions.” 

    Trump recently nominated Esper to serve as defense secretary in a permanent capacity. In June, Axios had reported that Esper “is close” to Urban, and Politico called him “a close ally” of Urban. The two, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, graduated from West Point in 1986. 

    Media Matters previously reported that Urban has pushed his lobbying interests during CNN appearances on issues such as the military, environment, taxes, and trade

    CNN has recently started adding some disclosures for Urban during his appearances. CNN’s Jake Tapper stated on the July 12 edition of The Lead that Urban is “a D.C. lobbyist” who works on “behalf of energy, defense, and transportation companies.” Urban laughed as Tapper read the disclosure, stating, “That's like a tagline ... my new tagline.” Tapper replied: “Well, just full disclosure.”

    But just a few hours later, that disclosure was gone as Urban appeared on the July 12 edition of Erin Burnett OutFront with guest host Kate Bolduan, and she introduced him as a Trump 2020 adviser. The segment was about the stability of Trump’s White House intelligence community apparatus amid reports that Trump is considering firing Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. After dismissing Coats as “a glorified” staffer, Urban said that, among others, “you have a new secretary of defense coming up who the president has a great relationship with. … There's lots of credible people there in the intelligence community and other places the president relies on.” 

    In addition to their friendship, Urban has financial reasons to tout Esper’s credibility to CNN viewers. 

    Urban personally lobbies the Defense Department for clients that include military housing developer ​Lendlease Americas and defense contractors General Dynamics and Textron

    He was also financially connected to Esper before Esper joined the Trump administration in November 2017. Esper worked as a lobbyist for military contractor Raytheon and was its vice president of government relations. During that time, Urban lobbied on behalf of Raytheon regarding various military issues. His lobbying firm hasn’t reported any lobbying activity for the defense contractor since 2017. 

    Urban’s American Continental Group lists dozens of clients on its website and states that it lobbies for numerous sectors. In other words, whenever CNN decides to host Urban, the network is exposing itself to numerous potential conflicts of interest. The question remains: Why does CNN keep putting Urban on its airwaves? 

    CNN did not respond to a request for comment.

  • CNN’s David Urban hid lobbying conflict of interest in op-ed for Pennsylvania paper

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    CNN political commentator David Urban wrote an op-ed that urged Congress to pass a trade agreement favored by President Donald Trump. But Urban, who has a history of violating ethical standards, didn’t disclose that he recently registered to lobby for that agreement’s passage. 

    Urban is the president of the lobbying firm American Continental Group and an adviser to Trump’s 2020 campaign. He also works as a political commentator for CNN. Urban has used his CNN platform to push his lobbying clients’ interests (without disclosure) on issues such as the military, environment, taxes, and trade

    Urban wrote a June 2 op-ed for The Morning Call of Allentown, PA, which touted Trump’s alleged success in Pennsylvania and attacked Democratic candidates for their economic policies. He also called on Congress to approve “the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement [USMCA] that President Trump negotiated to replace NAFTA,” stating that it would “let American workers compete on an even playing field for the first time in decades.” 

    Trump’s reelection campaign and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel shared Urban’s op-ed on Twitter. 

    Urban didn’t disclose that he’s registered to lobby on that issue. In early April, the 501(c)(4) group Trade Works for America retained Urban and his firm to lobby for the agreement’s passage in Congress. Media Matters previously documented that Urban also used his CNN employment to push for the USMCA shortly after registering to lobby for it. 

    After Media Matters inquired about the Urban conflict of interest, The Morning Call added the following note to the piece: “Urban is president of the American Continental Group, a lobbying and consulting firm in Washington, D.C. ACG represents Trade Works for America, which is advocating for passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in Congress.” 

    Michael Hirsch, the publication’s director of content/opinion and community engagement, told Media Matters: “After The Morning Call became aware of this, we updated the online version of the op-ed to clarify that David Urban’s company is lobbying for passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. In addition, we will be running a print clarification in Wednesday's newspaper.” 

    Urban’s op-ed also identified him as a Trump adviser and “a commentator for CNN” -- which points to a larger problem, this one for the cable news network and its employment of Urban, who has countless real and potential conflicts of interest through his multimillion-dollar lobbying firm. Jake Tapper’s CNN program The Lead features a recurring segment called “Conflict of Interest Watch” about the Trump administration’s regular financial conflicts in governing. That segment, of course, could easily cover a Trump adviser who frequently appears as a paid contributor on the program: David Urban. 

  • CNN employee used network to push Trump trade agreement days after registering to lobby for it

    Why does CNN keep putting David Urban on air?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On April 1, CNN political commentator David Urban registered to lobby for the passage of a trade agreement backed by President Donald Trump. Just three days later, Urban exploited his CNN employment by touting the agreement unprompted on Jake Tapper’s weekday program -- without any disclosure of his direct financial conflict of interest. 

    Urban is a Republican operative and the president of American Continental Group, a lobbying firm that took in over $13 million in lobbying fees last year. Urban also worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, and he is helping advise his 2020 reelection campaign. 

    Trump has been trying to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Due to concerns about the measure’s prospects in Congress, Republicans formed the 501(c)(4) group Trade Works for America to pressure members of Congress, especially Democrats, to support it.  

    As part of its efforts, Trade Works for America retained Urban and American Continental Group to specifically lobby on USMCA, with the effective registration date of April 1.   

    Just a few days later, Urban appeared on the April 4 edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and said that the USMCA has been “getting some momentum, some traction with Democrats in the House” and Trump’s threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border would “kind of blow that up” and be “a tragedy”:

    DAVID URBAN (CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND LOBBYING COMPANY PRESIDENT): I would say that one of the president's and this administration’s objectives, main objectives coming in the next several months is the ratification of the USMCA. And I think closing the border would have gone a lot -- a far way in undermining that. 

    JAKE TAPPER (HOST): That's the new NAFTA, the replacement for NAFTA? 

    URBAN: The new NAFTA, right. I think there’s -- it's getting some momentum, some traction with Democrats in the House. I think it's moving somewhat forward, and to kind of blow that up would have been a tragedy. 

    Neither CNN nor Urban disclosed that he is being paid to lobby for the trade agreement. 

    Urban has repeatedly shown a blatant disregard for ethics during his CNN appearances. He advocated for a military strike against Iran (he lobbies for defense contractors). He attacked pro-environment policies and praised Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental protections (he lobbies for fossil fuel-related companies). And he specifically raised the National Association of Home Builders’ objection to a Republican tax plan (he lobbies for the organization). 

    After criticism from Media Matters, CNN began a panel segment with Urban last Sunday by stating: “We have to disclose that you are a corporate lobbyist who has clients in the defense and energy industries.” Urban responded by laughing and saying, “We get in trouble. We always get in trouble. I get in trouble.”

    But as Urban’s USMCA episode shows, that disclosure doesn’t really suffice and his financial conflicts of interest aren’t just limited to “the defense and energy industries.” American Continental Group lists over a dozen issue areas that it works on, from commerce to manufacturing to transportation. 

    Additionally, Urban registered as a foreign agent last year to, among other things, “provide advice, counsel and assist Emirates Global Aluminum PJSC,” a state-owned company based in the United Arab Emirates, “in a license request to the United States Department of the Treasury” on behalf of a subsidiary. 

    Urban clearly doesn’t care about media ethics or conflicts of interest. The question is whether CNN cares, and if it does, why it continues to employ the president and part-owner of a large lobbying company despite his past duplicity and his countless real and potential financial conflicts of interest. 

    The network did not respond to a request for comment. 

  • CNN commentator attacks green policies while his firm collects hundreds of thousands in fossil fuel-related lobbying fees

    CNN starts segment by noting some of Urban's lobbying ties after Media Matters inquiry

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During appearances on Jake Tapper’s CNN programs, CNN political commentator David Urban has praised President Donald Trump for rolling back environmental protections and repeatedly warned Democrats against pursuing pro-environment policies. But CNN repeatedly failed to disclose his major financial conflict of interest during those segments: Urban lobbies for numerous fossil fuel-related clients, which have paid his firm nearly $900,000 since 2017. 

    CNN did not respond to a request for comment. But during Urban's first appearance after Media Matters reached out to CNN for comment for this story, the network stated that Urban is "a corporate lobbyist who has clients in the defense and energy industries."

    Urban is the president of American Continental Group (ACG). As part of his work for ACG, he has personally lobbied for fossil fuel companies, including Aiteo Global Group and Anadarko Petroleum (Anadarko terminated its relationship with ACG on January 31). His other clients have included the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, a proposed natural gas pipeline in Oregon, the related Jordan Cove LNG export facility, and Norfolk Southern, which transports coal

    Since the beginning of 2017, ACG has pocketed $870,000 in fees from those clients, according to a tally of data via OpenSecrets.org

    Despite these financial conflicts of interest, Urban has repeatedly appeared on CNN and warned Democrats against pursuing pro-environmental policies. For instance: 

    • While discussing Democratic environmental proposals such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) Green New Deal, Urban said on the May 14 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper: “I would just point out that AOC is not running for president and doesn't have to win in Pennsylvania, where there's Carbon County, Pennsylvania. What do you think comes out of Carbon County? Coal.”  
    • Urban said on the May 5 edition of State of the Union with Jake Tapper that the Green New Deal is one of the Democratic proposals that’s “very progressive, very left of center” and isn’t “going to play well in the states that the Democrats need to capture to win an electoral college map -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin. The ideas that the Democrats are talking about play very well in New York, San Francisco, Chicago -- big cities.” 
    • Urban connected the Green New Deal to socialism on the February 24 edition of State of the Union with Jake Tapper, stating that while younger people may not have a problem with socialism, for people who are “over 35 who turn out to vote a lot, it is a bad thing. ... The Green New Deal, where -- paying people not to work, sounds a little bit like socialism to me.” Tapper replied: “That was in an early document.” 
    • Urban said on the January 31, 2018, edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper that one of the things that “swung the election was Hillary Clinton's war on coal. She was completely out of touch with the working class, the Democrats in Pennsylvania.” 

    Urban also praised Trump for rolling back environmental protections. He stated on the October 15, 2017, edition of State of the Union with Jake Tapper that “the president and this administration have done so much so far,” then listed what he thought were Trump’s accomplishments, including the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and mentioned “Pittsburgh, not Paris” -- a reference to Trump’s quote about withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement. 

    CNN did not disclose Urban’s lobbying for fossil fuel-related companies during those discussions. 

    Media Matters reached out to CNN for comment last week about those lack of disclosures. The network did not respond but during Urban's June 30 appearance on State of the Union with Jake Tapper, guest host Brianna Keilar started a panel segment by stating: "We have to disclose that you are a corporate lobbyist who has clients in the defense and energy industries." Urban replied, laughing: "We get in trouble. We always get in trouble. I get in trouble." 

    Urban previously used his CNN position to advocate for a missile strike against Iran without the network disclosing that he lobbies for defense contractors, and he touted the National Association of Home Builders' opposition to the GOP tax bill without the network mentioning that the organization is his client and hired him to lobby on “tax reform.”

    OpenSecrets reported on June 28 that Urban recently registered to lobby for defense contractor Lockheed Martin, adding: 

    Newly-minted acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive and lobbyist himself, is reportedly close friends with Urban. The two graduated from West Point, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in 1986. 

    Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, two of the world’s largest defense contractors, work closely on major weapons, including the F-35 fighter jet and the Javelin missile system. Urban on CNN specifically mentioned the Tomahawk cruise missile, the U.S. Navy’s go-to missile originally manufactured by General Dynamics and now made by Raytheon, Urban’s former client from 2015 to 2017. 

    Lockheed Martin and Raythoen each saw their stock soar after Trump announced the U.S. would leave the Iran nuclear deal. The stocks dropped before the New Year then rebounded. Executives of major defense companies, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, have told investors that Iran tensions were good for business, The Intercept reported. Defense companies have consistently denied lobbying government on whether the U.S. should engage in conflicts.

    Update (7/1/19): This post was updated to note Anadarko’s lobbying termination.

  • CNN doesn't tell viewers its analyst who urged a military strike against Iran is a lobbyist for defense contractors

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During CNN’s “breaking news” coverage of the conflict between the United States and Iran, CNN political commentator David Urban advocated for a missile strike against Iran, claiming that “the Iranian government has to be checked” and that there needs to be “retribution” for its alleged actions against the United States. The network didn’t disclose to viewers that Urban is a lobbyist for numerous defense contractors.

    Urban appeared on the June 20 edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, where he advocated for striking Iran with a missile:

    DAVID URBAN (CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR): I think the president is trying to give himself and others a way out. And, you know, unfortunately, I think that there's going to have to be some response -- a measured response. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that there’d be some sort of a Tomahawk missile strike on the site that launched this, right, it’s a very limited response, to the missiles that struck this, and not very escalating to put a Tomahawk missile in a 3-by-3 window and, you know, mitigate the damage it’s done and it’s an appropriate response and I think would be met with, you know, I don't want to say met with approval from our allies and around the world, but the Iranian government has to be checked. You can’t be looking to, you know, block the Strait of Hormuz and now downing a U.S. military aircraft, which is in international airspace, without any type of retribution.

    CNN, Urban, and host Jake Tapper didn’t disclose during the segment that Urban has extensive financial ties to military contractors.

    In addition to working for CNN, Urban is the president of American Continental Group (ACG). The company states on its website that its “defense and homeland security practices draw on years of experience working at the highest levels of the legislative branch and the federal appropriations process. We help our clients understand the nuances of the system, make sure they have a chance to make their voices heard, and secure favorable legislative outcomes on their behalf.”

    ACG lobbies on behalf of numerous defense-related clients, including for defense contractors General Dynamics, Honeywell International, ​Kaman Corp., ​MAG DC Corp., and ​Textron Inc., according to a search of federal lobbying records. Urban personally lobbies for those previously mentioned companies, according to ACG's filings.  

    CNN did not respond to a request for comment.

    Media Matters has previously documented problems with CNN failing to adequately disclose the lobbying or consulting ties of its on-air commentators, including regarding Urban on The Lead. The Washington Post also recently posted a pro-Iran strike op-ed by Michael G. Vickers without disclosing that he serves on the board of directors for defense contractor BAE Systems.

  • CNN and Fox News contributors are appearing in numerous Trump campaign videos

    In campaign video, Lara Trump thanked CNN commentator for “fighting for the president”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has been producing news-style videos featuring numerous media figures, including commentators for CNN and Fox News.

    The president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump has been hosting the video series “Real News,” which includes guest interviews and campaign propaganda. The videos, which are posted on the president's Facebook page and carry “paid for by Donald J. Trump for president” disclaimers, ask viewers to sign up for mobile alerts from the campaign, a list-building activity that the 2020 campaign can use to raise money and organize get-out-the vote activities.

    The Hollywood Reporter’s Jeremy Barr reported on March 19 that conservative commentators and sisters Diamond and Silk appeared in a recent video with Lara Trump. Fox News attempted to distance itself from the campaign video by stating that Diamond and Silk “license short weekly videos to Fox Nation – they are not Fox News contributors or employees. When they appear on FNC and FBN, they do so as guests." That explanation contradicts Fox News’ own identifications of the two as “Fox News Channel contributors,” “Fox Nation contributors,” and “Fox Nation hosts.”  

    Regardless of Diamond and Silk’s employment classification, several Fox News contributors have appeared in Trump campaign videos with Lara Trump. They include Deneen Borelli, Alveda King, David Bossie, and Mike Huckabee.

    CNN analysts have also appeared in Trump campaign videos despite the president’s frequent trashing of the network as “fake news.”

    CNN's David Urban and Stephen Moore with Lara Trump. 

    David Urban is a CNN commentator who previously worked as a paid consultant for Trump’s 2016 campaign. During a March Trump video appearance, the campaign identified him as the president of American Continental Group, a major lobbying firm that lobbies the Trump administration and Congress on a variety of issues. (Urban has used his CNN gig to specifically push a lobbying client and its interests without disclosing the connection to viewers.)

    In that video, which did not mention his CNN role, Urban spoke like a Trump surrogate. The Republican commentator, who directed Trump's 2016 operation in Pennyslvania, said that “Pennsylvania is always a tough state to win. I predict, I'll say it here again, I think we’re going to win in 2020. It’s going to be close, but we’re going to win, the president’s going to put the time in; you know, we’re going to work hard and we’re going to win. I have no doubt that he will win in 2020 in Pennsylvania." He also lied about the Green New Deal, claiming that “you’re not going to have a car; forget, you know, no cows ever again.” (Urban’s firm does lobbying work on behalf of oil and gas interests.)

    At the conclusion of the video, Lara Trump thanked Urban for “the job you do every single day out there fighting for the president. You really do an incredible job, and we are so lucky to have you.” Urban responded by saying that he loves President Trump and relayed that people tell him, “You may not hear it on the mainstream media, but we really like” the president. Urban also appeared in a June 2018 video and touted Trump ahead of the then-upcoming midterm elections.

    Stephen Moore is a senior economics analyst for CNN who advises Trump (during a recent appearance, CNN described Moore as “an informal White House adviser”). He has made several appearances on Trump’s video program and promoted Trump’s economic message.

    Other media commentators who have appeared in the Trump campaign’s videos include Fox 5 DC host, Daily Caller video columnist, and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Stephanie Hamill; Talking Point USA’s Candace Owens; conservative troll Dinesh D’Souza; and Trump sycophant Bill Mitchell.

  • The right-wing media figures defending Sean Hannity’s relationship with Michael Cohen


    Right-wing media figures are jumping to defend Fox News host Sean Hannity after it was revealed that Hannity has been a client of longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump, Michael Cohen. Hannity’s defenders are suggesting that he has “been victimized” by the revelation of his name, claiming that he “wasn’t engaging” Cohen “as a lawyer,” and even arguing that Hannity possibly “did not know he was a client of Michael Cohen."

  • CNN's "both sides" problem infects coverage of Trump's anti-Muslim retweets

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump’s latest anti-Muslim retweet spree was racist, misleading, and, above all, indefensible.

    Somehow CNN didn’t get the memo.

    Trump on November 29 retweeted three anti-Muslim videos that were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right, ultranationalist Britain First political organization, who has previously been "charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment.”

    Beyond being incredibly racist, these tweets were also highly misleading. Several media outlets fact-checked the claims in these videos, determining one of them to be “false” and all three “overlaid with a message meant to be a blunt hammer blow for a cause.” Additionally, civil rights groups pointed out that Trump’s tweets “further inflame” violence and hate aimed at Muslims in a climate when “hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at an all-time high.”

    Trump's retweets were widely condemned by American and British officials, including Prime Minister Theresa May. However, CNN covered these tweets, as it covers many other issues, through a series of panel discussions comprising talking heads who move the conversation absolutely nowhere. Many of these panels were stacked with a Trump supporter who attempted to defend the president’s atrocious social media posts.

    On CNN Newsroom with John Berman and Poppy Harlow, CNN contributor Ben Ferguson stated, “If I would have seen these videos … I would have probably tweeted that out and said to myself, ‘This is something the world needs to see.’”

    On CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN political commentator Andre Bauer claimed the U.S. has gotten “numb to the continual victimization of American people by people that come over to this country to cause us harm” and praised Trump for “continu[ing] to remind us about it.”

    On The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN political commentator and former Trump campaign strategist David Urban dismissed “the notion that somehow we’re radicalizing folks in the rest of the world” through the spread of anti-Muslim propaganda.

    On Anderson Cooper 360, panelist James Schultz, who served as White House ethics lawyer under Trump, attempted to defend the president by asserting that “radical Islamic terrorists do bad things.” Schultz claimed, “It’s not the best choice of videos. Without a doubt, they are fake videos. But for you to say [Trump’s] characterizing all Muslims that way, it’s just flat out wrong.”

    And on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, CNN political commentator Ed Martin said the series of tweets was “not a very good move,” but that critics of the tweets were “missing the forest for the trees. No one that looks with a serious eye at Europe doesn’t recognize that there is a problem with Muslim and Islamic fanatics.” Martin contended that Trump’s tweets were helping the problem by “starting a conversation.”

    CNN’s “both sides” panel structure assumes that every issue has two valid sides, and that often those sides are best defined along partisan lines. In the case of Trump’s tweets, that is patently false. These tweets are bigoted and misleading, and anyone who says otherwise is not being intellectually or morally honest.

    By introducing two sides to this debate, CNN is muddying the truth about these videos. Given that we now live in an age where the president often takes his cues from what he sees on cable news, CNN’s “both sides” strategy is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

  • Pro-Trump CNN commentator used network to push lobbying client without disclosure to viewers

    CNN’s pro-Trump contributors continue to damage the network’s journalism brand

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    During a recent prime-time appearance, CNN political commentator David Urban touted the National Association of Home Builders' opposition to the current GOP tax reform bill. Neither Urban nor the network mentioned that NAHB is his lobbying client, and that it hired him specifically to lobby on tax reform.

    Urban is a former Trump campaign adviser who is now the president of the American Continental Group (ACG), a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm with dozens of clients (and potential conflicts of interest with his CNN work). ACG touts Urban's CNN position to current and potential clients in the first paragraph of his profile on its website, stating that he is “a political commentator on CNN and can be seen almost daily on a variety of the network’s programming.“

    Urban appeared on Anderson Cooper 360’s November 7 coverage of that day’s election results and brought up the National Association of Home Builders unprompted, stating:

    DAVID URBAN: The tax bill will rise or fall under its own weight. Now the president has nothing to do with it. You see the National Association of Home Builders, NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business], coming against the tax bill, traditional Republican stalwarts who support the party opposing this bill. This bill has serious problems. It will rise or fall on its own merits. The president has nothing to do with it.

    CNN and Urban did not disclose that he is a lobbyist for NAHB on that very issue. The association has paid ACG $150,000 this year to lobby on “tax reform,” among other issues, according to federal records.

    In a recent report on the fight over tax reform, The New York Times described NAHB as an “influential and often Republican-aligned” group that’s working to shape tax reform legislation. Back in September, the NAHB said that it was “enthusiastically backing” Trump’s tax plan because it would offer “incentives for home mortgage interest and cutting the rate for pass-through businesses to 25 percent from as high as 39.6 percent.” Recently, however, the association’s leaders said they couldn’t back the Republicans’ latest bill because GOP leaders “wouldn’t accept an idea home builders and lawmakers had been working on: repealing the deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes and replacing them with a new tax credit,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

    Urban has also used his CNN position to push for reducing the “tax burden” on “American companies.” During the October 27 edition of The Lead with Jake Tapper, Urban stated: “I think there is a sense of urgency to free up some money for American workers, American companies to bring money back home and invest in their company. So, there's a great need. The tax burden is too great on American working class folks and American companies, want to try to get some parity with the rest of the world." His lobbying for clients on taxes weren't disclosed to viewers during that segment (Note: Sentence added after posting for clarity.)

    According to federal records, in addition to NAHB, Urban has lobbied for numerous companies and organizations on taxes this year, including Comcast Corporation, the National Retail Federation, and Walgreen.

    CNN and Urban did not respond to requests for comment. 

    Urban is also a lobbyist for CNN parent company Time Warner on copyright and trademark issues, the "Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2017," and "general" media issues. AT&T is attempting to acquire Time Warner but the Justice Department has yet to approve that deal.

    Media Matters and other observers have commented on how CNN’s paid pro-Trump commentators have been a headache for the network and contributed to a carnival atmosphere instead of reliable coverage.

  • Study: CNN's paid Trump shills made more than 500 appearances over the last three months

    The network is making a big show of its commitment to facts while paying Trump apologists to lie

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    “This is an apple,” begins the voice-over for an ad CNN is running as part of its new “Facts First” promotional campaign. “Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana,” the narration continues. “They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put banana in ALL CAPS. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

    The network’s new branding stresses that “there is no alternative to a fact” and that “opinions matter” but “don’t change the facts.”

    CNN’s campaign seems driven by the post-truth political environment. President Donald Trump and his administration lie constantly and try to undermine the credibility of other sources of information, including CNN and other media outlets. By confusing the public about what is happening, they hope to maintain power. With top White House aides openly declaring their adherence to “alternative facts,” it makes sense for credible journalists to try to rally around the need for reporting to reflect reality.

    But if CNN is truly worried about the sort of people who tell you that an apple is really a banana, the network should deal with the stable of pundits it has hired to provide viewers with knee-jerk defenses of the president. Those Trump apologists -- some of whom were previously on Trump’s payroll -- actively harm CNN’s journalism, frequently bringing panel discussions to a screeching halt with claims so dishonest they approach parody, at times drawing on-air rebukes from the network’s anchors. The pundits force the network to constantly debate whether the apple is really a banana.

    In August, media reporter Michael Calderone identified 13 pundits on the CNN payroll “who, to varying degrees, can be identified as pro-Trump”: former Republican Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, talk radio host Ben Ferguson, former Bush White House official Scott Jennings, former South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, former Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller, former Trump adviser Stephen Moore, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Republican strategist Alice Stewart, former Trump campaign official David Urban, talk radio host John Phillips, former Bush White House staffer Paris Dennard and former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker. Since then, the network has hired Ed Martin, former chair of the Missouri Republican Party, to round out the roster.

    As Calderone notes, the pundits are not monolithic, with some even offering criticism for the president from time to time. But on balance, the group reliably tilts discussions, often negatively impacting the ability of viewers to come away from the network’s coverage with a strong grasp of the facts.

    Over the past three months, those 14 pundits have made 510 appearances on CNN -- an average of more than five appearances a day -- according to a Media Matters review. Jennings and Ferguson have led the way, with 73 and 69 appearances, respectively. Moore, Kingston, and Stewart round out the top five, each with at least 50 appearances.

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    CNN has been paying Trump shills to provide on-air commentary since the 2016 presidential campaign, apparently having learned nothing from the disastrous results.

    At the time, the network hired pro-Trump pundits like Jeffrey Lord, Corey Lewandowski, and Kayleigh McEnany, claiming that it was important to employ full-time Trump apologists to provide “balance” in its election coverage. Those pundits turned the network’s political coverage into a shit show, with segments devolving to bedlam as the network’s hosts and other contributors tried to push back against a steady stream of lies, talking points, and misdirection. The result may have attracted eyeballs, but it certainly was not a credible news product that distinguished fact from fiction.

    And those relationships ended in humiliation for CNN: Lord was fired in August after he directed a Nazi victory salute at my boss; the Republican National Committee hired away McEnany to, among other things, produce propaganda videos; and Lewandowski remained on the Trump payroll while simultaneously working for CNN until he finally quit to monetize his relationship with the president full time.

    The network has soldiered on since the election, hiring a phalanx of pro-Trump fabulists to populate its panels of reporters, analysts, and pundits. Not every pro-Trump pundit is as bad as Lord or McEnany -- from time to time, some will even offer criticism of the president. But the willingness of many of them to shill for the president regardless of the truth -- to send discussions into a tailspin by saying an apple is a banana -- flies in the face of the network’s stated “facts first” commitment.

    Ferguson, for example, has repeatedly been called out by his CNN colleagues this month for offering nonsensical diversions in discussions of Trump’s attacks on NFL players who protest racial inequality during the National Anthem. And Moore -- who typically appears on the network to lie about Trump-backed health care proposals -- on Monday derailed a CNN panel discussion about then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly paying a hefty sexual harassment settlement by saying that the real solution is for powerful men to never be alone in a room alone with a woman. Kingston, for his part, last night attempted to make excuses for Trump’s unprecedented falsehoods, saying that “the American perception is that politicians lie” and Trump is no worse than other presidents; the rest of the panel denounced him, with anchor Don Lemon scolding him for “condoning bad behavior.”

    When major stories break, such as Trump’s string of indefensible responses to the lethal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, Trump’s CNN supporters blanket the network’s coverage. That result was a trainwreck, with the president’s shills sidelining discussions with praise for Trump’s response and dismissals of the importance of the rally.

    CNN isn’t the first major news outlet to run an advertising campaign geared around its opposition to Trumpian “alternative facts.” The New York Times sold subscriptions earlier this year with similar patter, proclaiming that “the truth is more important now than ever.” But the paper drew controversy almost immediately when it violated that commitment by hiring a climate change denier for a coveted columnist slot.

    As I noted at the time, “When you market your paper as an antidote to a worldview that is unmoored from reality, your subscribers will actually expect you to follow through. When you fail to fulfill your promise, those readers will take their money elsewhere.” Now it’s CNN taking on the mantle of bold truth teller. Perhaps the network should start by first examining its own household.

    Additional research by Shelby Jamerson.

  • Conservative media deflect from James Comey's testimony by attacking his sexuality and gender

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Several right-wing media figures attempted to deflect from the substance of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony about President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn by attacking his gender and sexuality, saying of his written statement that “men don’t write like this” and claiming that he needed to “cowboy up” and tell someone about Trump’s actions when they happened.