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Maggie Haberman: Trump issues a "mushy edged-statement," "waits for media reaction," "then screams he was taken out of context"
President Donald Trump’s defenders are attacking the media, claiming that his recent comments -- in which he called some undocumented immigrants “animals” in response to a question about suspected members of the gang MS-13 -- were taken out of context. But The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman explained that attacking the media for reporting on his vague, often racially coded statements has been a core part of Trump’s playbook since at least 2015.
During a roundtable discussion on May 16 about California’s so-called sanctuary laws, Trump responded to a vague, hypothetical comment about suspected MS-13 members from a local sheriff by saying, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. But we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.”
His remark was unspecific and made no explicit reference to gang members. Media outlets reported on his ambiguous statement with headlines noting that he had referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals.” Trump-friendly media outlets responded by accusing the media of taking his remarks out of context, arguing that he was referring explicitly to MS-13 gang members, even though that was not made clear in his statement. Trump echoed the talking point to his millions of Twitter followers on Friday, and as a result, at least one outlet, CNN, caved to right-wing pressure, clarifying its statement and criticizing coverage from other outlets.
Haberman took to Twitter to explain how Trump’s vague, coded statements have provided him cover from criticism in the past, allowing him to dodge charges of racism, attack the media, and manipulate their coverage of him:
This is the same thing Trump has done since fall 2015. Issue mushy-edged statement that is meant to leave an impression. Waits for media reaction. Then screams he was taken out of context. Then half the media self-flagellates. How many times does this cycle have to get repeated? https://t.co/SNb3sMLhNE
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 18, 2018
Most people if they were actually being taken out of context would find a different way of saying things after the first 100 times, particularly when they are president. So it’s a bit clever to do “boy the media botched this again!”
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 18, 2018
There are certainly instances where he is taken out of context, gets dinged excessively etc. But the dehumanizing statements, except for when he makes them about the media, have most frequently been about immigrants of color.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 18, 2018
The New York Times is drawing well-earned plaudits for yesterday’s news-making interview with President Donald Trump. In their wide-ranging conversation, reporters Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman repeatedly used to great effect a strategy of asking open-ended questions and gently prodding the president along, breaking lots of new ground with regard to the ongoing Russia investigation.
But in contrast to its other successes, the Times missed out on an opportunity to get Trump to answer questions about health care policy.
There was certainly a need for such an interrogation. The interview came just days after the Senate health care bill collapsed because conservative and more moderate Republicans were unable to reach agreement on the legislation’s contours. Trump has been generally vague about which side’s policy views he favors, but he supported the Senate legislation even though it violates many of the promises he has made to the American people. In tweets and other public statements since it became clear the bill lacked the votes to pass, Trump has taken a variety of positions on what to do next.
Based on the voluminous excerpts from the interview the paper has published, which “omit several off-the-record comments and asides,” the Times reporters appeared to make no real effort to get at any of the contradictions surrounding Trump’s health care position, or to elucidate for their audience the type of policies he favors. Millions of people will be impacted by the results of this debate; the Times reporters, though, seem primarily concerned with the senators who will vote on it.
Here are all the questions The New York Times reporters asked Trump about health care, as well as one comment that inspired a response:
PETER BAKER: Good. Good. How was your lunch [with Republican senators]?
MAGGIE HABERMAN: That’s been the thing for four years. When you win an entitlement, you can’t take it back.
HABERMAN: Am I wrong in thinking — I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right? I mean, I think that you come at it from the view of …
BAKER: Did the senators want to try again?
HABERMAN: How about the last [meeting with Republican senators about health care] in June? Do you guys remember how many came?
BAKER: Who is the key guy?
HABERMAN: Where does it go from here, do you think?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: How’s [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell to work with?
As you can see, their questions about health care were almost entirely driven by the process and politics of the bill. The closest they came to asking about policy was Haberman’s vague question about whether Trump is “generally of the view that people should have health care”; Trump responded, “Yes, yes,” and the conversation moved on.
There were some tantalizing openings for the reporters to quiz Trump on his health care policy views that were not taken. At one point, Trump said of Obamacare, “Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.” A reporter could have followed up and asked why, in spite of the political challenge, Trump believes there is a policy imperative to remove that guarantee and limit the ability of people with pre-existing conditions to gain coverage.
Trump also said:
Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
I don't really understand what the president is saying here. He appears to be claiming that the model for health insurance is people pay a very low amount of money beginning when they are young and hope to garner benefits when they are old. If true, that’s a staggering display of ignorance; that’s how term life insurance works, not health insurance. Unfortunately, it’s hard to really nail this down because there were no follow-up questions.
Trump also said of passing health care legislation, “If we don’t get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we’ll blame the Democrats.” This would have been a good opportunity to point out that experts say Obamacare is not failing, ask the president why his administration is taking steps to ensure the system’s decline, or discuss the impact that Obamacare failing might have on Americans who depend on the legislation. Instead, Baker asked, “Did the senators want to try again?”
The failure of the Times to ask the president tough questions about his health care position is all the more important because there have been vanishingly few opportunities for reporters to do so. The president has largely retreated from press scrutiny in recent months. Trump has not held a full press conference since February; he broke with tradition and did not hold one following the G20 meeting earlier this month. His only on-camera interviews in the last two months have been with the pro-Trump propagandists at Fox and, most recently, with The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson, who has said the president’s critics serve Satan.
When mainstream journalists have had the opportunity to ask Trump to discuss the legislation, they’ve largely dropped the ball. Health care is not mentioned in the excerpts Reuters released of reporter Steve Holland’s July 12 interview with the president. The only reference to the issue in the excerpts the White House released of a conversation Trump had with the press corps during their trip to Paris that night involves the president saying that passing a bill is “tough” but the result will be “really good.” (It’s possible that health care had been discussed in more detail and the White House refused to release those portions, but Haberman would have been aware of this since she participated in that conversation, and that should have provided all the more reason for the Times reporters to ask him about the issue.)
This is unfortunately typical of a media that has largely focused on politics and process, not policy or the personal stories of those who will be impacted by the passage of the Republican legislation.
The Times lost out on its opportunity to put the president on the record on his top priority. Given how rare these chances have become, that’s a big miss.
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The New York Times and Washington Post have frequently quoted Republican dirty trickster and top Trump ally Roger Stone without informing their readers of Stone’s racist and sexist comments that have gotten him banned from appearing on at least two cable news networks.
The Times and Post quote Stone, who previously served as a paid Trump campaign adviser and who has been an informal political adviser to him for decades. When they have done so, both outlets have routinely not explained to readers that Stone authored a series of tweets attacking others in a racist and sexist manner (including about Times reporters).
The Times and Post have quoted Stone in over 20 stories since June 2016 in which the papers did not reveal to their readers the racial animus motivating him. The Times reported on Stone’s racial slurs and the cable news fallout in May, while the Post noted them in an April story.
Among the descriptions the Times used with Stone were “Republican strategist and Trump confidant,” “veteran political operative,” “the longest-serving Trump adviser,” and “an informal adviser to Mr. Trump over many years.” The Post called him a “Nixon-era political trickster,” “sometime-Trump adviser,” “longtime Trump associate,” and “on-again, off-again Trump adviser.”
Stone called commentator Roland Martin a “stupid negro” and “fat negro.” He referred to commentator Herman Cain as “mandingo” and called former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) an “arrogant know-it-all negro.” He also called commentator Al Sharpton a “professional negro” who likes fried chicken and asked if former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was an “Uncle Tom.”
Stone referred to Martin and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro (who is Latina) as “quota hires.” He said of Navarro: “Black beans and rice didn’t miss her,” described her as a “diva bitch” and called Martin a “token.”
He also called New York Times columnist Gail Collins an "elitist c*nt" and tweeted "DIE BITCH" at former Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Stone formed the anti-Clinton group “C.U.N.T.” in 2008.
After Stone’s comments came to light, CNN said he “will no longer appear” on the network. MSNBC told The Washington Post, “Roger Stone will not be a guest on MSNBC because of his now very well-known offensive comments.” Stone has also not recently appeared on Fox News, and Stone said, “I’m banned at Fox because I kick their ass.”
Stone has been a frequent guest and is now a contributor to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio/internet show, and reportedly facilitated a line of communication between Jones and Trump. Stone has written several conspiracy theory books, and has made several false claims: the Clintons are “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of about 40 people, the Bush family “tried to kill” Ronald Reagan, and that Lyndon Johnson was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
But as recently as December 9, The New York Times, in an article by Maggie Haberman, quoted Stone and did not tell readers his toxic background (she simply referred to him as “a long-serving informal adviser to Mr. Trump”). On December 8, a Washington Post article by Jenna Johnson also quoted Stone, and hid his background from readers as well (only describing him as a “longtime friend” of Trump).
It is possible that the desire to quote Stone comes from a dearth of media contacts between the Trump team and the press, but it does a disservice to readers to obscure his problematic background in this manner.
Additionally, the following articles in both publications over the last six months quoted Stone, but did not tell readers about his racist comments or the repercussions from CNN or MSNBC:
“Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia” by Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers
Described Stone as “Republican strategist and Trump confidant.”
“In Donald Trump, Conspiracy Fans Find a Campaign to Believe In” by Campbell Robertson
Called Stone “veteran political operative and longtime confidant of Donald J. Trump.”
“Will Donald Trump Play Infidelity Card at Debate? Clinton Camp Girds” by Maggie Haberman and Amy Chozick
Referred to Stone as “the longest-serving Trump adviser.”
“Donald Trump’s Campaign Hires Ex-Christie Aide to Bolster Political Operation” by Maggie Haberman and Kate Zernike
Called Stone “an informal adviser to Mr. Trump over many years.”
“Donald Trump's Journey: From Crashing a Party to Controlling Its Future” by Adam Nagourney and Alexander Burns
Said Stone was “a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump.”
“Donald Trump May Break the Mold, but He Fits a Pattern, Too” by Alexander Burns
Called him “a political strategist who has advised Mr. Trump since the 1980s.”
Described Stone as “Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser.”
“What Donald Trump Learned From Joseph McCarthy’s Right-Hand Man” by Jonathan Mahler and Matt Flegenheimer
Called Stone a “roguish former Nixon adviser and master of the political dark arts.”
“How Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist extraordinaire, got Donald Trump’s ear” by Manuel Roig-Franzia
Called Stone a “Nixon-era political trickster.”
“Is Trump’s new chief strategist a racist? Critics say so.” by David Weigel
Referred to Stone as “sometime-Trump adviser.”
“Democrats sue Trump, Republicans in four states and allege ‘campaign of vigilante voter intimidation’” by Mark Berman and William Wan
Described him as “Trump supporter.”
Called him a “Trump supporter.”
“Election officials brace for fallout from Trump’s claims of a ‘rigged’ vote” by Sean Sullivan and Philip Rucker
Referred to Stone as “a longtime Trump associate.”
“Trump claims election is ‘rigged’ and seems to suggest Clinton was on drugs at debate” by Jose A. DeReal and Sean Sullivan
Noted Stone was a “longtime ally” of Trump.
Called him a “longtime Trump associate.”
Called Stone an “on-again, off-again Trump adviser.”
“Inside debate prep: Clinton’s careful case vs. Trump’s ‘WrestleMania’” by Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Anne Gearan
Called Stone “a controversial bon vivant and self-proclaimed political dirty-trickster.”
“Inside Donald Trump’s new strategy to counter the view of many that he is ‘racist’” by Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Jenna Johnson
Referred to Stone as “a longtime Trump confidant.”
“For Trump, a new ‘rigged’ system: The election itself” by David Weigel
Called Stone an “off-again, on-again adviser.”
“Donald Trump’s long history of clashes with Native Americans” by Shawn Boburg
Described Stone as Trump’s “longtime lobbyist and adviser.”
“Racial tensions and shootings sharpen contrasts between Clinton and Trump” by Jenna Johnson and Abby Phillip
Referred to Stone as “a former Nixon staffer and one of Trump’s longtime advisers who has no formal role with the campaign.”
“This is Trumpism: A personality-fueled run that resonates in an anxious era” by Karen Tumulty and Robert Costa
Referenced Stone as someone “who last year parted ways with Trump’s campaign but remains close to the candidate.”
It is unusual for a political figure to be barred from appearing on at least two cable news networks, particularly for racist and sexist commentary. If the Times and Post -- and others -- continue to quote Stone, they should inform their readers about the background of who they’re quoting, or decline to do so.
Media figures carried water for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after the second presidential debate, promoting the narrative that he “staunched the bleeding” in his ailing campaign with his debate performance. The assertion that Trump “stopped the bleeding” came despite many low points from Trump during the debate, including his statement that he would put his opponent in jail if he became president, and it ignores immediate post-debate polling that showed Trump lost the debate to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
As the first presidential debate approaches, media figures across the political spectrum are actively lowering the bar for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, both by setting lower standards themselves and by pushing the lower-standard narrative. Yet at the same time, many media figures are acknowledging that the press is employing a double standard in its treatment of Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Memo to the media: You cannot have it both ways on the double standard applied to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
After NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, reporters and pundits proclaimed that media have held the two presidential nominees to different standards of knowledge and conduct, yet these media figures have also perpetuated the double standard by excusing Trump’s behavior and applauding him any time he shows a veneer of conventionality.
Numerous media figures criticized Matt Lauer, host of the September 7 forum, for employing different questioning toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Lauer allowed Trump to lie about opposing the Iraq war, yet he used eight of his first nine questions for Clinton to grill her over her emails. Several media figures said Lauer’s line of questioning embodied the “double standard” that reporters across the board use to analyze the two candidates.
Despite all this commentary, media figures have consistently perpetuated the double standard, holding Trump to a lower bar than they do Clinton in terms of behavioral and ethical conduct -- and in measures of veracity. Most recently, when a report came out that Trump paid a fine to the IRS for making an illegal $25,000 donation to the 2013 re-election campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, broadcast news networks devoted a third as much as time to the matter as they provided to a flawed Associated Press story on the Clinton Foundation that proved no ethics breaches.
Media figures have previously repeatedly pardoned Trump’s widely criticized rhetoric, policy flip-flops, and divisive comments because he’s “not a politician” and is “learning as he goes”:
Media have also absurdly applauded Trump any time he has appeared to assume even the slightest veneer of conventional, tempered behavior:
Now that political media have admitted their own shortcomings in the cautionary tale of Lauer, will they level the playing field between Clinton and Trump?
Researcher Tyler Cherry contributed research to this post.
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Trump's Campaign Manager Used The Trip To Bash Clinton's Accessibility To The Press
Media figures criticized Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's "distressing" decision to leave his traveling press corps in the United States as he travels to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump's "alarming" treatment of the press throughout his presidential campaign has included revoking entire outlets' press credentials, taunting and insulting the press at campaign rallies, and promising to "open up our libel laws" if elected.
The Trump campaign's decision to leave their press behind is inconsistent with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway's claim that a joint press conference she said Trump would hold with Peña Nieto during the trip should be looked at "in direct contrast" to Hillary Clinton. (It was later reported that Trump was "not expected to take questions in Mexico, despite his campaign manager insisting this morning he would.)"
According to Politico's Hadas Gold, "reporters were 'seething'" on a call with the Trump campaign because "the campaign is leaving the press behind on its big trip to Mexico on Wednesday":
Just one day after a traveling print pool was put in place for Donald Trump's campaign, the campaign is leaving the press behind on its big trip to Mexico on Wednesday.
The last-minute trip to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was announced on Tuesday. And while there is a charter plane for the press traveling with Trump, their plane was directed to Phoenix where Trump will later give an immigration speech.
On the daily call with Trump communications director Jason Miller, reporters were "seething," one source on the call, who asked not to be named because the call is off the record, told POLITICO. According to the source, the campaign only told the five-network television pool about the opportunity to cover the meeting around 3 a.m. While some reporters were weighing chartering their own plane to Mexico, they decided against it partly because the campaign did not indicate there would be a press availability until Conway's comments this morning.
Trump is setting a distressing precedent today. He's traveling to Mexico. His traveling press has not been invited along. We're in Phoenix.
— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) August 31, 2016
This morning's logistics call between Trump press aides & beat reporters was heated-- lots of frustration about lack of access to Mexico mtg
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 31, 2016
Trump's traveling press corps will not be with him in Mexico. That's unusual/unprecedented for a nominee taking a foreign trip...
— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 31, 2016
It's absolutely maddening that traveling press who cover Trump constantly are being left behind in Phoenix while he's in Mexico.
— David Martosko (@dmartosko) August 31, 2016
Not having a protective pool, something Trump officials have said prob won’t happen, wld be a 1st. and what does it portend for Prez Trump?
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) August 31, 2016
Trump at moment is not planning to bring US media with him on trip. Anyone remember another nominee doing foreign trip w no press corps?
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 31, 2016
During perhaps the most intriguing meeting of presidential campaign — Trump and Mexican president — traveling press won’t be there. Shame!
— Matt Viser (@mviser) August 31, 2016
This post has been updated.
Media figures are widely condemning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s remarks in a July 27 press conference, in which he said he “hope[s]” that Russian hackers would “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Media immediately castigated Trump’s “mindblowing” call for the Russian government to steal his opponent's email to help his bid for president.
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Right-Wing Media: If Trump Gets Nomination, "The GOP In Its Current Form Ends"
Right-wing media figures lamented Donald Trump's primary success, after he won the majority of Republican primary contests on Super Tuesday. Their attacks against the front-runner follows a New York Times report on the formation of the "Our Principles" political action committee, a right wing PAC devoted to a "full-fledged campaign against Donald J. Trump."