Matt Lauer | Media Matters for America

Matt Lauer

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  • Who gets the luxury of a media comeback? 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Months ago, Eric Bolling left Fox News amid an investigation into reports he had sent unsolicited pictures of male genitalia to multiple colleagues. Today, without having publicly reckoned with his past conduct whatsoever, Bolling announced he’ll soon return to the media scene as the host of a new show on conservative media outlet CRTV. He has also reportedly been “in talks” with Newsmax, Sinclair, MSNBC, and The Hill.

    Bolling is part of a club of wealthy media men who are laying the groundwork for comebacks they have not earned. He is one of several high-profile media figures -- along with Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and Bill O’Reilly -- reported for workplace sexual misconduct who have now decided they deserve a second chance despite not having done any of the very tough public reflection such a comeback ought to require, at minimum. Rose is even reportedly involved in a new show idea being shopped in which he would interview other men, including Lauer, about their public outings as sexual predators.

    As these media men attempt to pitch news executives and the public on a redemption tour, it’s up to us as media consumers to figure out what happens now. Does the world benefit from having these specific dudes back on air?

    Will these comebacks involve thoughtful, honest examination of past conduct?

    All evidence points to no. 

    These men have all offered vague (at least partial) denials and largely declined to discuss the reports against them, sometimes citing legal reasons. Bolling, for example, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier this week to talk about his work combating the opioid crisis (his son tragically died last year from an opioid-related overdose). But when the conversation turned to his departure from Fox, Bolling had nothing of substance to say. When co-host Mika Brzezinski asked him point-blank if he had ever sexually harassed anyone, Bolling would not answer, saying he couldn’t discuss it because of a lawsuit.

    In O’Reilly’s case, in addition to hiding behind legal language or vague statements, he has been unapologetic and unrepentant. Months after his firing from Fox News, he booked an interview with Lauer on NBC’s Today; Media Matters wrote that the sit-down would be harmful unless it was a “deeply researched and responsible interview focused solely on the reports that he sexually harassed at least five women.” Instead, 4.5 million Americans were treated to a petulant back-and-forth between two sexual predators (though Lauer’s misconduct was not publicly known at the time). O’Reilly largely obfuscated, implying a legal reason for the silence, but still managed to attack one of his accusers on air.

    Rose, too, has shown little interest in an actual reckoning for past behavior. Right around the time the news broke of his potential new comeback show (which one can only hope will never see the light of day), Rose was publicly partying with Woody Allen and dining with Sean Penn, who has been reported for domestic abuse. (Penn previously wrote a poem defending Rose, because reported predators stick together.) In a profile in The Hollywood Reporter published weeks before, sources close to Rose couldn’t agree on whether he’d yet acknowledged or grappled with any wrongdoing.

    How does a “comeback” factor into the institutional and cultural healing process?

    Beyond the question of whether a comeback is appropriate, there’s also the question of whether one is appropriate now.

    The former workplaces of the media figures in question -- Fox News for Bolling and O’Reilly, CBS and PBS for Rose, and NBC for Lauer -- still have a lot of work to do when it comes to workplace culture. NBC, CBS, and Fox all launched some type of internal investigation following reports of sexual misconduct by their employees, and in some cases the investigations are brand new or still ongoing.

    New details are still emerging in public reporting too, illuminating what is now clearly a much larger, more pervasive cultural issue than can be fixed by any one outlet firing any one individual (though it’s still a good start). In the case of Rose, The Washington Post published a follow-up investigation just this week, based on interviews with more than 100 people, that revealed an atmosphere at CBS that allowed Rose to reportedly harass employees for several decades without reproach. More information about the number and severity of harassment suits brought against O’Reilly continued to trickle out for months after his firing -- and public knowledge still may be incomplete.

    Throughout these revelations, leaders at Fox, NBC, and CBS have denied knowledge of reported misconduct before it was made public.

    How can media companies know a problem is “fixed” -- and that these particular media men are ready to return to airwaves -- when company leaders continue to apparently learn details about their own workplace culture from reporters and the courageous people willing to talk to them? Are they listening to their own employees only after they speak to reporters at other outlets? More importantly, have they created a culture in such dire need of fixing that employees felt they’d be heard only if they made their trauma public?

    This is an industry and a society at the very beginning of a long reckoning, one whose leaders are at various points on their own pathways to understanding. Doling out second chances without a thorough examination of what went wrong the first time won’t fix a damn thing.

    What about all the people who are waiting on their first chance?

    This is the big question -- the one that transcends any specific examples and will linger over any potential comeback, presently planned or in the future: Why do these men deserve second chances when society has deprived so many talented individuals of a first chance?

    Newsrooms remain overwhelmingly white and male -- a remarkable homogeneity that itself is a risk factor for workplace harassment. Think of all the voices we’ve never heard because they were passed over to make room for Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer or Bill O’Reilly or Eric Bolling. Think of the kinds of people who are and aren’t valued, or listened to, or believed, in the media world, and the message that sends to viewers.

    This big question also applies to people who’ve been pushed out of the media industry because of harassment. Ann Curry was reportedly forced out at Today after experiencing verbal harassment on set -- and after speaking to management about Lauer. Former Fox News figure Gretchen Carlson described the retaliation she faced after reporting harassment by Roger Ailes and current Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy; she left Fox days before filing her lawsuit against Ailes. One study found that 75 percent of employees who reported misconduct at work faced retaliation -- so Curry’s and Carlson’s stories probably represent countless others.

    Nearly half of women media workers in a 2013 poll said they’d experienced sexual harassment on the job. And many of the #MeToo media stories have included heartbreaking asides from young journalists who experienced harassment and had their professional ambition destroyed. What about these people -- mostly young women -- who lost their dignity and their dreams, their first chance, at the hands of a powerful harasser like Lauer or Rose?

    Perhaps we should focus on taking a chance on new voices that could make the world better instead of bestowing a “comeback” upon those who already used their first chance to make the world worse.

  • 17 disturbing warning signs NBC ignored from Matt Lauer

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & GRACE BENNETT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    NBC News announced on November 29 that it fired Today host Matt Lauer after “a detailed complaint” was filed about "inappropriate sexual behavior that took place during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.” The complaint also noted that Lauer’s “alleged behavior continued in the workplace after the games.” Lauer has a well-documented history of disturbing and sexist behavior that should have served as a warning sign to management long before this recent investigation took place. Here are just a few examples:

    1. According to The New York Times Magazine, Lauer was part of “the boys’ club atmosphere behind the scenes” at Today, which Curry said “undermined her from the start” and was partially responsible for pushing her out in 2013.

    2. In 2012, former Today host Katie Couric told Andy Cohen that Lauer’s most “annoying” trait was that he “pinch[ed] me on the ass a lot.”

    3. In 2006, according to video footage on TMZ, Lauer told Meredith Vieira to "Keep bending over like that. It's a nice view," during a commerical break.

    4. According to HuffPost, Lauer acted incredibly skeezy during a 2014 interview with then-18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin.

    5. In a 2012 interview with actress Anne Hathaway, Lauer started off by discussing a wardrobe malfunction of hers, telling Hathaway he had “seen a lot of you lately.”

    6. Lauer, then in his late 40s, told singer Kelly Clarkson that she had a “hot new look.” When Clarkson, who was in her early 20s at the time, responded by asking “I have a hot new look?” Lauer replied, “Well, I'm back from vacation and you got my attention, I'll tell you that.”

    7. During an interview with Pippa Middleton, Lauer focused on the “very flattering” dress she wore to her sister’s wedding and the way it fit her, saying, “I thought it was the best of British pomp and circumstance.”

    8. During an interview with Lauer earlier this year, actor Corey Feldman discussed child molestation in Hollywood, including his own experience of abuse. In response, Lauer questioned Feldman’s culpability in the matter, asking why he didn’t come forward sooner: “Why are you sitting down talking to me? Why aren’t you sitting down with the police right now?” Feldman replied, “I’m the victim here. I’m the one who’s been abused. I’m the one who’s trying to come forward and do something about it.”

    9. During a 2008 “roast” of Lauer, he misogynistically joked about sleeping with his former co-hosts Katie Couric and Ann Curry, asking, “What’s with all the small-dick jokes? It was fun to look over and see Ann Curry laughing … like she doesn’t know how big my dick really is.”  

    10. In 2012, Lauer was part of an incredibly distasteful mockumentary on sexual harassment at Today, where he said he was the “real victim” after co-host Willie Geist jokingly touched him inappropriately.

    11. In a 2014 sketch, Lauer pretended to flash his colleagues, urging his female colleagues to “drink it in, ladies.”

    12. In September, Lauer, who reportedly had notable influence over which stories appeared on Today, interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him a platform to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct.

    13. During an interview with GM chief executive Mary Barra in 2014, Lauer asked her if she thought she could do a good job at being both a high-powered executive and a mother.

    14. During a 2015 interview with musician Adele, Lauer questioned whether she was “concerned at all that now, with the explosion of this album, that you're going to have to get back on that career treadmill and have less time to dedicate” to her young son.

    15. During a national security forum during the 2016 presidential campaign, Lauer “behaved toward the presidential candidates in a way that was consistent with much of the research about gender stereotypes and discrimination,” according to the Harvard Business Review. Specifically, Lauer “interrupted Clinton more often than Trump, asked her more challenging questions, and questioned her statements more often.”

    16. During the same forum, Lauer failed to push back on then-candidate Donald Trump’s assertion that is was “correct” to claim that rape should be “expected” when men and women both serve in the military.  

    17. While reporting on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Lauer referred to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen as one of Brazil’s “most recognizable exports.”

    A TMZ report initially identified the woman in the third bullet as Katie Couric. TMZ now reports it was Meredith Vieria. This piece has been updated accordingly.

  • Matt Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct in recent weeks

    Matt Lauer's misogyny was no secret

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Early this morning, a now-familiar pattern of events unfolded: A prominent media figure was named as a reported perpetrator of sexual misconduct and reporters from other outlets quickly confirmed they’d been working on stories about it. This time it was NBC’s Matt Lauer, and no one seemed surprised -- particularly because the network has been very publicly struggling to adequately address sexual harassment and misogyny for over a year now.

    On November 29, Today co-host Savannah Guthrie, seated next to colleague Hoda Kotb, announced that NBC had terminated Lauer after receiving a “detailed complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” The statement from NBC News chairman Andy Lack, from which Guthrie read on-air, also stated that the network had reason to believe the report was not an isolated incident.

    Almost immediately, several reporters confirmed that they’d been working on investigations of Lauer or were aware of investigations and that NBC knew about the coming stories as well. At least one reporter, Yashar Ali, said he’d spoken with women privately about Lauer even before The New York Times published its first story on reports of harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein in early October.

    Lauer’s misogyny was certainly no secret, either -- he had publicly berated women, victim-blamed, and reinforced sexist stereotypes in interviews before. In 2012, when former co-host Ann Curry was reportedly pushed out of the network, Lauer and the “boys’ club atmosphere” at Today were implicated.

    And in September, Lauer interviewed serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, giving him space to attack a woman who had reported him for harassment and deny knowledge about the multiple settlements he’d reached for misconduct. NBC’s decision to give Lauer and O’Reilly an 8 a.m. slot to broadcast such an insulting conversation to more than 4 million people -- predominantly women, who are likely to have themselves experienced workplace sexual harassment -- was still far from the first time NBC has struggled to send the right message on sexual misconduct.

    Lauer is the fourth NBCUniversal employee to be publicly named for sexual misconduct -- in the case of Lauer, reported assault -- since the Weinstein reports. Earlier in November, Variety wrote that Matt Zimmerman, the senior vice president of booking for NBC News who oversaw the department that likely invited O’Reilly to appear on Today, had been fired following reports he’d “engaged in inappropriate conduct with more than one woman at NBCU.”

    On October 26, two different NBCUniversal employees were publicly reported for workplace sexual harassment: Mark Halperin and Ken Baker. Baker, a correspondent for the NBC-owned E! News, is currently off the air pending an internal investigation into multiple reports of inappropriate text messages and an unwanted kiss. Halperin, who was an MSNBC contributor and NBC News analyst, was fired following a flood of reports detailing serial sexual harassment and assault while he worked at ABC News.  

    NBC has also notoriously maintained silence on several reports related to harassment and assault by powerful men outside of its offices. Freelance NBC News correspondent Ronan Farrow publicly called out his employer for passing on his months-long investigation into multiple reports of harassment and assault by Weinstein; the piece eventually ran in The New Yorker.

    Last fall, the network sat on the Access Hollywood footage depicting President Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault and was eventually scooped by another outlet. It subsequently waffled on firing its own employee, Billy Bush, for his participation in the damning exchange.

    NBC is now among the list of media outlets that must grapple with reporting on sexual misconduct by its own employees. Addressing the reports against Lauer -- which seem likely to grow in number -- and the behavior he exhibited behind-the-scenes at NBC for decades gives the network an opportunity to change its course. It remains to be seen if NBC will take this chance to begin sending better messages to its employees and viewers about who and what it will value and protect.

  • NBC News Falls For Roger Stone's Bullshit

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    After Roger Stone was banned from appearing on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN for nearly a year because of his wildly unreliable claims and offensive behavior, NBC News appeared to reverse its decision, hosting the former adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign for two appearances, one on MSNBC and one on NBC, despite his pattern of spouting bigotry and lies and pushing conspiracy theories.

    On February 16, NBC’s morning show, Today, hosted Stone to discuss renewed allegations that Trump aides, including Stone himself, had regular contact with Russian officials during the campaign. Stone is a racist, misogynist conspiracy theorist who is reportedly being investigated by the FBI for possible illegal dealings with Russia.

    Stone's disreputable past and history of making false claims (such as his conspiracy theories that the Clintons are “plausibly responsible” for the deaths of about 40 people, the Bush family “tried to kill” Ronald Reagan, and Lyndon Johnson was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy) were not mentioned in the Today interview. Nor were his January suggestions that former CIA Director John Brennan is a "Saudi mole" and that he has proved that Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) father "was working side by side with Lee Harvey Oswald" as a CIA operative.

    Instead, Stone “categorically, positively, … absolutely” denied the allegations of his collusion with Russian officials on behalf of Trump to co-hosts Matt Lauer and Hallie Jackson. Later in the day during a rambling press conference, Trump referenced Stone's denials to attack "the failing New York Times."

    Since the allegations were first reported by The New York Times on January 19, Stone has gone on the Russian-owned RT to defend Russian officials from allegations that they were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ("The entire notion that the Russians hacked this election and did so in order to affect the result is a falsehood, is a canard"), and appeared on the show of fellow conspiracy theorist and Trump supporter Alex Jones to attack the role of Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff as "an enormous mistake."

    Stone is also currently promoting a new book about the Trump campaign. His previous books, columns, and research have been widely dismissed as “discredited,” “Pants on Fire” false, and/or plagiarized.

    Stone had previously claimed that he was in communication with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and had tweeted that it would be Hillary Clinton’s then-campaign chairman John Podesta’s “time in the barrel” shortly before the release of his hacked emails, a pattern of leaks that was repeatedly associated with Russian intelligence efforts.

    The night before Stone appeared on Today, MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes also hosted him. Hayes noted that Stone had been banned from the network “because of numerous incredibly offensive, bigoted, and objectionable tweets,” but that he was interviewing Stone because he was “once again in the middle of the news” -- a reference to the fact that Trump’s inner circle has been implicated in the investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

    Shortly after the MSNBC interview aired, Stone took to Twitter to call CNN's Ana Navarro a "stupid bitch" for her comments on former national security advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's recent resignation, which occurred after it was revealed that Flynn possibly lied about contacts he had with Russian officials in the transition to the Trump presidency.

    Stone previously attacked numerous NBC personalities with racist and vile taunts. He tweeted that MSNBC host Al Sharpton is a "professional negro" who ate fried chicken, NBC's Tom Brokaw is "senile," and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is "Rachel the muff-diver." Stone also wrote that former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly -- now with NBC -- has a "nice set of cans.” He twice offered a cash reward to anyone who "punches out" MSNBC host Chris Matthews. Stone later deleted most of those tweets.

  • Echoing Trump Team, NBC And MSNBC Figures Dismiss Claims About Russia And The President-Elect

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & NINA MAST

    NBC and MSNBC figures have adopted misleading language also used by President-elect Donald Trump and his advisors to criticize and dismiss claims that Russia may have compromising information on the president-elect. A statement released by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that Trump was briefed on the allegations, which the intelligence community has not yet verified or discredited.

  • NBC moves to the right as Trump readies to take office

    Joe Scarborough, Megyn Kelly, Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice Connection, And Greta Van Susteren Will Just Make Things Worse

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    UPDATE: Greta Van Susteren's MSNBC show "For The Record" will reportedly begin January 9.

    After running a proto-fascist campaign, President-elect Donald Trump will bring his hate, misogyny, and bigotry to the White House at the end of the month. And when he does, NBC will have a machine ready to normalize him. Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough is cozying up to Trump, the network is literally paying Trump through Celebrity Apprentice, and MSNBC is reportedly in talks to hire Greta Van Susteren, a longtime Fox News host with a history of treating Trump with kid gloves. And now Megyn Kelly, who famously buried the hatchet with Trump by lobbing him a softball interview and then withheld information about him until after the election, is also going to work for NBC.

    By any measure, the Trump normalization effort at NBC begins at the top, with the network actually paying money to Trump as a result of his Celebrity Apprentice executive producer credit. The problem here is simple: NBC will have a fiduciary relationship with the president of the United States. The network now has an incentive to weigh aggressive reporting about the president-elect against what it might lose in revenue if Trump’s reputation is damaged. NBC, after all, is the network that had the hot mic tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault -- but it’s not the outlet that broke that news.

    The tangles of the Trump-NBC connection were reflected in Matt Lauer’s recent interview with new Celebrity Apprentice host Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which the two downplayed the conflict of interest posed by Trump’s role in the show. Far from raising concerns about a financial arrangement between a network and the president, Lauer instead teased the increasing personal involvement Trump could have on the show as the season goes on. That’s normalization, and it’s driven by a desire for profit margin, plain and simple. As the Trump administration draws nearer, we’re seeing signs that this approach could repeat itself in the news division.

    Megyn Kelly

    Megyn Kelly announced her move to NBC on Tuesday. Kelly’s schtick is old hat for those who watch Fox News closely. She’ll have one good moment that gets an absurd amount of press and defines the narrative, and she’ll follow it up by making numerous terrible remarks -- often involving bigotry or race baiting of some kind -- that mainstream journalists just seem to forget in the long run. In fact, promoting bigotry was something of a specialty for Kelly at Fox News, as she helped build her name by obsessively pushing the baseless conspiracy that the Obama administration had declined to pursue voter intimidation charges against the New Black Panther Party for racial and political reasons. She would later infamously declare that both Santa Claus and Jesus were white. As Gawker’s Sam Biddle put it, “To Megyn Kelly, black rage is pervasive when she wants you scared, insignificant when she wants you ignorant.”

    The thing is, with a certain crowd of media elites, Kelly’s terrible remarks never stick the way the good moments do. Just look at all the mainstream positive puff pieces on Kelly. One is left to wonder how many of these people regularly watched her show.

    Her experience with Trump during the 2016 election is typical Megyn Kelly: In the first presidential primary debate, she confronted Trump about his track record of insulting women. With that query, she cemented her reputation among two crowds: the media elites who loved it, and the “alt-right” misogynists who are railing against Kelly to this day.

    But despite her very public feud with Trump, during the campaign, Kelly’s Fox News show was a perfect example of normalization. Even though she posed a tough question to Trump during the debate (and asked the occasional tough question to his surrogates), she also gave Trump a welcoming platform and reinforced the bigoted tropes that he built his campaign on.

    Even weeks before the debate, Kelly had set the tone for her campaign, defending Trump’s racist remarks about immigrants by positively citing Ann Coulter’s book Adios America.

    And then, just days after being showered with mainstream praise for her debate question, Kelly turned to disgraced former detective Mark Fuhrman for analysis about protests in Ferguson, MO. (Fuhrman is so racist that even Fox News host and Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson has called him a bigot.) And in the weeks and months following the debate, while Trump raged about Kelly and the press ate it up, Kelly was mainstreaming a hate group, pushing bigotry against transgender people, complaining about a “thug mentality” in black communities, sneering at black protesters, and attacking a Department of Justice plan to address anti-Muslim rhetoric. Kelly blamed African-Americans who were the victims of police violence and even lashed out at one black protester for looking a police officer in the eyes. And all this was just in 2015, not to mention 2016. None of this behavior got the press that her big moment confronting Trump did.

    And even when Kelly failed, it didn’t stick. Her prime-time show on Fox Broadcasting Co. last May was supposed to be a huge breakout moment. It was her chance to show she could be a “star” without the lower expectations that come with being a journalist on Fox News. Instead, the show was roundly considered a disaster, and it contained one of the worst Trump interviews of the entire election, up there with anything Sean Hannity aired. And yet, when news broke of Kelly moving to NBC, this catastrophe was largely forgotten.

    That’s not all. Kelly met with Trump before the taping of that special and then withheld details about the meeting in order to make news with her book, Settle For More, released November 15. It was only after the election that Kelly revealed Trump was trying to bribe journalists behind the scenes. If Kelly’s secretive meeting with Trump sounds familiar, it’s because her new colleague Joe Scarborough is playing the same game.

    Joe Scarborough

    Scarborough spent a good part of the election season carrying water for Trump. He questioned whether the timing of sexual assault allegations against Trump were “a coincidence.” He defended a Trump ad that the ADL condemned as anti-Semitic. He lied about Trump’s prior foreign policy positions. He mocked David Fahrenthold’s reporting for The Washington Post about the Trump Foundation. He called Trump’s racism and bigotry just part of a “character” that Trump was playing. He ignored Trump scandals. He excused Trump’s rhetoric, claiming Trump was “exhausted” from being on television. He credited Trump with a “dominating” debate performance. He dismissed Trump’s history of birtherism. He sneered at the idea that Trump was graded on a curve. He downplayed a comprehensive New York Times report on Trump’s treatment of women.

    Like Kelly, when Scarborough and his co-host were given a high-profile prime-time interview with Trump, they completely dropped the ball, conducting a friendly chat rather than pressing him on any issue. (The casual tone continued when the cameras were off.) It’s no wonder that even a conservative radio host declared that Scarborough had “turned his show into a Trump Super PAC for six months.” An NBC pollster made a similar point. And Morning Joe devolved into a screaming match when Bill Kristol called out Scarborough for “rewriting history.”

    From time to time, Scarborough was lucid about the danger Trump poses, even as late as August when Scarborough demanded the GOP ditch Trump as its nominee. Famously, Scarborough told viewers that Trump had allegedly asked during a security briefing why America cannot use its nuclear weapons. But Scarborough’s occasional Trump skepticism never lasted.

    Since the election, Scarborough and Brzezinski have been all in for Trump. They have met with him in person and even boasted on air that they “speak frequently” with the president-elect. Scarborough said that he personally thinks Trump believes in climate science, despite evidence to the contrary. He also downplayed pro-Trump fake news, and he and Brzezinski both tried to whitewash the racism and bigotry out of Trump’s campaign.

    Along with meeting with Trump and defending him on air, Scarborough and Brzezinski also regularly get scoops on his transition. In December, the pair, dressed in pajamas for their holiday show, broke the news that Trump was willing to start a nuclear arms race.

    Scarborough also recently met with Trump at Mar-A-Lago during Trump’s New Year's’ Eve party.

    Scarborough denied being there for a party, telling CNN’s Brian Stelter that he was meeting with Trump to lobby for an on-air interview and that he was surprised to see people in tuxedos when he arrived. On Monday, he spoke with CNN’s Dylan Byers about the uproar over the incident, repeatedly invoking other reporters’ relationships with various politicians to defend himself.

    Scarborough’s defensive answers to Byers give away one major problem with his close relationship with Trump: The need to protect Trump’s reputation can cloud Scarborough’s judgment. Morning Joe’s absurd defense of Trump’s position on climate change is a perfect example. With no proof in his favor, Scarborough simply asserted that Trump believes in climate science, ignoring mountains of evidence to the contrary.

    Greta Van Susteren

    Trump’s increasingly gushing coverage on MSNBC may soon not be limited to Morning Joe. MSNBC reportedly may hire former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren for its 6 p.m. hour (Update: Van Susteren's move is now official). Van Susteren has given Trump a welcoming platform for years. Before the Republican primary, Trump appeared more times on Van Susteren’s On The Record than on the rest of the Fox News prime-time shows combined. During the Republican primary, Van Susteren had Trump on for over five hours, dwarfing other candidates. During these appearances, Trump pushed birtherism, claimed Obama didn’t write his own memoir, and made bigoted remarks about refugees. And Andrew Kaczynski chronicled more of Trump’s moments from Van Susteren’s show.

    To be fair, On The Record was not the worst on Fox News, and Van Susteren may well have been playing to the conservative audience. But the absolute worst Trump hagiographic moment during his campaign came during her “documentary” interview with his campaign. Here’s how the special looks when you take out the Trump family’s answers.

    Onlookers harshly criticized the special, with MSNBC host -- and potential future colleague -- Chris Hayes declaring that it was reminiscent of state media under a dictator.

    As of now, Van Susteren’s hiring is still a rumor and may not come to pass. But either way, a likely factor in MSNBC’s desire to add her to its lineup is her established track record of getting access to Trump, which she certainly didn’t accomplish because she subjected him to tough interviews.

    What the future may bring

    There are other problem spots on NBC News and MSNBC. Meet The Press fell for Trump’s spin on climate change, just as it bought his take on North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law. The show has also at various points ignored or glossed over stories like the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Trump University settlement, the investigation of the Trump Foundation, the proven lawbreaking at the Trump Foundation, the Democracy Spring protests, some of Trump’s sketchy ties to Russia, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. The hosts did find time to let Iraq War architect Paul Wolfowitz relitigate the invasion. They also let Glenn Beck attempt to rehabilitate his reputation -- twice. And it’s not just one show. The spectre of increasing Trump normalization talk on MSNBC brings to mind the network’s shady history in the first term of the Bush administration.

    MSNBC’s prime-time voices like Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell are resisting efforts to normalize Trump. But it’s unclear whether they can win that fight with the leading voices at MSNBC and NBC News pushing the other way, much less with the network itself in bed with Trump. And if Trump puts net neutrality rules on the table, NBC’s parent company, Comcast, would surely have an interest.

    All of this bears close watching. But the long and short of it is that the network seems primed to become a Trump normalization machine.

    In short, Fox News finally has competition.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • There Is No Trump Mandate

    ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Mainstream and conservative media figures are echoing House Speaker Paul Ryan’s assertion that President-elect Donald Trump has “earned a mandate” with his electoral victory. But Trump appears to have lost the popular vote, and he is the first presidential candidate to win the office without winning a majority of the votes since 2000.