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  • Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to make a comeback. It's time to talk about his long reported history of sexual harassment and groping.

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS

    Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has a long list of sexual misconduct allegations against him, wants to raise his public profile as a climate activist. He made headlines last week when, during an interview with Politico, he threatened to sue oil companies “for knowingly killing people all over the world” by selling a product that contributes to climate change. What didn’t make headlines, though, was that Politico also asked Schwarzenegger about past behavior that "some women" had "called offensive," a reference to charges of groping, sexual humiliation, and harassment made against Schwarzenegger in previous years.

    The accusations against Schwarzenegger, many of which were aired during his 2003 gubernatorial campaign, are similar to accusations that have come out against other high-profile men in the #MeToo era, including charges of nonconsensual groping and verbal harassment. Schwarzenegger also reportedly benefited from a "catch-and-kill" nondisclosure agreement drawn up by the publisher of the National Enquirer, the same kind of agreement that helped Donald Trump avoid the exposure of an alleged extramarital affair.

    Here's an overview of Schwarzenegger's history of alleged sexual misconduct and harassment:

    2003: Sixteen women came forward with allegations of groping or sexual humiliation by Schwarzenegger, the LA Times reported

    On October 2, 2003 -- five days before the recall election in which Californians elected Schwarzenegger as governor -- the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy investigative article that detailed sexual harassment allegations against Schwarzenegger:

    Six women who came into contact with Arnold Schwarzenegger on movie sets, in studio offices and in other settings over the last three decades say he touched them in a sexual manner without their consent.

    In interviews with The Times, three of the women described their surprise and discomfort when Schwarzenegger grabbed their breasts. A fourth said he reached under her skirt and gripped her buttocks.

    A fifth woman said Schwarzenegger groped her and tried to remove her bathing suit in a hotel elevator. A sixth said Schwarzenegger pulled her onto his lap and asked whether a certain sexual act had ever been performed on her.

    According to the women's accounts, one of the incidents occurred in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, two in the 1990s and one in 2000.

    "Did he rape me? No," said one woman, who described a 1980 encounter in which she said Schwarzenegger touched her breast. "Did he humiliate me? You bet he did."

    The LA Times story also cited a 2001 article published in Premiere magazine in which another woman accused Schwarzenegger of inappropriately touching her breast and other people recalled incidents of groping and harassment.

    Schwarzenegger's campaign spokesperson told the LA Times that the candidate had not engaged in improper conduct toward women.

    On the day the LA Times article came out, Schwarzenegger himself told a crowd of supporters that "a lot" of what was reported was "not true," but admitted that he had "behaved badly sometimes" and apologized:

    I know that the people of California can see through these trash politics. Yes. And let me tell you something -- a lot of those, what you see in the stories is not true. But at the same time, I have to tell you, I always say that wherever there is smoke, there is fire. That is true. So I want to say to you, yes, I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful. But now I recognize that I have offended people. And to those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I am deeply sorry about that, and I apologize, because this is not what I tried to do.

    In the days after the initial LA Times story was published, more women spoke out, making for a total of 16 women coming forward before the election with allegations that they had been groped or sexually humiliated by Schwarzenegger.

    One of the women named in the Premiere story and the initial LA Times story, Anna Richardson, filed a libel suit against Schwarzenegger and two of his aides in 2004. After Richardson alleged that Schwarzenegger groped her, Schwarzenegger's staff told the LA Times that she had encouraged the behavior, a claim that Richardson said damaged her reputation. The suit was settled out of court in 2006.

    2005: The publisher of the National Enquirer paid a woman to keep silent about an alleged affair with Schwarzenegger that began when she was 16

    The LA Times reported that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, promised to pay $20,000 in 2003 to a woman who allegedly had a seven-year affair with Schwarzenegger in exchange for the woman signing a confidentiality agreement that blocked her from talking about it to any other media outlets. The National Enquirer had published a story about the affair two years earlier, in 2001, in which it claimed that the woman was 16 years old when the affair began. But after the confidentiality agreement was signed, American Media never followed up with the woman or gave her the opportunity to tell her story.

    The confidentiality agreement was signed two days after Schwarzenegger announced his intention to run for governor, during a period when Schwarzenegger and American Media were negotiating a multimillion-dollar consulting deal that would have Schwarzenegger serve as executive editor for bodybuilding and fitness magazines owned by the company.

    This is the same kind of "catch-and-kill" arrangement -- in which a company buys a story so as to prevent its release -- that American Media used to silence a woman who had an affair with Trump, as The New Yorker reported in February 2018. The New Yorker story named Schwarzenegger as another person involved in American Media's catch-and-kill arrangements.

    LA Times columnist Steve Lopez summed up the paper's story about Schwarzenegger and American Media in an August 12, 2005, piece:

    My colleagues Peter Nicholas and Carla Hall report that while Schwarzenegger was running for governor and negotiating a multimillion-dollar contract to shill for muscle magazines owned by the company that publishes the National Enquirer, the same outfit was paying Arnold's alleged former "masseuse" $20,000 not to go running her mouth.

    2016: Schwarzenegger said he would not vote for Trump after the Access Hollywood tape came out, but he still partnered with Trump on Celebrity Apprentice

    On October 8, 2016, the day The Washington Post revealed that Donald Trump had been caught on video bragging about sexually assaulting women, Schwarzenegger posted a statement on Twitter announcing that he would not be voting for the Republican candidate and calling on fellow Republicans to "choose your country over your party."

    But Schwarzenegger still went forward with plans to replace Trump on NBC's reality show Celebrity Apprentice, and he defended Trump for retaining an executive producer title on the show after he became president.

    2017: Common Cause canceled plans to give an award to Schwarzenegger after being pressured by activists

    The good-government nonprofit Common Cause had planned to honor Schwarzenegger on December 1, 2017, with an award for work he did as governor to combat gerrymandering. But activists started a MoveOn.org petition demanding that the group not give the award to a "serial harasser," arguing, "By honoring Arnold Common Cause is enabling harassers and silencing victims."

    Common Cause then reversed course and announced that it would not give an award to the former governor.

    2018: Schwarzenegger praised the #MeToo movement and touted the benefits of sexual harassment awareness classes during his Politico interview

    On March 11, 2018, Schwarzenegger sat down for a live, hour-long interview at the SXSW Conference in Austin, TX, with Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere. Five minutes of the interview were about sexual misconduct allegations against Schwarzenegger and about the #MeToo movement. Here's a transcript of those five minutes:

    EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE: I want to ask you about maybe a little bit less of a comfortable topic. We've been talking about your time as governor. When you were running initially in 2003 -- this was 15 years ago, right -- towards the end of the campaign there were some women who spoke out about behavior of yours that they called offensive. You apologized for it and said you didn't mean to offend. But obviously, not only is it 15 years ago but it's the last six months have really changed the conversation that we're having about what's going on. What is the difference between that moment and now?

    ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I think that first of all the movement, if you're talking about the #MeToo movement, it is about time. I think it's fantastic. I think that women have been used and abused and treated horribly for too long. And I think that now all of the elements came together to create this movement and that now finally puts the spotlight on this issue and I hope that a lot of people learn from that. And I remember that when I -- for instance, when this happened to me, just before the election, with the groping charges, I realized you know, even though you say this was very politically motivated, it was just the day before, two days before the election and all this stuff. But the fact of the matter is you got to take these things seriously because you got to look at it and say, OK, I made mistakes, and I have to apologize. And this is why the first thing that I did when I became governor was that we had a sexual harassment class. Because I said to myself, this is extremely important of an issue, and now we’re representing the people of California, so no one should get into this kind of trouble, no one. And so we had these people come in as experts. And it was really the most unbelievable education. And I recommend for anyone that is confused about this issue, after all of these complaints that women have, and the outcry of women, I would suggest to everyone, if you're still confused about it, that women are treated the right way, to go in to take one of those classes. Because when we took this class and the guy walked in -- it was two women and two guys that were holding this class -- and they said, let me just open up and just say very simply, if a woman comes through this door, and you, governor, say to her, "I love your beautiful red dress," she can take this as sexual harassment.

    DOVERE: Has it made you rethink your own--

    SCHWARZENEGGER: And so here's the important thing. Then he said, but, if you go at the same breath and say to the man, "I like your green tie," he says then it wouldn't be. So there were so many subtle kind of things that you needed to know that you would make mistakes. And the entire time that we were in office we never had one single problem because we had those sexual harassment classes on an ongoing basis. And just educate everyone.

    DOVERE: Has it made you rethink your own things that you did, even in the last couple months?

    SCHWARZENEGGER: No. I just think that we make mistakes, we don't take it seriously, but then when you then really think about it, you say to yourself, yeah, maybe there was I went too far. You know if you do sex scenes in a movie, you know scenes in bed, if you're in the gymnasium and you teach someone how to train and you maybe touch them in an inappropriate way -- whatever it is, you realize you've got to be very sensitive about it and you've got to think the way women feel, and if they feel uncomfortable, then you did not do the right thing and you've got to be sensitive about that. And so--

    DOVERE: Is the problem--

    SCHWARZENEGGER: It just made me think totally differently. And then when the whole spotlight came about, and the spotlight was put on this issue, you know, I could, I said to myself, you know, finally, because I think it is really good that now the spotlight is on it. And it is no different than the spotlight was on it like on equality in America, you know in the '60s, or if it is about the environmental issues, where you talk and talk and talk about it but then finally it clicks and people realize. I mean, for how long have I thrown things out of the window when I was a kid and then eventually the spotlight was put on it and it made you feel bad that you're doing the wrong thing and now you start thinking about it and you never do it again. So I think this is going to put the spotlight on it to such an extent that guys are going to think twice about it to make those mistakes. And I think that everyone should take a sexual harassment class because we've got to go and not ever do those kind of things.

    DOVERE: Is the problem worse in politics or in Hollywood?

    SCHWARZENEGGER: I think it is across the board. I think it is nothing with Hollywood, it is nothing with politics. It can be somebody in the factory, it can be in the military. It can be anywhere, this abuse and this kind of where guys flex their muscles and use their power in order to get certain things. And I just don't think it is right, and I think this is why it's good that women are letting their voice be heard.

  • Trump’s Interview On Fox Was A Good Reminder Of Why NBC Needs To Cut Ties With Him

    On CNN’s New Day, Poppy Harlow Questions Trump’s Logic Of Attacking NBC’s Coverage Because He “Makes Money For The Network”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In an interview with Fox News, President Donald Trump called NBC “despicable” for their coverage of him because he “made a fortune for NBC with The Apprentice,” demonstrating once more why NBC needs to end its financial relationship with the president immediately.

    CNN’s New Day highlighted the conflict of interest, with guest host Poppy Harlow questioning Trump’s logic that he should get favorable coverage from NBC because he “makes money for the network.” CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter added, “It seems he thinks NBC is on the hook now with him forever. It's a reflection of his business mindset, his business relationships.”

    NBC allowed Trump to remain as an executive producer of The Celebrity Apprentice, which raises a conflict of interest for the network as they have an incentive to weigh the costs of aggressively reporting on the president against the revenue that could be lost if Trump’s reputation is damaged.

    Contrary to Trump’s complaining about NBC News, many at the network have gone out of their way to normalize Trump. Indeed, on the same day that Trump complained about NBC, Trump was accompanied on Air Force One by MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin.

    From the March 16 edition of CNN’s New Day:

    POPPY HARLOW (CO-HOST): Also I want to get your guys’ take on this interview [Trump] did. He’s done very few, but the ones he’s done have been with friendly outlets. Here’s what he told Tucker Carlson on Fox just last night about how he talks to the American people. Listen.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    DONALD TRUMP: I think that maybe I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Twitter because I get such a fake press, such a dishonest press. I mean, if you look at -- and I'm not including Fox because I think Fox has been fair to me -- but if you look at CNN and if you look at these other networks, NBC -- I made a fortune for NBC with The Apprentice. I was very good to NBC, and they are despicable. They're despicable in their coverage. CBS, ABC, -- you take a look at what's going on, I call it the fake press, the fake media. It is a disgrace, what's happening.

    [END VIDEO]

    HARLOW: So let me get this straight, Brian Stelter. If one makes money for a network, that entity should not objectively cover that said person who happens to be commander in chief. What kind of logic is that?

    STELTER: It seems he thinks NBC is on the hook now with him forever. It's a reflection of his business mindset, his business relationships. This is a president who uses language differently than other presidents. But now, as Bill was saying, that’s coming back to haunt him in various ways. There’s even moments where President Trump tries to parse language when it benefits him. He said to Tucker Carlson, “When I was talking about wiretapping, I used the word wiretap in quotes so it could mean many different things.” Well, actually, in his tweets he did quote the word wiretap once, didn’t quote it twice -- two other times. So he was trying to use a sort of predictable presidential parsing of language when it benefits him, but at other times he’s so loose with words. I noticed at his rally last night, what he’s doing is saying “We will do this, we will do this,” still acting -- still talking like he’s campaigning.

    Click here to tell NBC to Dump Trump

  • NBC’s Historic Trump/Celebrity Apprentice Catastrophe

    NBC Debased Itself And Got Nothing In Return

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    Actor/bodybuilder/politician Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Friday that he was leaving The Celebrity Apprentice, cementing the season as a total failure. And the roots for that failure are the ties to the toxic brand of President Donald Trump.

    When NBC announced in 2015 that Schwarzenegger would host the program, the network sold the move to the media as an effort to take the show in a completely different direction. CNN’s Brian Stelter and Frank Pallotta noted that the audience “has dropped considerably over the years.” NBC’s president of alternative and late night programming, Paul Telegdy, said that while Schwarzenegger would use the same format as Trump, he had a “fresh take on how to take it to new heights for today's audiences.”

    It is clear this 'moving in a different direction' act was a facade from the very beginning. In December of 2016, Variety broke the news that Trump would remain an executive producer on the show. In response to the ensuing firestorm, Schwarzenegger admitted that he knew about Trump’s continued role ever since he accepted the gig in 2015.

    If Schwarzenegger knew, there is every reason to presume that NBC was aware as well. This means that NBC put into production a show that Trump the candidate had a financial interest in -- the same show where, according to reports during the campaign, Trump had previously engaged in disgusting behavior on set, drawing allegations of sexism from more than 20 staffers. A former show staffer said that there were far worse tapes than the Access Hollywood clip of Trump bragging about grabbing women’s genitals. At no point during the campaign did NBC seek to address any of these concerns. Schwarzenegger later said that no one was thinking about Trump’s potential presidency when the series was shot in February of 2016.

    While Schwarzenegger and NBC were busy not talking about Trump’s ongoing ties to the series, we did learn that while Trump bragged about personally handing out charitable donations, NBC actually paid for them -- and that was only revealed because of great reporting from David Fahrenthold and Alice Crites of The Washington Post. It got so bad that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went on air and pled with her parent company and Mark Burnett Productions to release tapes of Trump from his time on the show to clear things up. This entreaty was prompted by the release of the Access Hollywood tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. Even though Access Hollywood, an NBC show, owned the tape, it wasn’t NBC that broke the story, but again, Fahrenthold at The Washington Post.

    The gravity of the conflict of interest between NBC and Trump crystallized once Trump’s executive producer credit was announced. A statement from Kellyanne Conway, now a counselor to Trump, implied that he would be involved in producing the show in his “spare time.” Trump himself then said he would "devote ZERO TIME" to it.

    Schwarzenegger began his rollout tour with an interview on the Today show that would be a harbinger for what was to come. Schwarzenegger and host Matt Lauer gushed over the new season (which, fine, as those things go), but it was when Trump’s involvement came up that things went completely off the rails. From Media Matters’ transcript of the show:

    MATT LAUER (HOST): You seem like a great pick. [Trump] has announced he's going to retain his executive producer credit. So after January 20 he's going to be president of the United States and executive producer of the Celebrity Apprentice. Does that sound right to you?

    ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: What was great about it was that he was part of the negotiation. So I mean I get millions of dollars for hosting the show but NBC doesn't have to pay for it. Trump makes Mexico pay for it. Isn't that great? That was the best deal that he's done. That's true.

    LAUER: I set you up for that. That was my fault. He says he’s going to spend zero time on the show, he’s going to focus obviously on the presidency. But would you be surprised if you got a call mid-season and it said, look, Arnold, I have a couple of tips for you?

    SCHWARZENEGGER: I always like to get advice but I don't think that he will have time. I think it is perfectly fine that he has the executive producer credit because he created the show with Mark Burnett together, so why should his credit go. I totally see it. But he made it very clear that he has no interest in being involved. It is now my show. I am the host. I am the new boss, and I am going to run this show. But any time he has advice -- or anyone has advice, if you call me one day and say, “Look I saw the show. If you would add so and so as a celebrity,” I would take your advice.

    It’s after the bizarre Mexico line from Schwarzenegger that things really go downhill. Both Lauer (the NBC newsman who hosted a presidential forum) and Schwarzenegger want to have it both ways: They state for the record that President Trump would not actually be involved, but they also tease potential involvement. What’s inescapable from this conversation is that the Celebrity Apprentice is still built around Donald Trump’s brand.

    And that was a major problem. How would NBC report on a potential scandal involving Trump? If Trump retained a percentage of the show’s profits, would advertisers rush to the show to curry favor with the president of the United States? NBC’s main tactic was to say that MGM was the company actually producing the show, but that hardly addresses the ethical concerns. And beyond the ethical concerns were the business concerns. Trump’s brand has become increasingly toxic as he has made more and more unhinged and bigoted statements in public.

    Nearly a year after the Schwarzenegger-Trump season of Celebrity Apprentice was shot, it premiered in January -- and ratings were abysmal. By February, Schwarzenegger and Trump were openly feuding over viewership numbers, with Trump bizarrely using his National Prayer Breakfast appearance to focus on the subject.

    On March 3, Schwarzenegger announced he was leaving the show, having suddenly become realistic about Trump’s involvement. He told Empire magazine that Trump’s toxic brand was to blame for the failure:

    "It's not about the show," [Schwarzenegger] explained. "because everyone I ran into came up to me and said 'I love the show... but I turned it off because as soon as I read Trump's name I'm outta there!'"

    ...

    "When people found out that Trump was still involved as executive producer and was still receiving money from the show, then half the people [started] boycotting it."

    Social media campaign #grabyourwallet appears to have been a factor, imploring consumers and sponsors alike to ditch Celebrity Apprentice in direct response to the US President's continued involvement. The boycott's success may well be reflected in the show's viewing figures and the hasty retreat of commercial backers.

    "Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline." Said (sic) Schwarzenegger. "With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don't want to participate as a spectator or as a sponsor or in any other way support the show. It's a very divisive period now and I think this show got caught up in all that division."

    Trump interrupted his tweets about a Watergate-level scandal that he personally uncovered while on vacation in Florida to again complain about Schwarzenegger.

    What Trump did not mention: The Celebrity Apprentice was also a financial disaster because of his own continued involvement. From TheWrap:

    NBC’s reboot ofCelebrity Apprentice, with new host Arnold Schwarzenegger, wasn’t exactly a ratings killer. But as the network decides whether to renew the show, it faces another problem: Half its sponsors from last season have bailed out after boycott threats.

    A campaign called #GrabYourWallet, which called on sponsors to abandon the show because of President Donald Trump’s involvement with it, said six of the show’s 12 corporate backers from last season have agreed not to return. None of the companies explicitly cited Trump as their reason, but campaign organizer Shannon Coulter says the gold-plated writing is on the wall.

    “I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the Trump brand name is toxic,” she told TheWrap.

    So, to recap: NBC sullied itself ethically, lost sponsors, tied its brand to a sexist bigot and white nationalist fave, stonewalled about Trump’s misogynistic and likely abusive history with the program, and made its news division cheerfully take part in a massive conflict of interest. And the entire endeavor failed miserably.

    NBC, next time save yourself the trouble and just take our advice.

  • 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

  • NBC News Is Struggling To Report On Its Own Trump Problem

    NBC's Financial Relationship With The President-Elect Puts Its Reporters In An Impossible Situation

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    NBC and its parent company, Comcast/NBCUniversal, have put the network’s news division in an impossible situation by entering into a financial agreement with the next president of the United States. As NBC News reporters grapple with the announcement that President-elect Donald Trump will remain an executive producer on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, many aren't discussing the intolerable conflicts of interest this business arrangement poses to NBC. In this deal, NBC will have a fiduciary relationship with the president, making it financially invested in Trump’s reputation -- a situation that threatens to compromise the news division’s political reporting. The arrangement is now providing a case study in how conflicts of interest affect the quality and the integrity of reporting.

    Variety reported on December 8 that Trump will stay on as an executive producer of Celebrity Apprentice. As Media Matters pointed out, because of the business relationship, NBC is now financially invested in Trump's reputation and will have an incentive to weigh aggressive reporting about Trump across its news platforms against what the network might lose in revenue if Trump's reputation is damaged. The arrangement implicates NBC News, CNBC, and MSNBC.

    NBC News’ reports on the announcement have generally presented the conflict as a possible problem for Trump, but not for NBC -- and that’s when the network reports on the deal at all. NBC’s flagship Sunday political show, Meet the Press, failed to address the story entirely on the December 11 edition. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, who also anchors the weekday program Meet the Press Daily, said on December 8 that Trump being “connected to The Apprentice is not news to the American public.” NBC correspondents Kristen Welker and Peter Alexander both characterized the deal as a conflict for Trump, while downplaying NBC’s own conflict. Welker noted that there is “new scrutiny of the president-elect's decision to stay on as executive producer of The Apprentice,” referring to the deal as “Trump’s business entanglements,” and adding, “NBC Entertainment declined to comment, noting MGM owns and produces the show.” Joe Kernen, host of CNBC’s Squawk Box, told a critic, “Don’t bring it to your conflict thing again.” MSNBC’s Ari Melber argued that Trump remaining an executive producer isn’t a conflict, “it’s just … weird,” and made a point of saying that “NBC Entertainment is a separate division of our company” from NBC News.

    MSNBC reporters have also tried to compare Trump’s deal with NBC to Obama receiving royalties for his books. But, as The Associated Press explained, Obama’s “books’ publishers are not financially tied to news divisions.”

    By contrast, other media outlets have noted NBC’s numerous conflicts in this arrangement. On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked incoming Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus: “The FCC regulates NBC corporate. Corporations could try to curry favor with the president by placing their products on the show, buying advertising. Isn't that an issue?” CNN’s Dylan Byers explained that the business relationship “presents a thorny situation for Comcast/NBCUniversal, which controls the [product integration] deals” that companies make with Celebrity Apprentice, which, according to Byers, often range from $5 million to $9 million. Trump personally profits from those deals, making NBC the middleman through which companies can “curry favor” with the president. And Fortune magazine noted that NBC was already criticized in October “for reportedly sitting on the Access Hollywood footage from 2005 that showed Trump boasting about committing sexual assault,” which the network reportedly withheld due to “fear of spurring yet another lawsuit from Trump.”

    Media and ethics experts have also pointed out the untenable situation NBC has created for itself. Marcy McGinnis, a former CBS News executive and journalism professor, called the arrangement “mind-boggling” and said it’s “a clear conflict of interest” to have a company “that has a news division …. covering the president of the United States” when he “has an interest in a show on that network.” Aly Colon, a journalism ethics expert, noted people’s desire to “believe in an independent news division not affected by business ties,” saying, “A lot of people find it difficult to believe there is a wall between news and entertainment.” And NPR’s David Folkenflik pointed out that, as president, Trump will be appointing the regulators tasked with scrutinizing the media, which NBC has an obvious interest in. Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert explained on MSNBC’s AM Joy that “No amount of disclosure is enough here. Is NBC for the next four years, every time they report on Trump, [going to] say, ‘By the way, our parent company has a financial relationship with Donald Trump’?” Boehlert also asked, "what if a company, in theory, says, 'Let's give The Apprentice $5 million and Trump could get a cut of that?' I mean, we're just paying off the president.”

    NBC cut ties with Trump last summer, declining to air his Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and stating that the network did not want to be associated with Trump because his bigoted statements had defied its core values. What’s unclear now is whether NBC believes Trump’s values have changed or whether the network believes such statements became acceptable with his election.

    Sign Media Matters’ petition telling NBC to dump Trump.

  • When NBC Dumped Trump Because He Violated Their Core Values

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The announcement that President-elect Donald Trump will remain an executive producer on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice opens up a series of conflicts of interest for both Trump and NBC News. It also defies NBC’s previous claim that they did not want to be associated with Trump because his bigoted statements had defied the network’s core values.

    Trump began his presidential campaign with a blistering, widely-denounced attack on Mexican immigrants. In his June 16, 2015, presidential announcement speech, he claimed that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” instead claiming that most immigrants were rapists or drug dealers.

    Two weeks after that speech, NBC announced that they were “ending its business relationship” with Trump due to what it termed his “derogatory statements” about immigrants. The network announced that they would no longer air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which were part of a joint venture between the network and Trump and were scheduled to run during the presidential election. According to the statement, “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.”

    At the time, the network stated that Celebrity Apprentice “is licensed from Mark Burnett's United Artists Media Group and that relationship will continue.” But NBC News reported that this was because “Trump ceased his involvement with the reality show during the presidential bid.” Now, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway is suggesting that Trump might actively work on the show as president in his “spare time.”

    In any case, since NBC released their statement cutting ties with Trump, he has not demonstrated that he shows “respect and dignity for all people.” Instead, he has continued to denigrate people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and women. In fact, NBC fired Billy Bush over the former Access Hollywood host’s role in an open mic tape that featured Trump admitting to sexual assault. NBC didn’t want a business relationship with someone who laughed at such comments, but apparently has no qualms with the man who said them.

    It certainly raises questions about what NBC really considers “cornerstones of our values.”

    Tell NBC: Dump Trump

  • NBC Should Address Conflict Of Interest Concerns Following Report That Trump Will Remain On Celebrity Apprentice Payroll

    NBC Will Have A Financial Relationship With President Trump As Long As Celebrity Apprentice Is On The Air

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET


    Variety
    managing editor Cynthia Littleton reported “Donald Trump will remain an exec producer on NBC’s ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’” creating a conflict of interest for NBC’s ability to provide unbiased coverage of Trump while promoting a show built on Trump’s reputation.

    On December 8, Variety reported “Trump’s fees will be paid through MGM, the production entity on the show, not NBC,” but “the fact that a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show is another example of the thicket of potential conflicts of interest raised by Trump’s segue from a private businessman and TV star to commander-in-chief.”

    Donald Trump will remain an exec producer on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” which is returning Jan. 2 after a two-year hiatus with new host Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    [...]

    The larger issue for MGM, NBC, and the White House is the payment that Trump will receive for the series. It’s unclear what his per-episode fee is, but it is likely to be in the low five-figures, at minimum. NBC has ordered eight episodes of “The New Celebrity Apprentice.” Trump’s fees will be paid through MGM, the production entity on the show, not NBC. MGM declined to comment on the financial terms of Trump’s deal. A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NBC declined to comment.

    [...]

    The fact that a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show is another example of the thicket of potential conflicts of interest raised by Trump’s segue from private businessman and TV star to commander-in-chief. However, past presidents have published books during their time in the White House, so there is precedent for a president earning royalties while in office. In the case of President Obama’s 2010 book “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” his profits from the Alfred A. Knopf publication were donated to a charity supporting the children of disabled veterans.

    In continuing their financial relationship with Trump, NBC will invite skepticism into how NBC and MSNBC can fairly cover the sitting president when there is a financial incentive to protect his reputation and the ratings of the Celebrity Apprentice. Furthermore, Trump and NBC should address the conflict of interest concerns raised by the fact advertisers may help to personally enrich President-elect Donald Trump by purchasing ads during Celebrity Apprentice.

    NBC should move to address concerns raised by Variety’s reporting, and publicly state how it will balance its financial relationship with Trump while maintaining the network’s journalistic legitimacy.