Newsweek | Media Matters for America

Newsweek

Tags ››› Newsweek
  • Six fights on reproductive rights that the media should be prepared to report on in 2018

    ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE

    President Donald Trump’s first year in office was particularly damaging for abortion rights and reproductive health. Beyond the Trump administration’s multiple moves to curtail abortion access, anti-choice advocates were also successful on the state level, organizing large-scale protests in North Carolina and Kentucky and implementing a litany of anti-choice policies. Yet with the upcoming Supreme Court case on crisis pregnancy centers, the continuing controversy over abortion access for undocumented minors, a wave of state-level attacks, and Trump’s anti-choice judicial confirmations, 2018 may be an even more dangerous year. 

  • Don’t erase stories of abuse with vague headlines

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Media outlets are undeniably publishing more reports about sexual misconduct than ever before, which means that while longtime experts on this sensitive topic are working in overdrive, a whole new swath of writers are in need of guidance on how to cover this topic with respect and accuracy.

    A recently reported story about a Tennessee pastor’s sexual assault of a teenager inadvertently highlighted one best practice for covering this topic: Don’t summarize reporting with vague words that obscure the details of abuse -- especially when those words are borrowed from the admitted offender himself.

    On January 5, a woman named Jules Woodson shared on a blog her account of sexual assault by Memphis pastor Andy Savage. Here is an excerpt from Woodson’s description of the assault, which she says occurred when she was 17 years old:  

    We reached a dead end and he turned the truck around before putting it in park. We were stopped, and he turned the headlights off. Suddenly, Andy unzipped his jeans and pulled out his penis. He asked me to suck it. I was scared and embarrassed, but I did it. I remember feeling that this must mean that Andy loved me. He then asked me to unbutton my shirt. I did. He started touching me over my bra and then lifted my bra up and began touching my breasts.

    After what I believe to have been about 5 minutes of this going on, he suddenly stopped, got out of the truck and ran around the back and to my side before falling to his knees. I quickly buttoned my shirt back up and got out of the truck. Now I was terrified and ashamed. I remember him pleading, while he was on his knees with his hands up on his head, ‘Oh my god, oh my god. What have I done? Oh my god, I'm so sorry. You can't tell anyone Jules, please. You have to take this to the grave with you.’  He said that several times. My fear and shame quickly turned to anger. I had just been manipulated and used.

    Days later, Savage vaguely addressed Woodson’s account in front of his congregation, admitting to “a sexual incident” and asking for forgiveness; he was given a standing ovation.

    National outlets covered Woodson’s admission of assault -- and his congregation’s reaction -- and generally took care to include details about Woodson’s experience in her own words. That careful work was undone, however, when several outlets ran their pieces with headlines that adopted Savage’s wording and essentially obscured the realities of the abuse.

    Rather than label the stories with simple, accurate headlines that state what happened (i.e. “Memphis pastor admits to sexually assaulting teenager”), Slade Sohmer noted on Twitter that some outlets relied on Savage’s minimizing word choice (“sexual incident") instead: 

    [The New York Times, 1/9/18

    [The Washington Post, 1/10/18

    [CBS News, 1/9/18]

    [Newsweek, 1/10/18]

    [New York Daily News, 1/9/18

    In spite of reporters’ efforts to center Woodson’s account of the assault and to provide context about the ways the church community treated -- or even erased -- Savage’s misconduct at the time, so many news consumers will only see the vague, dismissive term “incident,” mirroring the language of the admitted offender.

    This isn’t the first time media have allowed a predator’s own words to set the terms of a public conversation about abuse. Every time they fail to properly identify assault, they do a disservice to readers and contribute to the system of injustice survivors continually encounter at every turn.

    After all, if you saw just these headlines what would you think happened to Jules Woodson twenty years ago? Is it what Andy Savage would want you to think?

  • The bigotry of Sean Hannity's early influencers

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    In a recent profile, Fox host Sean Hannity named three right-wing media figures from the second half of the 20th century -- Bob Grant (1929-2013), Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985), and Barry Farber (1930-present) -- as inspirations for his own political commentary. A Media Matters investigation into content produced by Grant, Caldwell, and Farber revealed a trove of bigotry; Grant “routinely” called black people “savages,” Calwell had a political allegiance with “one of the most virulent anti-Semitic propagandists in the United States,” and Farber is a self-professed "birther" who pushed conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama.

  • If you read only headlines, you might think Jeff Sessions has become a champion of transgender people

    Stop writing headlines that whitewash bigotry

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Several media outlets’ headlines portrayed Attorney General Jeff Session as defying his anti-LGBTQ image by sending a federal lawyer to help prosecute a plaintiff accused of murdering a transgender high school student, but these characterizations omit the crucial context that Sessions is still attempting to roll back LGBTQ protections. And studies have found that headlines influence the way people understand the news and that a majority of news consumers do not read past the headlines, including on articles they share.

    On October 15, The New York Times reported that Sessions had “dispatched an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with murdering a transgender high school student last year.” The Times also enumerated many of Sessions’ anti-LGBTQ moves, including his opposition as a senator to same-sex marriage and to “expanding federal hate crimes laws to protect transgender people,” as well as a number of his discriminatory moves as attorney general. Yet the paper portrayed the attorney general’s latest action as “sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.” The headline went further, claiming Sessions “defies his image” on LGBTQ issues:

    The Times was not alone: Newsweek and HuffPost portrayed Sessions’ move as support for the LGBTQ community. HuffPost’s headline said Sessions “confound[ed] critics” with the decision, and Newsweek said he had joined the “fight for justice for [the] slain transgender teen”:

    These headlines give readers the initial impression that Sessions has moderated his position toward the rights of transgender people. But investigating the murder of one transgender person hardly constitutes initiating some sort of large-scale progressive change. Indeed, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Program Director Harper Jean Tobin said in May, “It is somewhat reassuring that while Attorney General Sessions has apparently no problem with transgender people being fired, or bullied in school, or kicked out of public places because of who they are, he has apparently come around to believing that transgender people should not be murdered in the streets.” NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling noted that Sessions’ move “rings hollow — even hypocritical — in the face of his systematic and relentless attacks against transgender people and other LGBTQ people.”

    Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow noted that Sessions was “seeking credit for prosecuting a hate crime” just one week after he made two major moves that make it easier to discriminate against queer and transgender people, including launching what Warbelow called “a sweeping license to discriminate against LGBTQ people” and reversing a policy that protected transgender people under Title VII. Warbelow added that Sessions’ opposition to transgender rights breeds a climate allowing hate and violence: “We believe Americans deserve an Attorney General willing to address systemic discrimination and enforce policies and laws that prevent hate violence in the first place.” In the Times report, Vanita Gupta, former Justice Department civil rights division head under the Obama administration, made a similar point, saying, “It would behoove Sessions to connect the dots between his policies that promote discrimination and hate that can result in death.”

    Lambda Legal released a statement blasting Sessions as a “hypocrite,” calling the move a “publicity stunt,” and saying it was “the height of cynicism” for him to “use this - frankly rare - instance of civil rights enforcement under his tenure to deflect from the current department’s sustained opposition to its historic mission.” The statement noted that “it is important and right that the Department of Justice assist in bringing to justice the murderer of Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson,” but that “no one in the Trump administration has done more to harm LGBT people, and especially transgender people, than Jeff Sessions.”

    What does this all mean for the audience that saw only lazy headlines about Sessions? It could mean news outlets unwittingly fooled readers into believing that the attorney general had shifted on LGBTQ issues. In 2016, computer scientists from Columbia University and the French National Institute estimated that that a majority (59 percent) of links shared on Twitter are not clicked at all, meaning that for news stories, the headline is often all people read. “In other words,” The Washington Post wrote of the study, “most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it. Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas.” Similarly, a 2014 study by the American Press Institute found that only “4 in 10 Americans report that they delved deeper into a particular news subject beyond the headlines in the last week.”

    In 2014, The New Yorker published a piece titled “How headlines change the way we think” that explained how “the crafting of the headline subtly shift[s] the perception of the text that follows.” It noted that headlines “can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.” The piece cited a series of studies by psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Ullrich Ecker that found that headlines do “more than simply reframe the article” and that “a misleading headline hurt a reader’s ability to recall the article’s details.” Ecker also found that misleading headlines “impaired a reader’s ability to make accurate inferences.” The New Yorker’s piece demonstrates that even the minority of readers “who do go on to read the entire piece may still be reacting in part to that initial formulation” from the headline.

    Misleading headlines have been a pattern in news coverage of the right and LGBTQ issues. Despite President Donald Trump and his administration’s relentless attacks on LGBTQ people, including banning transgender people from the military, numerous headlines have praised him as pro-LGBTQ. When anti-LGBTQ extremist Roy Moore won Alabama’s Republican primary for Senate, headlines whitewashed him as simply a “firebrand.” Moore has suggested 9/11 was punishment for “legitimized sodomy,” called homosexuality “the same thing” as having sex with a cow, and repeatedly asserted that “homosexual conduct should be illegal.” He was also kicked off Alabama’s Supreme Court for discriminating against same-sex couples. Readers, however, may have been left with the impression that he was just another anti-establishment candidate, just as they may now believe Sessions has done something extraordinary.

  • Washington Blade highlights the influence of hate groups on White House policy

    Anti-LGBTQ extremists successfully lobbied for Trump to ban transgender people from the military. Now they’re promising action on so-called “religious freedom” guidance.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    In an August 9 report, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson detailed the growing influence of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in setting federal policy, including their “intense lobbying” that influenced President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military and their push for a potential anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” order.

    Last month, Newsweek’s Tom Porter wrote about the hate groups that “fiercely lobbied” for a reinstatement of the ban on transgender service members, which Trump announced via Twitter on July 26. The announcement stated that transgender people would not be allowed “to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Among the groups mentioned by Porter was the Family Research Council (FRC), whose leaders have bragged that they “have big communications channels with the Trump administration,” he wrote. FRC senior fellow Ken Blackwell was a member of Trump’s transition team and now sits on Trump’s so-called “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” which has been called the “voter suppression dream team.”

    On August 2, The New York Times wrote that FRC President Tony Perkins had spent months pressuring Trump to make a statement about transgender service members. The article included a quote from Perkins saying, “I’ve been to the White House I don’t know how many more times in the first six months this year than I was during the entire Bush administration.” Perkins has also boasted that he “was not surprised” by Trump’s announcement because FRC had been “working with the White House” on the issue.

    Johnson’s August 9 report in the Washington Blade highlighted “intense lobbying” by anti-LGBT lawmakers and hate groups such as FRC and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for Trump to sign a religious freedom executive order, a draft of which was leaked to The Nation in February. Johnson added that although Trump hasn’t yet signed the order that the groups are floating -- which would “enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of ‘religious freedom’” -- he has empowered Attorney General Jeff Sessions “to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.” He noted that Perkins, speaking on his radio show last month, “said action would come soon” on religious freedom guidance. In a speech to ADF, Sessions also promised that the Justice Department is “finalizing” guidance on “federal religious liberty protections.” From the Washington Blade:

    Prior to his August vacation, Trump announced his intent to ban transgender people from the U.S. military “in any capacity,” unilaterally instituting the anti-LGBT policy after the U.S. House — under Republican control, no less — rejected a narrower measure to undermine transgender service by denying military funds for transition-related health care.

    Trump’s declaration came after intense lobbying by anti-LGBT lawmakers and groups, who threatened to withhold support from major defense spending legislation unless the White House acted. That bill includes funds for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement after Trump’s announcement on transgender service his organization would withdraw its opposition to border wall payments.

    “Now that we are assured that the Defense Department has its fiscal priorities in order, Family Research Council withdraws our opposition to increasing the budget of the Department of Defense through the ‘Make America Secure Appropriations Act’ and looks forward to seeing that legislation pass,” Perkins said.

    Although Trump — despite entreaties from social conservatives — hasn’t signed an executive order circulating among federal agencies and advocacy groups that would enable sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom,” he did pen his name to a directive empowering U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to issue guidance ensuring religious liberty.

    Critics say that’s a red herring that could lead the U.S. government to give the OK for discrimination among federal contractors, private employer denial of family and medical leave to same-sex couples and federal workers refusing to process paperwork for LGBT people. Sessions had already stated the directive would be based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law meant to preserve the rights of religious minorities that’s now used as an excuse for anti-LGBT discrimination.

    It remains to be seen when the administration will issue the guidance and the nature of the policy. On his weekly radio show late last month, Perkins said action would come soon and the U.S. government will be “on notice that they have to respect religious freedom” — code for social conservatives to mean anti-LGBT discrimination.

  • Newsweek failed to disclose fossil fuel ties in an article promoting industry groups’ claims

    Newsweek also failed to disclose the fossil fuel funding of the story’s sources

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Newsweek missed multiple opportunities to disclose the fossil fuel ties of industry groups when it re-published a Daily Signal article promoting allegations of collusion between Russia and environmental groups that oppose fracking.

    On July 11, Newsweek posted an article by Kevin Mooney that first appeared in The Daily Signal about a letter House science committee members Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Randy Weber (R-TX) had written to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. According to Mooney, the congressmen alleged that “the Russian government has been colluding with environmental groups to circulate ‘disinformation’ and ‘propaganda’ aimed at undermining hydraulic fracturing” in order to prop up Russian gas prices by reducing the United States’ natural gas production.

    Newsweek failed to disclose that The Daily Signal is the news site of the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has received almost $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from the oil billionaire Koch brothers’ family foundations.

    And, as Andrew Freedman of Mashable noted, the allegations contained in Smith and Weber’s letter were “based on research done by a PR front group, known as the Environmental Policy Alliance, with a record of ties to the energy industry. This raises the question of whether Smith is using the alleged Russian activities as cover to go after environmental groups, who are no friend of his.” Indeed, the Environmental Policy Alliance is a subsidiary of a group called the Center for Organizational Research and Education (CORE), which was founded and is run by the PR firm of corporate lobbyist Richard Berman. The New York Times reported that Berman had “solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives” in 2014 for a campaign against environmental activists and boasted of being able to keep donors' contributions and involvement hidden.

    Dianna Wray of the Houston Press also highlighted the Environmental Policy Alliance’s industry ties in a July 12 article about the congressmen’s letter, noting that it doesn’t offer proof of its allegations and that the claims come from the “other EPA”:

    The idea that Russians are attempting to meddle in the U.S. energy industry isn't entirely ludicrous. After all, it is believed Russian money was backing protesters opposed to fracking in Romania back in 2014, according to the The New York Times.

    But keep in mind that what Smith presents is far from actual proof. Plus, the letter Smith and Weber signed failed to note one crucial detail about the stories claiming the Russians have been attempting to influence energy policy by dumping money secretly into U.S. environmental organizations like the Sierra Club. Namely, that all of the stories about this big Russian plot to shut down fracking in the United States are based on research from the Environmental Policy Alliance. (The other EPA.)

    While the name may sound fairly innocuous, the organization is actually a public relations firm with ties to the oil industry, i.e., a group that has its own reasons for wanting to cast doubt on any and all environmental reports, particularly any reports that find problems with fracking.

    In its article, Newsweek also failed to note that Smith and Weber themselves have received substantial donations from the fossil fuel industry. Both congressmen have individually received hundreds of thousands of dollars in fossil fuel campaign contributions over their respective careers.

    This isn’t the first time Newsweek has allowed industry-tied authors and groups to push pro-fossil fuel claims without disclosure. In 2015, Newsweek published an article by Randy Simmons, the former Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State University, without disclosing his affiliation. The magazine subsequently added an update disclosing his fossil fuel ties after Media Matters flagged the omission. In publishing The Daily Signal's article, Newsweek missed another opportunity to be transparent with its readers and disclose important conflicts of interest.

  • How Highlighting Personal Narratives Combats Abortion Stigma

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On March 21, the 1 in 3 Campaign held an event titled “Stories from the Resistance,” where speakers shared their abortion stories in an effort to counteract abortion stigma -- the idea that abortion is inherently wrong or socially unacceptable. In reporting on the event, media outlets highlighted the speakers’ personal narratives, thereby helping to combat abortion stigma.

  • The Guide To Donald Trump's War On The Press (So Far)

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has an extensive history of attacking the media, and his campaign and supporters have joined in the fight throughout the election. The nominee, his surrogates, and his supporters have called media outlets and reporters across the spectrum “dishonest,” “neurotic,” “dumb,” and a “waste of time,” and until recently, the campaign had a media blacklist of outlets that weren’t allowed into campaign events.

  • Trump’s Latest Lie Comes Straight From State-Owned Russian Media

    Russia’s Alleged Sidney Blumenthal Quote Actually From Newsweek Article Decrying “Show Trial” GOP Hearings

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    At an October 10 campaign rally, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed Clinton family friend and adviser Sidney Blumenthal told Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, that “one important point has been universally acknowledged by nine previous reports about Benghazi: The attack was almost certainly preventable.” Trump alleged Blumenthal said that “if the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate”:

    However, Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald found the alleged Blumenthal comments “really, really familiar.” Eichenwald found the comments “so familiar” because, in fact, “they were something I wrote.”

    In an October 10 article, Eichenwald revealed that Sputnik, a news organization “established by the [Russian] government controlled news agency, Rossiya Segodnya,” discovered in a WikiLeaks dump of Podesta’s hacked emails “a purportedly incriminating email from Blumenthal” calling the Benghazi attacks a “legitimate” talking point against Clinton.

    In reality, Sputnik’s declared “‘October surprise’” quoted “two sentences from a 10,000 word piece” Eichenwald wrote for Newsweek “which apparently Blumenthal had emailed to Podesta.” Contrary to the lies from Sputnik and Trump, Eichenwald’s article is not about how the Benghazi attacks are Hillary Clinton’s fault, but rather “the obscene politicization of the assault that killed four Americans” and “the Republican Benghazi committee which was engaged in a political show trial disguised as a Congressional investigation.” 

    Even though “once they realized their error, Sputnik took the article down,” Trump continued to use Russian state media’s lie as a weapon against his political opponent. This fits Trump and his campaign’s pattern of questionable relations with Russia, including calls for the Kremlin to commit a cyberattack against Hillary Clinton. 

  • Here Are More Investigative Pieces Debate Moderators Should Read Before The Debates

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    In light of the upcoming second presidential debate, here are some of the most important new investigative pieces written about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- which debate moderators should read as part of their preparation. The articles examine Trump’s nearly billion dollar loss which could have allowed him to not pay federal income taxes for 18 years, potential illegalities and improprieties stemming from Trump’s use of his charitable foundation, Trump’s sexism on his TV shows and in his businesses, Trump doing business with an Iranian bank involved in terrorism, and Trump violating the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

  • Spanish-Language News Shows Give Trump A Pass On Violation Of US Embargo Against Cuba

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The two major Spanish-language news networks failed to accurately represent a Newsweek report indicating that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump violated the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. On their daily news shows, both networks failed to debunk false claims that the Newsweek report is inconclusive despite the existence of definitive proof that Trump violated the embargo.

    In a September 29 article, Newsweek magazine reported that a company controlled by Donald Trump “spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval.” The report published correspondence between Trump and consulting firm Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. in which the firm “instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.” Additionally, the former Trump executive admitted that they had taken a trip to Cuba “to give Trump’s company a foothold should Washington loosen or lift the trade restrictions.” From the Newsweek report:

    The fact that Seven Arrows spent the money and then received reimbursement from Trump Hotels does not mitigate any potential corporate liability for violating the Cuban embargo. “The money that the Trump company paid to the consultant is money that a Cuban national has an interest in and was spent on an understanding it would be reimbursed,’’ Richard Matheny, chair of Goodwin’s national security and foreign trade regulation group said, based on a description of the events by Newsweek. “That would be illegal. If OFAC discovered this and found there was evidence of willful misconduct, they could have made a referral to the Department of Justice.”

    Newsweek pointed out that Trump blatantly lied to Cuban-Americans about this, recalling a luncheon hosted by the Cuban American National Foundation where “he proclaimed he wanted to maintain the American embargo and would not spend any money in Cuba so long as Fidel Castro remained in power.”

    Despite clear evidence that Trump acted in violation of the embargo, neither Telemundo nor Univision refuted statements made by Republican officials on their shows that the Newsweek report was inconclusive.

    On the September 29 edition of Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo, correspondent Angie Sandoval failed to debunk Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)’s claim that the Newsweek report “doesn’t conclude” that “one of Donald Trump’s companies invested within the island”:

    REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART: If one of Donald Trump's companies invested within the island, this would be absolutely unacceptable. But the report that says there was possibly a violation of the law, doesn't conclude that.

    Rep. Diaz-Balart also appeared on Univision’s Noticiero Univisión to murk the findings of the report, saying that “if he effectively did business or his company did business within the island, this would be a very serious thing,” implying that the Republican presidential candidate may not have violated the embargo. The Univision report also quoted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Trump supporter, who called the Newsweek report “troubling” and said that he “will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond.” From the September 29 edition of Noticiero Univisión:

    VILMA TARAZONA (CORRESPONDENT): The Republican Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, who has said he will vote for Trump, said in a statement, “The article makes serious and troubling accusations. I will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond.”

    Univision correspondent Vilma Tarazona did not explain that the Newsweek report already provided all of the facts and that the Trump campaign had already responded to the accusations earlier that day when Kellyanne Conway conceded on The View that “they paid money,” inadvertently admitting that he violated the embargo.

    Trump has a history of putting his business before other considerations, given that he was rooting for the housing collapse of 2008 for his own profit, he has been charged with fraud for misleading aspiring real estate investors, and has stiffed many employees and small business owners he has contracted for their work.

  • Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald Highlights Another, Previously Unreported Trump Lie

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In advance of the first presidential debate, Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald highlighted a previously unreported lie from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a primary debate regarding Trump’s attempt to get the Florida government to approve gambling in the state in 2007. In light of Trump’s penchant for lying, it is important that debate moderators fact-check the candidates’ claims.

    Eichenwald noted that during a Republican presidential primary debate, Trump challenged opponent Jeb Bush’s claim that Trump donated money to him because he “wanted casino gambling in Florida,” saying that the charge was “Totally false.” But, as Eichenwald explained, in a 2007 deposition that was part of a lawsuit pertaining to Trump’s attempted “expansion of his casino business into Florida,” Trump stated that he “spoke with Governor-Elect Bush; I had a big fundraiser for Governor-Elect Bush” and that he “thought [Bush] could be convinced” to allow gambling in Florida. The conflicting accounts led Eichenwald to conclude that “One of these stories is a lie.” From the September 23 Newsweek article (bolds original):

    Donald Trump committed perjury. Or he looked into the faces of the Republican faithful and knowingly lied. There is no third option.

    [...]

    Trump had been boasting for weeks at his rallies that he knew the political system better than anyone, because he had essentially bought off politicians for decades by giving them campaign contributions when he wanted something. He also proclaimed that only he—as an outsider who had participated in such corruption of American democracy at a high level—could clean it up. During the September 2015 debate, one of Trump’s rivals, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, verified Trump’s claim, saying the billionaire had tried to buy him off with favors and contributions when he was Florida’s governor.

    "The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something—that was generous and gave me money—was Donald Trump,” Bush said. “He wanted casino gambling in Florida."

    Trump interrupted Bush:

    Trump: I didn’t—

    Bush: Yes, you did.

    Trump: Totally false.

    Bush: You wanted it, and you didn’t get it, because I was opposed to—

    Trump: I would have gotten it.

    Bush: Casino gambling before—

    Trump: I promise, I would have gotten it.

    [...]

    If Trump was telling the truth that night, so be it. But if he was lying, what was his purpose? His “If I wanted it, I would have gotten it,” line may be a hint. Contrary to his many vague stories on the campaign trail about being a cash-doling political puppet master, this story has a name, a specific goal and ends in failure. If Bush was telling the truth, then Trump would have had to admit he lost a round and, as he assured the audience, that would not have happened. When he wants something, he gets it.

    [...]

    But that wasn’t the point he needed to make in 2007. The deposition was part of a lawsuit he’d filed against Richard Fields, who Trump had hired to manage the expansion of his casino business into Florida. In the suit, Trump claimed that Fields had quit and taken all of the information he obtained while working for Trump to another company. Under oath, Trump said he did want to get into casino gambling in Florida but didn’t because he had been cheated by Fields.

    [...]

    Trump must be called upon to answer the troubling questions raised by the episode regarding Bush and gambling in Florida: Is the Republican nominee a perjurer or just a liar? If he refuses to answer—just as he has refused to address almost every other question about his character and background—Trump supporters must carefully consider whether they want to vote for a man who at best has treated them like fools over the past year, and who at worst, committed a crime.

  • Trump’s Claim That His Kids Would Run His Business If He Wins The Election Is Another Attempt At Media Manipulation

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Donald Trump used a softball interview with Fox & Friends to try to deflect media criticism of the conflicts of interest he would have as president if his children were to take over his business.

    Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald wrote in a September 14 piece that Trump’s business conglomerate, the Trump Organization, is “an enterprise with deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians and even criminals” in India, the Middle East, Russia, and Ukraine. Eichenwald noted that if “Trump moves into the White House and his family continues to receive any benefit from the company, during or even after his presidency, almost every foreign policy decision he makes will raise serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires.” Eichenwald found multiple Trump Organization interests and partnerships that, as he told CNN, “often go directly against the interests of American national security.”

    On the September 15 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump by phone about Eichenwald’s article and whether “you and your family [will] permanently sever any connections to the Trump Organization while you're in office.” Trump said, “Well I will sever connections and I'll have my children and my executives run the company, and I won’t discuss it with them.” Later Kilmeade asked Trump if he would “hesitate” if “sanctions went on a country that would hurt your company or your hotels,” and Trump answered, “I would absolutely get out in some form” from those countries. The hosts did not question Trump’s claim -- perhaps unsurprisingly, given the show’s cozy history with Trump and Fox’s role as a place where Trump has taken refuge to avoid challenging interviews.

    Handing over his business to his children or putting it in some kind of blind trust, which he has previously suggested, would not be sufficient. As Eichenwald explained, “The Trump Organization cannot be placed into a blind trust, an arrangement used by many politicians to prevent them from knowing their financial interests; the Trump family is already aware of who their overseas partners are and could easily learn about any new ones.” Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told Media Matters that “turning [the organization] over to his son -- and say his son is going to manage it, or his daughter -- … doesn’t solve the problem” because Trump “knows what’s there” and “which foreign governments and which organizations, which business consortiums he’s dependent on.”

    There are two ways media can react to Trump’s pledge. The right way, as demonstrated by CNN’s Chris Cuomo, is to note that what Trump is offering is not actually a solution: Cuomo explained, “When you put something in a blind trust, it's because you don't know what's in the trust. [Trump] would know exactly what's in the trust because it's his company.” The wrong way is exemplified by a Politico piece, misleadingly headlined “Trump vows to sever business ties as president,” which reported that “Trump reiterated that he would ‘absolutely sever’ ties and would have ‘nothing to do with my company’ as president” and that Trump “has previously indicated that he would place the businesses in a blind trust run by his children and executives.” NBC’s Benjy Sarlin reacted to the Politico article on Twitter, pointing out that “The next sentence” after “Trump vows to sever business ties as president” was that "he’ll put his children in charge, essentially refuting the headline.”

    Trump has previously had success shaping media coverage to his benefit. In May, he used a press conference on his alleged donations to veterans groups to hijack cable news discussion and largely avoid coverage of an update regarding the lawsuit against Trump University. The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted that Trump has released “less policy detail than any candidate for president in my lifetime,” but because he “never fail[s] to offer enough detail to fit in a headline or cable news chyron,” he’s been able to “get credit — and the headline, and the chyron — for what other candidates would consider less than a bare minimum.” And as Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson noted earlier this year, “Trump can mainline his latest hot take into the mainstream media, basically any time of night or day” through his use of Twitter.

    Media has previously been manipulated by Trump to ignore legitimate issues with his candidacy and his history, and the risk is that he will succeed in doing so again with his “solution” to his potential business conflicts of interest. If media fail to press Trump about how he will truly avoid those conflicts, they would be guilty of a double standard given how they covered the Clinton Foundation. Even though no one has found any wrongdoing by the foundation, media outlets have hyped allegations of some kind of pay for play, claiming activities at the State Department during Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s tenure looked “unseemly” and made for bad “optics.” Multiple columnists and editorials have demanded that the foundation be shut down or at least that the Clintons cut ties to the organization in order to prevent even the appearance of impropriety. It would be inconsistent for media to not make similar demands or be as similarly critical of the Trump Organization, a private business that enriches Trump personally, unlike the Clinton Foundation, a charity that has been praised by charity watchdogs.

    Trump’s insufficient promise in response to the Newsweek article is a bet he’s making that he can downplay the story, convincing the media to take his pledge at face value and move on. They shouldn’t take the bait.

  • Experts, Journalists Slam Trump’s All-Male Economic Advisory Council

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Journalists and economic experts ridiculed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s 13-person economic advisory team, which was comprised entirely of white men and featured only two individuals with more than an undergraduate background in economics. Trump released the list in anticipation of a policy speech to be delivered at the Detroit Economic Club on August 8.