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Media Ethics

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  • Angelo Carusone: Advertisers see "aligning their brand with Hannity as actually the functional equivalent of giving a political donation to Trump"

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone explains why Sean Hannity is toxic for advertisers

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the January 4 edition of SiriusXM The Dean Obeidallah Show:

    DEAN OBEIDALLAH (HOST): You are an expert on Sean Hannity so maybe you can give some insight on do you think it’s true. There was a part of the book, it’s actually in “The Hollywood Reporter” article today that Michael Wolff wrote but it’s an excerpt from the book and it said that they wanted to give a big interview, Trump wanted to give a big interview and it said, I’m reading, “The interview went to Fox News’ Sean Hannity who White House insiders happily explained was willing to supply the questions beforehand.” What do you think? And Sean Hannity of course has denied this. What do you think?

    ANGELO CARUSONE: I would not be the least bit surprised by this. Nobody has interviewed Donald Trump more than Sean Hannity has and even if it’s not the written questions, if it’s the idea that he’s just going to give him a little bit of a heads up about it of what the big bucket of things that he’s going to talk about it, it just wouldn’t surprise me. They speak regularly. And here’s the other thing that doesn’t surprise me and Sean Spicer confirmed this much at least that back in April when they were worried about, late March, or back in late March, early April when they were starting to think about the potential for the Comey stuff to blow up they were beginning to strategize alternative stories that they could promote that would serve as both a distraction and to deflect from the attention and it’s not a coincidence that the same time that the Comey letters dropped was when Sean Hannity started pushing the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.


    Let’s not forget that Sean Hannity is continuing to lose advertisers all the time, every day and the thing that I would point out there is when I talk to them as much as they are concerned about distancing their brands from his extremism or some of the nasty stuff he has said, one of the other factors that’s in play is that the tighter his relationship with Donald Trump and the more people see that in terms of the corporate decision maker side they actual begin to see supporting Hannity or aligning their brand with Hannity as actually the functional equivalent of giving a political donation to Trump.


    Hannity denies that he gave Trump questions in advance. Here are the questions he asked.

    Jake Tapper: "It's remarkable" Trump is trying to block the publication of a book because it "hurt his feelings"

    The long, public humiliation of Steve Bannon

  • Report: Women at Fox News are "stunned" and "disgusted" after Rupert Murdoch's dismissal of sexual misconduct at the network

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to a HuffPost report, “current and former female Fox News employees” were left “stunned, disgusted and ‘hungry for justice’” after Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch’s comments downplaying the sexual harassment culture at Fox as “all nonsense.”

    Murdoch said during a December 14 interview with Sky, that the reported complaints about rampant sexual harassment at Fox News were “all nonsense” and reflected only “isolated incidents.”

    According to HuffPost many of the women who said they faced harassment at Fox were outraged by the comments. Ten women, both current and former employees, explained that Murdoch’s comments, “not only diminished the scandal that has plagued the network for over 17 months, it also virtually erased a flood of reports, terminations, forced resignations and settlements.”

    From HuffPost:

    Current and former female Fox News employees say they are stunned, disgusted and “hungry for justice” after media mogul Rupert Murdoch on Thursday dismissed allegations of sexual misconduct at the network as “nonsense” outside of a few “isolated incidents” with former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes.


    For this story, HuffPost spoke with 10 current and former female Fox News staffers, all of whom are or were on-air talent and say they have faced harassment or assault by current and former Fox News executives and on-air talent. They said the comment by Murdoch, who controls the Fox News Channel along with his two sons Lachlan and James through 21st Century Fox, not only diminished the scandal that has plagued the network for over 17 months, it also virtually erased a flood of allegations, terminations, forced resignations and settlements.


    “I have had to put up with a hostile work environment for years, and now I’m told that it doesn’t exist by a man who doesn’t have to walk these halls every day? I’m hungry for justice,” said one woman who is part of the network’s on-air talent.

    “Hey Rupert - stop with the lies or we’ll go public with the truth. All of it. Including about the talent and executives you still employ who have harassed us and don’t give a damn about workplace respect - only money,” said a woman who was previously a prominent member of Fox News’ on-air talent. “How much will it take before you actually start caring about your female employees? Is your 52 billion enough? Are we really going to clean house now?”

    Murdoch’s comment directly contradicts the public relations strategy of Fox News and 21st Century Fox, which has been to diligently tell reporters the era of Ailes, who died this year, and host Bill O’Reilly is over. Instead, the press reps say, Fox News has ushered in a new era of corporate responsibility and a workplace free of hostility and retaliation.


    “I’m contacting a lawyer tomorrow,” said one Fox News host. “I’m sick of this shit."

    Murdoch’s claim that harassment was limited to former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes is demonstrably false, with allegations and settlements against Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling, Geraldo Rivera, and others coming to light since Ailes’ departure.

  • Fox News allows host Jeanine Pirro to work as a paid GOP fundraising speaker

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host and legal analyst Jeanine Pirro has found a lucrative side gig headlining Republican Party fundraisers. The network has claimed that it prohibits hosts from stumping for political candidates but has no apparent objection to hosts fundraising for party committees.

    Pirro is a longtime friend of President Donald Trump who hosts the weekend program Judge Jeanine, where she pushes pro-Trump propaganda. The New York Times recently reported that Trump “rarely misses” her show and that Pirro “interviewed to be the deputy attorney general, according to three transition officials.”

    It’s not surprising that Pirro would want to help Republicans given her openly partisan background. But Fox News has suggested it has some rules for its opinion hosts. The Times reported in an October 25 profile of Laura Ingraham, who headlined a campaign fundraiser for Senate candidate Kelli Ward (R-AZ), that “Fox News hosts are not usually allowed to stump for candidates, but Ms. Ingraham was granted an exception because her show had not yet begun.”

    That reported prohibition seems meaningless in the context of Pirro’s fundraising efforts. She has done at least 10 fundraisers this year for Republican Party organizations that help elect GOP candidates, according to a Media Matters review.

    While campaign finance data for all of those events is not publicly available, Media Matters found that Pirro was paid for speaking in at least five instances by the hosting group, either through her corporation Judge Jeanine Pirro Inc. or the speakers bureau that represents her.  

    Pirro has made no secret that she’s helping raise money for Republican Party groups. On her April 22 program she said that she “gave a good speech" at a Republican fundraiser in Morgantown, WV, and received a scarf as a gift. The hosting group, the Monongalia County Republican Executive Committee, wrote on Facebook in response: “Judge Jeanine Pirro wearing, on national television, the scarf of ‘Presidents Signatures’ given to her by our Chair Gina Brown on behalf of the Committee as a thank you gift for her speaking at our Reagan Dinner! She mentioned us and our Committee while closing her show tonight!”

    Fox News and Pirro did not respond to requests for comment or clarification about the network's policies.

    Pirro has been an active fundraiser for Republican Party organizations this year. For instance:

    • Pirro was the headline speaker for the Alachua County Republican Party’s Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ in Florida on November 9.
    • Pirro was the keynote speaker for the Volusia County Republican Party’s October 8 Lincoln Day Dinner in Florida. The organization paid a little more than $10,000 to Pirro for book purchases and her speaking fee, according to Federal Election Commission data.
    • Pirro was the featured speaker for the Republican Party of Arkansas’ Reagan Rockefeller Dinner on July 28. The party disbursed $15,000 to Pirro, according to the organization's state campaign finance report.
    • Pirro was the keynote speaker for the Monongalia County Republican Executive Committee’s April 21 Reagan Dinner in West Virginia.
    • Pirro was the headline speaker for the Bonneville County GOP’s Lincoln Day Banquet on March 31 in Idaho. The organization later posted a picture on Facebook of Pirro at her Fox News set with the caption: “The freedom mink and gold nugget necklace we gave Judge Jeanine Pirro are sitting right on her desk!”
    • Pirro was the headliner for the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth’s Lincoln Day Dinner on March 20 in Pennsylvania. The organization paid a little over $5,000 for the appearance, according to the group’s state campaign finance report.
    • Pirro was the featured speaker at the Columbiana County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner on March 23 in Ohio.
    • Pirro was the special guest for the Erie County Republican Committee’s Lincoln Leadership Reception on March 9 in New York. The committee paid Pirro roughly $7,500, according to the group’s campaign finance report.
    • Pirro was the keynote speaker for the Kent County Republican Committee’s February 18 Lincoln Day Dinner in Delaware.
    • Pirro was the headliner for the Georgia Republican Party’s President’s Day Dinner on March 13. The organization paid the Premiere Speakers Bureau, which represents Pirro, $15,000 on the day of the event for “Speakers Fee - Presidents Day Dinner.” 

    Those Republican organizations routinely featured Pirro’s Fox News affiliation to sell tickets. Here are two examples:

    Pirro’s fundraising appearances will continue into 2018: The Sangamon County Republican Central Committee in Illinois recently announced that Pirro will headline the group’s February 8 Lincoln Day Dinner.  

    Media Matters has documented how Fox News hosts and commentators -- in addition to their on-air conservative rhetoric -- actively help Republican-aligned groups grow their coffers at partisan events. The pro-Trump group Great America Alliance recently created a fundraising page prominently featuring Fox News’ logo and celebrating the news that senior adviser Tomi Lahren had been hired as a Fox News contributor. That page was taken down after Media Matters asked Fox News whether it had approved the use of its logo.

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    CNN and Urban did not respond to requests for comment. 

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

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

  • Sharyl Attkisson's softball interview of Trump is the latest example of Sinclair's pro-Trump propaganda

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    In what is merely the latest example of Sinclair Broadcasting’s mission to imbue local news with pro-Trump propaganda, Sinclair's Full Measure invited President Donald Trump on to make unchecked, demonstrably false claims, tout his non-existent legislative successes, and attack the news media.

    During the November 5 interview, host Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS anchor with a history of flawed reporting and right-wing advocacy, asked few contentious or adversarial questions of the president and issued no follow-ups to Trump’s false claim that the Trump-Russia dossier is “phony” and “fake,” his inaccurate claim that his administration has had more military successes against ISIS than during the entire presidency of Barack Obama, or his erroneous claim that his administration has enacted “almost a record” number of bills. Trump also attacked the “fake” media during the interview, continuing his war on the press. This is not Trump’s first time on Full Measure. During a previous appearance on the show, when he was a candidate for president, Trump said he was entertaining the idea of “banning reporters from certain events.

    As president, Trump has not given a one-on-one interview with a serious journalist since May, and instead has granted interviews only to fawning sycophants on sympathetic networks, including Sinclair. Sinclair has benefited from Trump, thanks to the deregulatory efforts of Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The organization has announced plans to acquire Tribune Media’s dozens of local television stations, a controversial deal at least four states are urging the FCC to reject. Last week the FCC helped Sinclair towards achieving that acquisition when it voted along party lines to eliminate a rule that mandated local news stations maintain offices within the communities they serve.

    Even before Trump won the election, Sinclair had aligned itself with him and reportedly struck a deal for greater press access to the then-candidate in exchange for better coverage. Attkisson’s interview is just the latest manifestation of a growing Sinclair-FCC partnership that exploits Americans’ trust in local news for political gain.