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  • Trump Advocated White Nationalism With An "Indoor Voice," And Pundits Loved It 

    Blog ››› ››› LIS POWER

    After President Donald Trump gave a speech to joint members of Congress filled with exaggerations, lies, and policy plans that contained no specifics -- and in many cases were based on propagating fear about and demonizing immigrants -- the takeaway from pundits and talking heads was somehow that he sounded “presidential.”

    That's how low the bar has been set. So low that because the president sounded like an adult for an hour and refrained from transparently attacking people of color, allies, or the press, media figures forgot the glaring abnormalities of Trump’s presidency thus far. To some in the media, the speech was a “reset” for the new president.

    As soon as he finished speaking, the accolades from pundits began to roll in. Fox’s Chris Wallace said, “I feel like tonight, Donald Trump became the president of the United States.” ABC’s Alex Castellanos similarly said Trump “became president tonight. I think we saw the long-awaited pivot.” MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki claimed that Trump had “a more presidential tone, a more optimistic tone,” and Fox’s Chris Stirewalt said Trump “did sound like the president, look like the president, act like the president.” They weren’t the only ones.

    It wasn’t just pundits on TV either. Newspaper headlines also lauded “a more temperate Trump,” his supposed “milder tones,” and his call for an “end to ‘trivial fights.’”

    Essentially, the media set the bar so low for the speech that when Trump, the president of the United States, sounded like the president of the United States, it was lauded as a victory.

    Not only was that an absurd measure, but the praise delivered by pundits across the broadcast and cable news stations, for the most part, entirely lacked context. One prominent example of this failure was the reaction to Trump’s comments about a slain Navy SEAL officer, William “Ryan” Owens. During his speech, Trump acknowledged Owens’ widow and said that “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity.” That portion of the speech was cited by many as a highlight and an “extraordinary moment”:

    CNN’s Van Jones: “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.”

    Politico’s John Bresnahan: “That was a Reaganesque moment for Trump.”

    CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Powerful moment.”

    But there’s a lot more to this story. As NBC’s Katy Tur properly noted, while it was an emotional moment in the speech, it “came after Trump seemed to blame his generals/Obama for Owen’s death” just that morning, and after NBC reported that “senior intelligence sources dispute” the White House’s “characterization of [the] raid as a success.” As Tur pointed out, NBC’s reporting “would mean that Trump isn’t being honest with a grieving wife. And that is anything BUT presidential.”

    The praise also ignored the actual content of Trump’s address. Those lauding the speech as “normal” ignored what was extraordinarily abnormal about it of it. As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted, “President Trump’s maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies.” And while large parts of the speech simply featured Trump touting what he’s done so far as president, not much about those actions is normal either. According to a New York Times analysis, most of the significant actions and events in Trump’s presidency thus far have been “abnormal.” 

    Those praising parts of the speech also seemed unable to acknowledge the startling differences between the Trump who gave that speech and the Trump from just that morning. Some examples:

    • Some pundits praised Trump for addressing the recent wave of threats against Jewish Community centers. But just hours prior to the address, Trump seemed to imply that those threats could be false flags -- a suggestion he has made before.
    • Many pundits cheered Trump for honoring the Navy SEAL killed in the Yemen raid. Yet earlier that day, Trump blamed the military for Owens’ death, telling Fox & Friends hosts, “They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals. ... And they lost Ryan.”
    • And all those cheering how “presidential” and “normal” the speech was must have missed the stark and pervasive demonization of immigrants -- from Trump’s announcement that he would set up an office for “victims of immigration crime” to his decision to bring three guests whose family members had been killed by immigrants.

    These remarks, particularly on immigration, served a clear purpose that the fawning punditry seemed to miss. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, talking to a “senior White House official,” reported that the aide said the speech was aimed to be “‘nationalism with an indoor voice,’” and that Trump “backed off exactly none of his previous policies.”

    Perhaps because Trump’s speech didn’t indicate any real change in policy, the high praise from the press has apparently even caught some of his aides off guard. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, even “some sources in [the White House] are frankly surprised at how pundits are warming to the speech,” noting that “Trump has not changed,” and there is “no big shift in policy coming."

    It’s not the first time the media has fallen for this ruse. Over the past year, media figures have repeatedly either predicted that Trump would finally start acting more respectable or claimed that it had already happened -- that he had finally pivoted. Yet time and time again Trump has reverted back to his usual style, leaving the media the Charlie Brown to Trump’s football-wielding Lucy.

    So yes, Trump may have sounded more like a president than we expected. But a normal-sounding speech isn’t nearly enough to erase the first month of his presidency, which was distinguished by abnormal -- and extremely problematic -- actions, attacks, and rhetoric. With promises of worse to come, it’s crucial that media stop setting the bar so low and start demanding more.

  • Faced With Trump's Media Blacklist, Broadcast Evening News Shows Roll Over

    Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

    The broadcast network evening newscasts all referenced that the White House barred their colleagues at The New York Times, CNN, and other outlets from a briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer. But ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News neglected to mention that their representatives did not join the spontaneous boycott of the briefing started by the Associated Press, Time, and USA Today, and gave no indication that their networks will refuse to participate in any similarly restrictive briefing in the future. 

    The press "gaggle" called by Spicer that pointedly excluded the Times and CNN was another attempt by the White House to discredit these media outlets' recent and explosive reporting that the Trump administration has been pressuring the FBI to downplay the results of the investigation into possible illegal collusion between Russian officials and President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. 

    In the wake of the restricted briefing, several outlets -- including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and McClatchy -- announced that they will not participate in future closed briefings. It is imperative that other media organizations join the boycott of the Trump administration's blacklist. As Media Matters' Angelo Carusone explained, outlets that participate in briefings while their colleagues are banned "lend legitimacy to a process that is fundamentally inconsistent with a free press."

    More than 320,000 people have signed Media Matters' petition urging members of the White House press corps to band together to stand up against Trump’s media blacklist and threats to punish journalists for accurate reporting.

    From ABC World News Tonight:

    From CBS Evening News:

    From NBC Nightly News:

  • Statement By Media Matters President Angelo Carusone On Trump Blacklisting Media Outlets

    Carusone: Outlets That Participate In Briefings While Outlets Are Banned "Lend Legitimacy To A Process That Is Fundamentally Inconsistent With A Free Press"

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone issued the following statement after the Trump White House banned members of the media from attending a briefing:

    Media Matters sounded the alarm about the clear and present danger Donald Trump presented to a free press. We told White House correspondents that Trump’s blacklist was only going to get worse over time if they didn’t act. And it wasn’t just us. More than 300,000 people signed a petition urging White House correspondents to stand up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate if Trump banned one -- or more -- of their colleagues.

    Today’s actions underscore the importance of White House correspondents standing up to Trump’s blacklist. It's no coincidence that the outlets that have been at the forefront in breaking stories about Trump’s conflicts of interest and his associates’ ties to Russia were banned from today’s gaggle. Trump is trying to delegitimize and punish news outlets for practicing rigorous journalism while simultaneously giving their spots to pro-Trump propagandists.

    Outlets like Time and The Associated Press did the right thing in standing up to Trump’s blacklist by refusing to participate in the gaggle in solidarity with their banned colleagues.

    It’s unfortunate and damaging for the profession of journalism that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg chose to support Trump’s blacklist by attending the briefing. It may sound harsh to characterize their participation in the event as support, but that’s what it is. By participating, these outlets not only make it easier for Trump to continue blacklisting journalists, but they also lend legitimacy to a process that is fundamentally inconsistent with a free press.

    Over 320,000 individuals have signed Media Matters' petition calling for the White House press corps to stand up to Trump's blacklist.

  • The Media Keep Failing To Publish Accurate Headlines About Trump: An Updated List

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Before and since the election, media outlets have repeatedly failed to write headlines that adequately contextualize President Donald Trump’s lies. Simply echoing his statements normalizes his behavior and can spread disinformation, particularly given the high proportion of people who read only headlines. Below is an ongoing list documenting the media’s failure to contextualize Trump’s actions in headlines and sometimes on social media. Some of the initial versions were subsequently altered (and these are marked with an asterisk), but many of the updates still failed to adequately contextualize Trump’s remarks.

  • Pundits Defend Trump’s Dangerous Phone Call With Taiwan’s President

    Experts In Asian Pacific Studies And International Relations Warn It “Raises The Risk Of Diplomatic Disaster”

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Pundits are defending President-elect Donald Trump’s protocol-shattering phone conversation with Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen as “terrific” and saying it will have “no cost to America,” but experts in Asian Pacific studies and international relations warn that the move “does not bode well for US-China relations” and “raises the risk of diplomatic disaster.”

  • CNN Needs To Do Better Than This Trump Chyron

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A CNN graphic that misleadingly claimed President-elect Donald Trump “deliver[ed] on [his] vow to save” jobs at Indiana-based manufacturer Carrier demonstrates the need for the network to continue using on-screen graphics as a way of fact-checking Trump during his transition and presidency.

    Carrier announced on November 29 that it had struck a deal with Trump and the State of Indiana to keep about 1,000 jobs it had planned to move to Mexico in the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, the state will provide Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), $7 million in tax breaks over the next decade in exchange for keeping the jobs there. In addition to the $7 million in tax breaks, Trump reportedly promised UTC CEO Greg Hayes millions more in future corporate tax reductions.

    Discussing the announcement on the December 1 edition of CNN Newsroom, panelists noted multiple problems with Trump’s actions, including that the announcement could cause a “slippery slope” where “every company will expect to get huge tax incentives to stay in the United States,” a point economists and policy experts have also made. CNN commentator and New Yorker editor Ryan Lizza agreed, noting that “the precedent here can be very dangerous,” and adding, “You basically have this sort of extortion game that companies can now play because Trump has set himself up this way.” Echoing economist Jared Bernstein, Atlantic editor Ron Brownstein argued it is “unlikely that individual interventions in the decisions of individual companies is going to make a big dent in the long-term trajectory of a more automated and globalized manufacturing supply chain.”

    However, someone looking at only the TV screen would not know these potential stumbling blocks with the deal. Instead, they would see only a graphic saying, “Trump Delivers On Vow To Save Carrier Jobs,” essentially giving Trump the talking point he wanted. That graphic presents a stark contrast from what CNN’s own Kate Bolduan noted during a later segment of At This Hour in which she stated: “1,000 jobs remaining in Indiana that would have left, that is to be celebrated. … But it is a far cry from what Trump promised … on the campaign trail.”

    During the presidential campaign, CNN repeatedly used on-screen graphics to call out Trump’s lies and misleading rhetoric, such as "Trump: Never Said Japan Should Have Nukes (He Did)," "Trump’s Son: Father Apologized To Khans (He Hasn’t)," and "Trump Calls Obama Founder of ISIS (He’s Not)." CNN was not the only network to do this, with MSNBC also joining in to fact-check Trump’s claim he watched a “video of Iran receiving cash.” MSNBC’s graphic pointed out that the video was “nonexistent.”

    As ABC News legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams noted during the campaign, this practice of fact-checking Trump in real time helped solve “one of the big problems in cable news” where things sometimes are “just not true” and need to be called out as such.

    CNN’s failure to express the nuanced issues with the Carrier announcement highlights the need for CNN and other networks to have clearer on-screen graphics and continue their practice of on-screen fact-checking. These measures are crucial in preventing misleading talking points and falsehoods pushed by Trump from gaining traction.

  • FBI Director’s Advisor Says Media “Failed, Utterly” In Their Reports On James Comey’s Letter To Congress

    Daniel Richman: “We Don’t Know What’s In [The Emails], And It’s Entirely Possible That There’s Nothing In Them”

    Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

    Daniel Richman, a Columbia Law School professor and adviser to FBI Director James Comey, criticized the media’s poor coverage of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails taking Comey’s recent letter announcing the FBI’s review of possible new emails out of context.

    Richman criticized the media for sensationalizing Comey’s letter to Congress on newly found emails from Clinton adviser Huma Abedin without explaining that “We don’t know what’s in them, and it’s entirely possible that there’s nothing in them.” In an interview with the Huffington Post Richman said that the letter sent by Comey on the FBI’s review of new emails “was pretty clear, and that media outlets had ‘failed, utterly’ in placing the letter in the proper context.” Richman continued:

    “Everybody has their own views on what the letter said,” he continued. “In my view, as just a simple reader of the English language, it was dialed down as far as possible to convey the very odd position of there being emails that appeared to be related to this, without conveying anything about the contents, which of course he didn’t know at the time.”

    “Could he have added an extra sentence saying, ‘I really mean it’? I guess,” Richman said. “It would be really nice if members of the media and members of the public realized that there’s a real possibility that there will be duplicates. Since they haven’t been checked, the bureau can’t say, but we can guess from the outside.”

    Comey’s vague letter to Congress received heavy criticism from both journalists and experts for violating FBI precedent and meddling in the election. In an interview with CNN, Richman described the letter as “incomplete” and “innuendo,” and said the media had jumped to conclusions on its meaning. The New Yorker criticized Comey’s letter as “a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials.”

    But Media outlets -- especially those on the right -- have used Comey’s letter to attack Clinton and push flawed reporting on the email review by claiming it would result in a “likely” indictment of Clinton. These false claims have even made their way to Donald Trump’s campaign speeches, despite being walked back by Fox News.

    Fox’s reporting, based on two anonymous sources, has been disputed by law enforcement officials who say “there have been no developments” in the case. An ABC News report directly debunked Fox, calling it “inaccurate and without merit,” while MSNBC’s Pete Williams reported that FBI officials have told him the report “is just not true.”

  • ABC News And NBC News Dispute Fox Anchor Baier’s “Inaccurate” Clinton Foundation Investigation Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    ABC News and NBC News are both disputing Fox News’ anonymously sourced report that there is an active, “very high priority” FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation which has collected “a great deal of evidence,” citing their own anonymous sources. Both ABC and NBC report that the investigation in question produced little evidence of wrongdoing and there have been no recent developments in the case.

    On November 2, days before the presidential election, Fox News’ Bret Baier cited two anonymous sources “with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations into the Clinton emails and the Clinton Foundation” to claim that the investigation “into possible pay-for-play interaction between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foundation” is a “‘very high priority'” and that “agents are actively and aggressively pursuing this case.” Baier said FBI agents “had collected a great deal of evidence” to suggest wrongdoing. The story has been trumpeted on Fox and in the conservative media and was highlighted during a November 3 speech by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  

    MSNBC anchor Kate Snow noted on November 3 that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “cited a Fox report” to allege that the FBI investigation “is likely to yield an indictment” and the Justice Department “is trying to protect” Clinton. Snow also reported, however, that “law enforcement officials tell NBC News” that “there have been no developments” in the Clinton Foundation case “for several months,” presumably because there is insufficient evidence for an indictment. From the November 3 edition of MSNBC Live:

    KATE SNOW (HOST): Let me ask you about something Donald Trump said just a couple of hours ago in Jacksonville, Florida. He went on kind of went on a rant against Hillary Clinton and the about the FBI. He cited a Fox report that said that Clinton might face indictment related to the Clinton Foundation; I just want to note that law enforcement officials tell NBC News that the FBI did take an initial look at the Clinton Foundation based on allegations that were made in the press, and a book that’s gotten some attention -- excuse me -- but that there have been no developments on that front in the last several months. That said, here’s what Donald Trump said:

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    DONALD TRUMP: The FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment. But just remember, the system is rigged. Just remember that. And reports also show the political leadership at the Department of Justice is trying to protect Hillary Clinton and is trying to interfere with the FBI investigation

    [END VIDEO]

    ABC News’ sources similarly called the Fox report “inaccurate and without merit.” In a November 3 article, Matt Levine wrote that ABC News’ sources told him that in February, “prosecutors and senior FBI officials agreed there was no clear evidence of wrongdoing, and that a criminal case tied to the Clinton Foundation could not be made.” ABC further reported:

    Investigators and higher-ups have continued to discuss the matter, but there has been no change in posture, sources said. Authorities still believe there is no evidence of wrongdoing, and they do not believe there is a sufficient reason to pursue charges, according to the sources.

  • 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.

  • Media Carry Water For Trump, Say He “Staunched The Bleeding” Despite Losing The Debate

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Media figures carried water for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after the second presidential debate, promoting the narrative that he “staunched the bleeding” in his ailing campaign with his debate performance. The assertion that Trump “stopped the bleeding” came despite many low points from Trump during the debate, including his statement that he would put his opponent in jail if he became president, and it ignores immediate post-debate polling that showed Trump lost the debate to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

  • Fox's Alternate Reality On New York City's Murder Rate

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News used a misleading chart featuring incomplete data to defend Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s false claim made during the first presidential debate that “murders are up” in New York City. Fox’s chart used data from 2014 to 2015 to demonstrate a rise in murder rates, but did not include complete data showing that murder rates in New York City are down in 2016 from the same point last year.

  • The Eight Things Media Should Know About The “Scientifically Dubious” Dr. Oz

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of ABC’s The Dr. Oz Show, hosted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to purportedly discuss the results of a recent physical exam and go through “a full review of [Trump’s] systems.” Media organizations should be aware that Oz is infamous for “dubious medical advice” unsupported by evidence, that he has promoted discredited “ex-gay” therapy, and that he is a registered Republican who “donated handsomely” to GOP candidates.