Matt Lauer

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  • NBC News Falls For Roger Stone's Bullshit

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & NINA MAST

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

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

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

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

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

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

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

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

    Megyn Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Joe Scarborough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Greta Van Susteren

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

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

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

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

    What the future may bring

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

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

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

    In short, Fox News finally has competition.

    Graphic by Sarah Wasko

  • There Is No Trump Mandate

    ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

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

  • Reminder To The Media: Trump Is The Worst Possible Messenger On The Clintons’ Marriage

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Media should report on the immense hypocrisy of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump levying attacks on former President Bill Clinton’s history with women and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s responses to those women.Trump and several of his closest advisers have long histories of engaging in infidelity, workplace sexual harassment, and misogynistic behavior. Trump himself has also called Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky “totally unimportant,” and, The Washington Post reported, he “repeatedly dismissed and at times mocked” the women who have accused Bill Clinton.  

  • Media Take Note: Trump Is The Worst Possible Messenger On The Clintons’ Marriage

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    When media report on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s latest attacks on former President Bill Clinton’s history with women and Hillary Clinton’s responses to those women, they should also mention the immense hypocrisy of Trump levying those claims. Trump and several of his closest advisers have long histories of infidelity, workplace sexual harassment, and misogyny. And Trump himself previously said both that Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky was “totally unimportant” and that people would have been more “forgiving” if Clinton had a relationship “with a really beautiful woman.”

  • Media Finally Admit The Bar Is Lower For Trump. But Can They Fix It?

    Blog ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    Memo to the media: You cannot have it both ways on the double standard applied to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

    After NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, reporters and pundits proclaimed that media have held the two presidential nominees to different standards of knowledge and conduct, yet these media figures have also perpetuated the double standard by excusing Trump’s behavior and applauding him any time he shows a veneer of conventionality.

    Numerous media figures criticized Matt Lauer, host of the September 7 forum, for employing different questioning toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Lauer allowed Trump to lie about opposing the Iraq war, yet he used eight of his first nine questions for Clinton to grill her over her emails. Several media figures said Lauer’s line of questioning embodied the “double standard” that reporters across the board use to analyze the two candidates.

    If Media Figures Note The Double Standard ... 

    • MSNBC's Mike Barnicle: Trump Is The "Continued Beneficiary Of A Huge Double Standard." The morning after the forum, MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle told Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough that Lauer interviewed Trump “as if he were the co-host or the host of The Apprentice,” rather than a presidential candidate, noting, “Syria wasn’t mentioned. Aleppo wasn’t mentioned. The refugee crisis wasn’t mentioned.” He noted that the forum showed Trump is the “continued beneficiary of a huge double standard.”
       
    • Wash. Post Contributor Paul Waldman: “Hillary Clinton Gets Examined In A Very Different Way Than Donald Trump Does.” Following the forum, Washington Post contributor Paul Waldman explained that Clinton “gets examined in a very different way than Trump does” by the media. Speaking on the September 7 edition of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Waldman faulted media for taking an “all hands on deck mentality” when reporting Clinton news -- saying that “everybody will investigate every nook and cranny to see if there’s anything there that looks untoward. And even if there isn’t, it becomes this story that drags out over the course of days and even weeks” -- as opposed to “strings of issues” about Trump that are reported once and then forgotten.
       
    • Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin: “Trump Is Being Held To A Less High Standard.” ” Prior to the forum, Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin told co-host John Heilemann that “the Clinton campaign is right” that “Trump is being held to a less high standard” by reporters and that “the press is just not holding him accountable.” Halperin continued, “Trump is doing things that if Clinton did, she would be hit a lot harder,” and he urged media to “work on fixing that.” Co-host John Heilemann agreed with Halperin, despite having defended the double standard the week prior, when he said that “sometimes … you have to set the bar low” for Trump.
       
    • NY Times' Maggie Haberman: "The Bar Has Been Lowered For Trump Repeatedly." New York Times political correspondent Maggie Haberman said on CNN’s New Day leading up to the forum that Trump “keeps getting graded on a curve” and “the bar has been lowered for Trump repeatedly.” Haberman criticized media figures who assess Trump by asking, “Does he merely pass?” And then if he does, they record it as Trump “did very well.”
       
    • NY Times’ James Poniewozik Slams Lauer For Questioning Trump On A Curve. New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik scolded Lauer for treating Clinton “like someone running for president” but Trump “like someone running to figure out how to be president, eventually.” Poniewozik wrote that after grilling Clinton on her private email server, Lauer pitched Trump “the kind of whiffle ball job-interview” questions “you ask the boss’s nephew you know you have to hire anyway.”
       
    • CNN’s Brian Stelter: “It Is True That Trump Is Held To A Different Standard Than Clinton.” The day after the forum, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter told CNN host Ashleigh Banfield that “it is true that Trump is held to a different standard than Clinton” and said that “no doubt, at the forum, there was different treatment for Trump versus Clinton.”

    ... But Have Perpetuated It ...

    Despite all this commentary, media figures have consistently perpetuated the double standard, holding Trump to a lower bar than they do Clinton in terms of behavioral and ethical conduct -- and in measures of veracity. Most recently, when a report came out that Trump paid a fine to the IRS for making an illegal $25,000 donation to the 2013 re-election campaign of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, broadcast news networks devoted a third as much as time to the matter as they provided to a flawed Associated Press story on the Clinton Foundation that proved no ethics breaches.

    Media figures have previously repeatedly pardoned Trump’s widely criticized rhetoric, policy flip-flops, and divisive comments because he’s “not a politician” and is “learning as he goes”:

    • Fox Hosts Excused Trump's Abortion Comments Because "He's Learning As He Goes." Hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends excused Trump’s statement in March that there should be some kind of punishment for women who obtain abortions, suggesting that Trump should not be expected to answer questions about abortion because they’re usually reserved for more experienced politicians. Co-host Steve Doocy excused Trump, saying, “He only became a politician about six or seven months ago.”
       
    • CNN’s Mark Preston: “You Have To Expect” Trump Will Abandon His Positions; He Can’t Be Thought Of In “Conventional Terms.” CNN political executive editor Mark Preston told New Day host Chris Cuomo in May that he was not surprised the presumptive nominee “took a half-step back” on banning Muslim immigrants because he can't be thought of in “conventional terms,” but rather “in Donald Trump terms.”
       
    • The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich: “Consistency Should Be An Argument Against Donald Trump,” But Trump “Isn’t A Normal Candidate.” Daily Beast Washington bureau chief Jackie Kucinich claimed in May that while “consistency should be an argument against” Trump “in a normal political system,” Trump is “not a normal candidate” and thus his policy reversals might not affect him.

    Media have also absurdly applauded Trump any time he has appeared to assume even the slightest veneer of conventional, tempered behavior:

    • Reading A Speech From A Teleprompter: Media figures praised Trump as “presidential” in early June for delivering one speech with the aid of a teleprompter. Fox anchor Megyn Kelly praised Trump for being “a little bit more controlled using the teleprompter, which is something we almost never see him do, staying on message.”
       
    • Delivering One Speech Devoid Of Racist Attacks: Following the same speech, media figures also praised Trump as “presidential” for refraining from launching racist attacks against the federal judge presiding over Trump University lawsuits, which Trump had done for multiple days prior. CNN host Don Lemon said the “new, more presidential Donald Trump” is what “people in Washington wanted to see.”
       
    • Rebutting A Joke About His Penis Size: Fox doctor Keith Ablow praised Donald Trump for “show[ing] an incredible degree of psychological strength” in responding to a joke about the size of his hands by referencing the size of his penis.
       
    • Not Calling Then-Opponent Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted”: Following Trump’s April victory in the New York primary, Fox’s Megyn Kelly and ABC’s Tom Llamas said Trump was becoming “more presidential” and “trying out a more presidential style” because he did not call his opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump returned to using the phrase the next day.

    ... Will They Change? 

    Now that political media have admitted their own shortcomings in the cautionary tale of Lauer, will they level the playing field between Clinton and Trump?

    Researcher Tyler Cherry contributed research to this post.

  • Trump’s Victim Blaming Shouldn’t Be A Surprise -- He’s Surrounded By Misogynist Media Advisers

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    During NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump defended comments he made in 2013 suggesting that the incorporation of women into the military was to blame for sexual assault in the military. Trump’s remarks highlighted the misogyny that is a feature, not a bug, of his campaign, which is being run and advised by conservative media figures who have been accused of sexual harassment and assaulting women.

    During the September 7 forum, moderator Matt Lauer confronted Trump with a tweet he wrote in 2013 suggesting that “26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military” were the result of “put[ting] men & women together.” When Lauer offered Trump the chance to address the comment, Trump responded that it was “a correct tweet. There are many people that think that that’s absolutely correct.”

    Trump’s defense of his tone-deaf comments on sexual assault is emblematic of his tendency to default to victim-blaming in cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The candidate’s remarks on sexual assault are also unsurprising given the advisers he turns to and campaign staff he’s hired. Roger Ailes, Stephen Bannon, and Corey Lewandowski all currently work for or with Trump’s campaign and are all right-wing media figures who have been accused of sexual harassment or assaulting women.

    • Roger Ailes, the former Fox News CEO recently ousted following a sexual harassment lawsuit, laid the groundwork for Trump’s campaign and put Fox “squarely behind the candidacy of Donald Trump.” Since leaving Fox, Ailes has reportedly stepped in to help Trump with debate prep. Despite the campaign’s efforts to deny Ailes’ official involvement, multiple reports point out that “Ailes has become one of the most influential voices in the room” advising the Republican candidate as he prepares for debates. During his tenure as Fox chairman, Ailes allegedly perpetuated an environment of rampant misogyny at Fox News by promising women promotions in exchange for sex, asking about the sex lives of employees, and making wildly inappropriate sexual comments to female employees.

    • Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News executive chairman whom Trump brought in as campaign CEO, once referred to a woman who worked with him as a “bimbo,” and like Ailes, like Ailes, has been accused of sexual harassment. Additionally, in 1996 he was “charged with domestic violence and battery” against his ex-wife, and while the charges were eventually dropped, Vox notes that “police reports from the time detail a story of repeated mental and physical abuse by Bannon.”

    • Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager and a current CNN commentator, reportedly still advises the candidate, is helping prep Trump for the debates, travels with Trump to campaign stops, and continues to receive payments from Trump, all while receiving a salary from CNN. Lewandowski allegedly assaulted reporter Michelle Fields in March, and when Fields filed charges against Lewandowski, he verbally attacked her, calling her “totally delusional.”

    As Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox pointed out in her August 26 article, one of the most concerning aspects of Trump’s association with Ailes, Bannon, and Lewandowski is that he “chooses not only to associate” with them, but that they “influence his campaign at the highest levels:”

    But Trump’s “woman problem” goes far deeper than his electoral appeal. The real problem is that Bannon, Ailes, and Lewandowski are the kinds of individuals Trump chooses not only to associate with, but to influence his campaign at the highest levels. It’s a troubling judgment call—one he’s made over and over again. People show you who they are the first time. The third and fourth and fifth time? That’s just showing off.

  • Matt Lauer’s Fact-Challenged Moderation Is A Cautionary Tale For Debate Moderators

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Matt Lauer’s widely panned moderation of the NBC News Commander-In-Chief Forum, where he failed to fact-check Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recurrent lie about opposing the Iraq War, shows precisely why it is paramount that moderators for the upcoming presidential debates correct misinformation and hold the candidates to an equal standard of truth-telling.

    Lauer, who moderated the Commander-In Chief Forum hosted by NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) on September 7, let Trump lie twice that he “was totally against the war in Iraq.” Trump’s claim has been proved false time and time again, and because of the audacity of the lie, the media roundly castigated Lauer's slip.

    With the first presidential debate looming, Lauer’s performance is a cautionary tale to the debate moderators, who will give voters one of the last chances to judge the candidates on the substance and breadth of their policy proposals.

    Fox’s Chris Wallace, tapped as the moderator for the final debate, already outrageously conceded that he will not fact-check candidates’ lies, stating, “I do not believe it’s my job to be a truth squad.” With his concession, it’s imperative that the other moderators step up to the challenge of fact-checking candidates, because letting falsehoods go unchallenged is a disservice to voters and a strain on journalistic integrity.

    Challenging mendacity in the presidential debates is paramount for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that Trump’s entire campaign has been grounded in lies and conspiracy theories. PolitiFact found that 71 percent of Trump’s claims are either “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” As Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone explained, failure to fact-check lies in the debates “leaves the viewing public with a ‘he said, she said’ situation when the journalist picked to be onstage could say, decisively, who is right.” This, in turn, enables misinformation -- an injustice to voters -- and normalizes this behavior -- a threat to democratic and journalistic processes. New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor unequivocally said that, moving forward, journalists and reporters have a duty to fact-check lies and inconsistencies:

    I think last night we saw Donald Trump say that he did not support the war in Iraq. Many people have fact-checked him and said that that's a false statement. BuzzFeed broke that big story saying here is him on Howard Stern saying that, that he does support the war. So I think being able to do that as journalists, we have to do that. Even if it's tenuous and we want to move on to the next question and we want to have multiple broad conversations, we have to stop and say, wait, you really need to answer this question.

    Another worry for debate moderators’ passivity in the face of lies is the growing concern that Trump is being “graded on a curve,” where so long as he doesn’t “vomit all over himself and [he gives] a decent” performance, he’ll succeed. Failing to fact-check Trump’s lies during a debate will feed into the growing media tendency to lower the bar for Trump compared to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    As CNN’s John Berman said, “If the bar for Donald Trump is not embarrassing himself, what does that mean heading into the debates?”

    Given that Trump’s accusations of media bias have already seemingly influenced the debate moderator selections, Lauer’s performance will hopefully encourage Lester Holt, Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Wallace to strengthen their fact-checking skills and harden their resolve to ensure the presidential debates are grounded in truth and reality.

  • The Media Aren't Buying Trump’s Claim That Intelligence Officials Criticized Obama During Confidential Briefing

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Media figures immediately denounced Donald Trump’s claim during NBC’s Commander-In-Chief Forum that during an intelligence briefing, CIA officials expressed disappointment in President Obama and his handling of foreign affairs.

    In August, Trump began receiving intelligence briefings, which NBC News described as a description of “how US intelligence agencies see a variety of global issues.”

    During the forum, moderator Matt Lauer asked Trump if he had learned anything about strategy to combat ISIS or anything that would make him reconsider his promise to defeat the terror organization quickly. Trump replied that he did not learn anything like that during the briefing but he did learn that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry are “total disaster[s]” and that Obama “did not follow … what our experts said to do.”:

     

    MATT LAUER (MODERATOR): Did anything in that briefing, without going into specifics, shock or alarm you?

    DONALD TRUMP: Yes, very much so.

    LAUER: Did you learn new things in that briefing?

    TRUMP: First of all, I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings. They were terrific people. They were experts on Iraq and Iran and different parts of -- and Russia. But yes, there was one thing that shocked me. And it just seems to me that what they said, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite.

    LAUER: Did you learn anything in that briefing, again, not going into specifics, that makes you reconsider some of the things you say you can accomplish like defeating ISIS quickly?

    TRUMP: No. I didn't learn anything from that standpoint. What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly -- when they call it intelligence, it's there for a reason. What our experts said to do.

    Trump’s claim was met with immediate skepticism. On MSNBC, former CIA Director Leon Panetta said he would be “very surprised” if the interaction Trump described took place and said it would be a “violation of [intelligence officials] responsibility.” Media figures described it as “untruthful,” and “hard to believe.” Furthermore, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius said the intelligence community would not make policy recommendations and that they would be “deeply upset” by Trump’s comments.