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Media reaps dividends from Trump attacks

Media reaps dividends from Trump attacks

Cable news outlets are pulling huge ratings and reporters are becoming overnight celebrities as the attacks between President Trump and the media enters strange new territory.


The Trump White House has agitated for the fight, believing that every day it spends feuding with the media exposes further press bias and energizes the conservative base.

But Trump’s claim that MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding” from a “face-lift” unified the media, with anchors from Fox News to CNN expressing outrage at the president’s tweets and pointing to them as evidence that the press should not treat Trump like a normal president.

Trump again sent the media into a fury over the weekend when he tweeted a doctored videoshowing him at a fake wrestling match body-slamming someone with the CNN logo over their face. Reporters accused Trump of encouraging violence against the press.

The relationship between the White House and the media is in shambles, with the daily press briefings devolving into shouting matches and airing of grievances. Both sides engage in stunts, grandstanding and political theater meant to undermine or embarrass the other.

The White House has long viewed attacking the media, dubbed “the opposition party” by chief strategist Stephen Bannon, as a winning strategy. But the nasty turn has also been a boon to the media and the individual reporters who register acts of protest against the administration.

“Ratings are part of it, but the media’s open contempt for this administration is part of it too,” said Tim Graham, the director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center. “I imagine it will continue as long as the ratings keep going up.”

Left-leaning MSNBC pulled big numbers as the only network in open opposition to the president, even before the spat between Trump and the “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Brzezinski engulfed Washington.

According to Nielsen’s second quarter ratings, MSNBC’s total viewers are up 73 percent year-over-year, with primetime viewership up 86 percent, easily making it the fastest growing cable news outlet.

Anchor Rachel Maddow has become a cultural icon on the left while also attracting a younger audience of viewers. MSNBC’s share of the coveted 25 to 54 demographic grew 78 percent in primetime over last year. Their primetime audience has nearly tripled since second quarter of 2014.

Scarborough said over Twitter that his show had a record month for ratings.

CNN, meanwhile, is running third in the cable wars. Journalistically, the network has had a rough stretch, with retraction-related dismissals, sting videos showing producers expressing frustration with the network’s editorial decisions and allegations of bias coming from the right.

But CNN has still grown 25 percent in total viewers and 10 percent in primetime year-over-year. The network’s deep well of contributors and political talkers ensures that the Trump Show is always rolling.

It’s a stark departure from the pre-Trump era, when sagging ratings provoked a move away from breaking news and political programming. As recently as 2014, CNN was airing “Dirty Jobs”, “America’s Most Wanted”, or “Our America with Lisa Ling” in the primetime 9 o’clock hour.

Some media watchers are growing alarmed by the increasingly antagonistic approach some in the press are taking. But most expect it will continue as long as the feuding with Trump attracts new viewers.

“The news world is reaping some short-term benefits from the running battle with Trump, but this is really a short-sighted and ultimately losing strategy,” said Jeffrey McCall, a media critic and professor at DePauw University. “Sure, it's sensational and somewhat entertaining, but it makes the media look small and petty. Media credibility is quite low and most news consumers aren't going to sympathize with the news industry, even when Trump makes boorish attacks.”

Fox News is still the front-runner in the cable wars, despite shake-ups that roiled both its primetime line-up and executive suites. 

Fox’s audience grew 19 percent between 8pm and 11 pm, as viewers tune in to watch Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity rail against the news media on a nightly basis.

Feuding with Trump has also become a profitable endeavor for many individual reporters, with viral video clips and tweets opening new doors for previously little-known journalists.

Taking on the White House worked for Brian Karem, an editor for a regional newspaper in the Washington suburbs.

Karem was little-known before Tuesday, when a video of him lecturing White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders over press access went viral.

Less than a week later, he has nearly 80,000 followers.

After his exchange, Karem made the cable news rounds to call Sanders a bully. He sat for scores of interviews with print and online outlets, where he claimed the nickname “honey badger” — a supposedly fearless animal — and said members of the press corps had likened him to legendary reporters Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.

Left-leaning outlets have held Karem up as a hero, although the episode cemented in the minds of many conservatives that reporters want to use the briefings to make their names by grandstanding against the administration.

That’s a point press secretary Sean Spicer made in explaining why fewer press briefing would be televised.

Other reporters have had similar experiences.

Veteran White House reporter April Ryan, who has been covering the White House for 20 years and has long been one of the most respected journalists in the press corps, scored a contributor position on CNN this year after several high-profile dust-ups with Trump and Spicer.

CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta has become the face of the resistance inside the briefing room, ranting against the administration on the air and on social media. 

Acosta’s antagonistic tweets have gone viral amid the furor over the White House decision to take the briefings off-camera. Frustrated with the lack of camera access, Acosta began to tweet pictures of his socks — the only things in the briefing, he wrote, that he was allowed to show on camera.   

But Acosta has drawn scorn from many conservatives, who say he is grandstanding and making himself the story.

“In honor of the Fourth of July, let's save all our fireworks for Tuesday,” Sanders said at the start of Friday’s press briefing.

The frenzy and eagerness to capitalize on what some in media have dubbed the “Trump Effect” has led to some sloppy journalism.

CNN admitted that it did not follow protocol in pushing out a story alleging that a Trump associate had improper ties with a Russian bank. The network had to retract the story, while the three journalists responsible for it resigned.

That latest CNN embarrassment came after a story authored by some of the network’s top talent, including anchor Jake Tapper and political analyst Gloria Borger, was retracted after it was directly contradicted by public testimony from former FBI director James Comey.

In his testimony, Comey also said that a New York Times bombshell story alleging Trump officials had colluded with Moscow was totally false and that most reports on the matter should not be trusted.

Those incidents have emboldened the White House, with Trump’s allies in conservative media saying the mainstream media is nothing but “fake news.”

Now, some on the left, like Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi and Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald, are sounding the alarm. Both argued this week that media outlets are behaving recklessly in covering the Russia investigation, which has driven much of the coverage on CNN and MSNBC.

“Over and over, major U.S. media outlets have published claims about the Russia Threat that turned out to be completely false — always in the direction of exaggerating the threat and/or inventing incriminating links between Moscow and the Trump circle,” Greenwald wrote. “In virtually all cases, those stories involved evidence-free assertions from anonymous sources that these media outlets uncritically treated as fact, only for it to be revealed that they were entirely false.” 

 

 

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Trump leaves three words out of his Saudi Arabia speech

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President Donald Trump gave a highly-anticipated address to Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia during his first trip abroad on Sunday. One phrase candidate Trump repeated countlessly on the campaign trail was missing: "radical Islamic terrorism."

Trump stressed the need to build a coalition to address a "crisis of Islamic extremism," but neglected to use the charged keystone of his campaign trail rhetoric in his speech to 50 Middle Eastern leaders.

Before his victory and after taking office, Trump repeatedly bashed former President Barack Obama and then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for not using the phrase. As a candidate, Trump argued that Obama's insistence not to use the term to refer to terrorist attacks committed in the name of groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda showed he wasn't well-equipped to fight terrorism.

In the past, American presidents, diplomats, and foreign policy experts have argued that it hurts the US' goals abroad and undermines Muslim allies.

On Sunday, Trump largely stuck to the script, closely following the prepared remarks that the White House sent out before his speech, refraining from riffing like he so often did at campaign rallies.

"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil."

Announcing a new center to combat the financing of terrorism, Trump emphasized the need for nations to collaborate to "honestly" confront "the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires." He also used the phrases "the Islamists" and "Islamic terror of all kinds."

The White House has characterized the trip as an effort to strengthen ties between the US and Middle East, and "reset" relations with the region.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster has also urged the president not to say "radical Islamic terrorism," arguing that militant groups like ISIS endorse a twisted view of Islam and that the phrase ultimately hinders US goals, according to CNN.

He also seemed to suggest that Trump would not be using the phrase during his speech. "The president will call it whatever he wants to call it," McMaster told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" on Saturday.

"But I think it's important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people," he continued. "And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this fall idea of some kind of religious war."

 

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Speculation persists about Kamala Harris preparing for a presidential run In 2020

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A first-term U.S. Senator from California could be the rising star Democrats are hoping can lead the party in the 2020 presidential race.

She is Kamala Harris who, according to her Senate bio, "was the first African-American and first woman to serve as Attorney General of California and the second African-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate in history."

McClatchy is reporting that, while she has denied interest in running in 2020, she appears to making the moves that a potential candidate would, including speaking to key groups and on high-profile panels, fundraising for fellow Democrats, and connecting with journalists.

As Democratic political adviser Bob Shrum told the news outlet, "From everything I've seen of her she'd be an attractive candidate, she could be a compelling candidate, and I think she'd have a lot of appeal for primary voters."

Others have agreed, with the Washington Post calling her "formidable" due to her "California fundraising and activist base coupled with her historic status in the party..."

And in the wake of Hillary Clinton's failure to become the first female president, the Huffington Post has suggested Harris could be "the next best hope for shattering that glass ceiling."

Both outlets compared her rise to that of former President Obama who also ran with just one Senate term under his belt.

However, when the Los Angeles Times' Patt Morrison asked her about running for the top job a few months ago, Harris deflected the question, saying, "I don't know why my name is in that context. I'm focused on being the junior senator from California and very proud to be representing our beautiful state."

Even if she decides to join the race in 2020, she may have some tough competition for the Democratic nomination in the form of former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

 

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White House: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

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President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey, according to the White House.

The president informed Comey of his termination a week after he generated national headlines with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Reports emerged on Tuesday that the FBI had found part of that testimony to be inaccurate.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, President Trump informed Comey, "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigations" before stating that he agreed with the recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to relieve the director of his post.

"I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau," wrote Trump.

Comey may have been blindsided by his firing on Tuesday, according to reports that say FBI and Justice officials had no prior knowledge of Trump's bombshell announcement.

"Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The FBI is one of our Nations most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement, said President Trump.

 
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The Human Cost Of Trump’s Rollback On Regulations

 If Tom Ward had to die from his work, he’d rather fall off a scaffold than endure the slow death his father did from the debilitating lung disease silicosis. “I would choose to go much quicker,” he said, “rather than to have my family watch me suffer.” Ward fears that other workers will face the same suffocating illness as his father, thanks to the regulatory rollback underway by the Trump administration.

Ward’s father spent several years working as a sandblaster in Michigan. It was most likely on that job that he breathed a lethal amount of crystalline silica, a carcinogenic dust that comes from sand and granite. Excessive silica has been ruining workers’ lungs for as long as rock and concrete have been cut. Frances Perkins, U.S. labor secretary under Franklin D. Roosevelt, spoke publicly of the dangers of silica back in the late 1930s.

After numerous efforts under other presidents failed, the Obama administration finally tightened the regulations covering silica last year, further restricting the amount of dust that employers can legally expose workers to. The tougher standards were 45 years in the making, the subject of in-depth scientific research and intense lobbying by business groups and safety experts. When the rules were finalized in March 2016, occupational health experts hailed them as a life-saving milestone.

But now the enforcement of the rules has been delayed ― and the rules themselves could be in jeopardy.

Last week, the Trump administration announced that it was pushing back the implementation of the new silica regulations. For now, the delay is just three months ― from late June to late September, since “additional guidance is necessary due to the unique nature of the requirements,” as the Labor Department put it. A spokeswoman said the agency wouldn’t comment beyond that.

But to occupational health experts who’ve waited years for the tighter rules, the new delay casts a cloud of uncertainty over their future. The leading home-building trade group and other business lobbying groups have sued to halt the regulations, saying they are too costly for employers. Defending the silica rule would now be the responsibility of the Trump administration, which has eagerly dismantled one Obama-era regulation after another at the urging of corporations. (The rule could also be subject to an appropriations rider by the GOP-controlled Congress.)

While the administration has not signaled that it intends to reverse the silica rule, it has issued an executive order directing all agencies to review the regulations currently on their books, presumably for potential watering down or scrapping. Trump’s own labor nominee, Alexander Acosta, cited that order during his confirmation hearing as one reason he would not yet commit to enforcing the silica rule if he becomes labor secretary.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted the huge public health implications at stake. “You can’t tell me whether or not, high on your list of priorities, would be to protect a rule that keeps people from being poisoned,” she told Acosta.

I never dreamed I would have to spend my retirement years in this debilitating manner.Leonard Serafin, silicosis victim

The delay of the new silica regulations was not a surprise to Ward, given the Trump administration’s promises to deregulate businesses in order to boost hiring. But it was nevertheless painful to see. Ward now leads training at the Michigan Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Union, a personal mission given that his father died at age 39 after “an awful few years” of suffering from silicosis.

“Knowing it was 100 percent preventable is the part that really hurts,” he said. 

Silica has been called the “silent killer.” It’s not visible to the naked eye ― particles can be one hundred times smaller than a grain of sand ― and the effects on the lungs are cumulative. But there are clear ways to curb exposure to silica, like wetting down rock that’s being cut, installing ventilation or dust-collecting equipment on the worksite, and wearing respiratory equipment designed to filter out the dust.    

When the proper precautions aren’t taken, the results can be debilitating. Railroad worker Leonard Serafin shared the story of his own battle with silicosis in a letter his family provided to The Huffington Post in 2012.

At the time, the Obama White House was sitting on the silica rule, and advocates worried that the reforms might not be finished before Obama left office. Serafin had worked as a trackman on a railroad for 32 years, laying out the crushed rock and gravel in which the tracks were laid. He said the work led to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a litany of other lung maladies.

“I never dreamed I would have to spend my retirement years in this debilitating manner,” Serafin wrote. “I find it difficult to attend social events such as concerts and plays with my family because of my chronic cough. Even coughing while standing at a cash register line at a retail store causes people to distance themselves from me. ... When I exert myself, my daily coughing becomes a spastic type of cough, which leaves me exhausted, breathless with chest pain.”

Although U.S. regulators had been aware of silica’s dangers for decades, it wasn’t until 1971 that the federal government imposed legal limits on workers’ exposure to it: 100 micrograms per cubic meter for laborers in most industries, and 250 micrograms for those working in construction and shipyards. Many experts believed those limits were too meager, however. The caps weren’t lowered to the 50 micrograms recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until Obama’s presidency.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has estimated that the new rules would cut down silica exposure for roughly 2.3 million workers, preventing an estimated 600 deaths annually. Extrapolating on that data, the AFL-CIO labor federation says even the three-month delay in enforcement “will lead to an additional 160 worker deaths.”

David Michaels, the head of OSHA under Obama, called the reform “the most important health standard OSHA has issued in decades.”

But in the eyes of the construction industry, it’s one of the most expensive. OSHA says that instituting the new controls would cost businesses an estimated $511 million annually. Meanwhile, industry lobbies say the real cost to them would be in the billions each year ― most of it due to additional equipment and labor.

While praising the Trump administration’s decision, a consortium of construction industry trade groups urged Trump to extend the delay well beyond the original three months, saying it “remains concerned about the overall feasibility of the standard in construction and has requested that the agency delay enforcement for a year.”

Supporters of the rule note that those upfront costs don’t take into account the long-term financial benefits to workers and society. Preventing disability and death saves money, after all.

OSHA estimated that the reforms would have a net benefit of $7.7 billion each year, largely due to savings on health care and lost productivity. The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, calls the silica rule a “case study” in how seemingly expensive safety regulations can have economic benefits over the long term.

Ward thought the debate over the rule’s financial costs had finally been put to rest. For years, he heard dollars and cents being weighed against lives lost or saved. Now that he’s hearing it again, he’s worried about the bricklayers who will come up after him.

“The rule really was to prevent future illnesses,” said Ward. “It may be too late for me and my generation. This is about the future generation of craft workers.”

 

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