The Huffington Post's senior media reporter Michael Calderone criticized the media for having "only scratched the surface" of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's business record, which "has received less sustained coverage this election cycle than his countless Twitter spats, outrageous remarks and rank bigotry."
Since Trump announced his candidacy last June, he and his campaign have dominated media coverage. Fox News gave Trump nearly 23 hours of free airtime from May 1, 2015, to December 15, 2015, twice as much as any other candidate. Network news also has concentrated heavily on Trump, with the ABC, CBS, and NBC nightly newscasts devoting 234 minutes of coverage to Trump from January through November of 2015. In interviews with Media Matters, veteran journalists ripped the media's "fawning" and "pathetic" coverage of Trump, which they noted has focused on his incendiary comments and rallies rather than his actual record.
In a March 3 article, Calderone lamented that, while "Trump has dominated the national media over the past nine months, especially on television," his business dealings have not. Calderone pointed out that while a handful of outlets have reported on Trump's "questionable record," which "has been hiding in plain sight," the media's initial unserious coverage of Trump "likely resulted in less rigorous coverage than there might have been":
Some veteran New York City journalists, such as The Smoking Gun's William Bastone, The Daily Beast's Michael Daly and The New York Times' Charlie Bagli, have recently explored Trump's business dealings and associations in the context of the current presidential campaign, Barrett said. But he argues that the broadcast media has "totally failed" in its obligation to vet the candidate. This election cycle, Barrett said, he's been approached by dozens of journalists, including some hailing from TV networks in Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom. So far, only one U.S. network journalist has called.
Trump has dominated the national media over the past nine months, especially on television, where his ratings lead to big profits. In countless interviews, debates and televised rallies, Trump has touted his business record in arguing that the United States needs a brash deal-maker instead of another do-nothing politician. In a Time cover story publishedThursday, Trump said he's "built an incredible business" and described himself as "the most successful person ever to run for President."
Yet Trump's business dealings -- complete with multiple casino bankruptcies, failed branding ventures, employment of undocumented immigrants, long-reported ties to mob-run businesses and the promotion of a real estate training program that's now the target of a $40 million fraud suit -- has received less sustained coverage this election cycle than his countless Twitter spats, outrageous remarks and rank bigotry. While Trump promised last summer to disclose his tax returns, he continues to stall, thereby preventing journalists from assessing his grand claims about his personal wealth, charitable giving and "Apprentice" salary.
"I think there's ample room for the media to scrutinize his business record much more closely," said Timothy O'Brien, author of the 2005 book TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald. In that book, O'Brien reported that Trump's wealth was closer to $150-$250 million than his stated $10 billion. Such revelations prompted Trump to sue, unsuccessfully, for $5 billion.
But the broader media trend during the early months of Trump's campaign was to treat him "as a carnival act," according to O'Brien -- which likely resulted in less rigorous coverage than there might have been. (HuffPost put its own coverage of Trump in the Entertainment section instead of Politics for several months, although its reporting on Trump was essentially the same as on other candidates.)
Trump's business career is sure to get more media attention now as anti-Trump forces, including former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and a newly formed super PAC, mount a last-ditch campaign to portray the front-runner as a fraud who's taken advantage of Americans through schemes like Trump University. Trump's primary campaign rivals failed last year to attack Trump's record, a mistake the Democrats promise they won't make if Trump wins his party's nomination.
Of course, journalists didn't have to wait for political campaigns to leak opposition research, given that Trump's questionable record has been hiding in plain sight.