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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Ted Cruz is nasty. Ted Cruz is mean. Ted Cruz is “a huge asshole.”

Ted Cruz is a pretty horrible human being.

That’s the consensus, at least, from notables like former President George W. Bush and Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, commander of the coalition against ISIS.

Cruz has had to wheedle his family to get them to acquiesce – on camera! – that he’s a good guy, even though everyone from his former college roommate to his senatorial colleagues have whispered and shouted that the American public should stay far, far away from this loathsome, odious creature. (Even his “friends” in the Senate don’t want him to be president.)

Now, he’s tasked with saving us from The Donald — a role that, though potentially heroic, has managed only to force Cruz into a spotlight under which his seediness seems to have adopted a new shine. If Donald Trump is America’s premier insult comic, Ted Cruz is its greatest scoundrel. He lies, deceives, and swindles some more. To wit:

Here are 5 dirty tricks Ted Cruz had used to fool voters:

He lied about Ben Carson exiting the race
Dr. Ben Carson decided to not to campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina after the Iowa Caucus, preferring to return to Florida to (yes, really) get a change of clothes. The Cruz campaign, as detailed by Politifact, took this nugget – that Carson was taking “a very unusual” travel detour – and spun it so that Carson was “taking some time off” from the campaign.

In a series of tweets, emails and voicemails  (and with some assistance from Iowa Congressman Steve King) the campaign inferred and then explicitly stated that Carson had dropped out of the race, which was not the case, and urged caucus-goers to “not waste a vote” on Carson, but instead to vote for Cruz.

Although Cruz apologized, his campaign did acknowledge that “it made a coordinated effort to spread the story.” He ended up winning Iowa, leaving Donald Trump to accuse him of stealing the election.

He used false data and social pressure to trick Iowa residents into voting for him
In another play for Iowa Caucus voters, the Cruz campaign sent out mailers meant to look like official documents warning voters that their participation – or lack thereof – would be recorded and sent to their neighbors, in addition to assigning a grade that matched up with their alleged voting history. Using well-known political science research, the mailers (as seen below), preyed upon voters’ fears of social pressure to get them to vote.

Of course, the “grades” listed on the mailers were all low scores — most of them “F”s:

The mailers used fraudulent “data” – the Cruz campaign made up percentages – and erroneously attributed this “data” to the Iowa Secretary of State and county election clerks, which prompted Iowa’s Secretary of State, Paul D. Pate, to correct the record:

Accusing citizens of Iowa of a “voting violation” based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act. There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses.

Additionally, the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office never “grades” voters. Nor does the Secretary of State maintain records related to Iowa Caucus participation. Caucuses are organized and directed by the state political parties, not the Secretary of State, nor local elections officials. Also, the Iowa Secretary of State does not “distribute” voter records. They are available for purchase for political purposes only, under Iowa Code.” – Paul D. Pate, Iowa Secretary of State

While the tactic has been used before – and an online version of it is being used in China – Cruz takes it to another level. And it’s not something he apologizes for.

He mailed pre-filled “checks” and asked recipients to match them
According to the Huffington Post, the Cruz campaign mailed fake checks across the country to prospective voters meant to entice them to donate money by saying their contribution would be “matched” by “a group of generous supporters.” It was misleading enough for one group to file a complaint with the state attorney general for allegedly violating state law.

The Intercept reports that this tactic “is either impossible, illegal, or a scam,” since individual donations are legally capped at $2,700 for both the primary and general elections ($5,400 total) and the Cruz campaign would need a lot of “generous supporters” willing and able to “match” donations.

That means that the Cruz campaign either disregarded campaign finance law or is funneling all of the money they receive into a super PAC – which would also be illegal. “Super PACs … are allowed to accept unlimited contributions as long as they don’t coordinate directly with campaigns,” reporters Dan Froomkin and Zaid Jilani wrote. The law is explicit in what that means: Candidates running for national office “are not allowed to solicit more than $5,000 in Super PAC contributions from any one person.”

The Cruz campaign, however, is relentless. One mailer with a fake check isn’t enough – there are followups upon followups upon followups – post-its and emails and emails and emails and emails. Cruz tries to come across as casual: The sender’s line is doctored to make it appear that the message was quickly sent from his iPhone. But the barrage of emails instead comes off as desperate, edging on creepy.

His app takes your data and tries to sell your friends onto the “Cruz Crew”
Ted Cruz knows how to work Big Data. On his app, available on both the App Store and Google Play, users have to opt-out of sharing sensitive data, which includes their contact information and their location. This makes it easy for the campaign to amass a trove of sensitive and lucrative information, which it shares with other organizations and analytics companies to better finesse the messages it sends to potential supporters and voters.

The analytics company behind the Cruz operation, Cambridge Analytica, is funded by Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund investor, computer scientist, and the fourth-largest Republican donor in 2014 – and a major backer of Cruz. Mercer has donated at least $11 million to Cruz-related super PACs.

The campaign also uses sophisticated gaming techniques to entice app users to participate, allotting points for specific actions, like sharing messages on social media.

Cambridge Analytica’s formidable system analyzes billions of data points – from voter rolls to Facebook likes, keychain reward programs to Amazon purchases – and then sorts users into one of five personality types, which they use to target messages to the user’s lifestyle, interests, and backgrounds. These discoveries are shared among different departments within the organization, so that a canvasser knocking on doors already knows what the little old lady in the pink house on the corner really purchases at Target.

He photoshopped a beaming Marco Rubio shaking hands with Barack Obama
The Cruz campaign published a website targeting rival Marco Rubio with a doctored photo of him shaking hands with President Obama, captioned with text suggesting it was related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

When challenged, the Cruz campaign merely shrugged their shoulders, saying it was no big deal; they even gave away their process: “We googled ‘two people supporting amnesty,’” said campaign spokesperson Brian Phillips in an email to Politico.

Ted Cruz is sneaky and smart, and he’s using all the techniques and terabytes he can to stomp his way to the presidency. He likes to stand behind banners that say Trusted. But to those paying attention, the phrase is as transparent a ploy as the rest of his campaign.

Photo: Can we really trust Ted? REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.


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