Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Matt Lauer

Failed Matt Lauer’s Interview: Trump can Win

Beware of the Brexit referendum: The communities barely visited by journalists (the deep communities)are the ones who will eventually vote against the elite point of view.

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates.

Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists.

I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources.

Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Lauer focused a third of his questioning time on Clinton’s private email server. Her decision to follow Colin Powell’s advice is a legitimate blot on her record.

But Lauer did not move the ball forward on the question in any meaningful way:

The word judgment has been used a lot around you, Secretary Clinton, over the last year and a half. And in particular concerning your use of your personal email and server to communicate while you were secretary of state. You have said it’s a mistake.

You said you made not the best choice.

You were communicating on highly sensitive topics. Why wasn’t it more than a mistake? Why wasn’t it disqualifying, if you want to be commander-in-chief?

Lauer followed up with four more email-related questions.

The impression an uninformed or even moderately informed viewer would receive from this interview is that the email issue represents a sinister crime, perhaps completely disqualifying from office, rather than an unjustifiable but routine act of government non-transparency.

The email exchange would not by itself be so alarming except when viewed in juxtaposition with Lauer’s hapless interview of Trump.

Trump began the interview by boldly insisting, “I was totally against the war in Iraq. You can look at Esquire magazine from 2004. You can look at before that.” This is a lie.

Trump has been quoted supporting the invasion beforehand and even afterward.

Nobody has produced any evidence of Trump contradicting his support for the war before it started. His line to Lauer was transparently ridiculous – how could a 2004 interview supply evidence of having opposed a war that began in 2003?

But Lauer did not try even a single follow-up.

A  case study in journalistic failure.|By Jonathan Chait

Trump went on to make a series of wild and dangerous statements.

He praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong, effective, and popular leader. Lauer did press him on this point, and when he did, Trump offered the astonishing rebuttal, saying President Obama had done equivalently brutish things.

Lauer did not press Trump on his claim that the president of the United States behaves in a fundamentally similar way to a dictator who imprisons and kills political critics and journalists.

Trump likewise reiterated his belief that “to the victor go the spoils” is the proper basis for American foreign policy, specifically with regard to his long-standing lament that the United States failed to steal Iraq’s oil after the 2003 invasion. (But the US did steal the oil and even dumped enormous quantities  of crude oil in valleys that are now condemned)

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Lauer’s attempt to press Trump was the completely ineffectual technique of asking repeatedly if he is ready to serve as commander-in-chief. Lauer probably believes the answer is no, but nothing about this question would drive home Trump’s extraordinary lack of knowledge.

Instead it allowed him to performatively demonstrate his confident, alpha-male reality-show character as a prospective chief executive.

Both of these beliefs stun and appall foreign-policy experts in both parties, as readers of the Washington Post or the New York Times know.

But the average undecided voter isn’t reading those newspapers.

The average undecided voter is getting snippets of news from television personalities like Lauer, who are failing to convey the fact that the election pits a normal politician with normal political failings against an ignorant, bigoted, pathologically dishonest authoritarian.

Update: National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke writes, “Welcome to the Club.”

Cooke’s point is that my dismay at Lauer’s performance contradicts another piece I wrote four years ago, about the liberal influence of Hollywood.

“Now (Chait) believes that pop culture — which is just as shallow and dumb as it’s always been; Lauer is no anomaly — is hurting him and his party. And we can’t have that!,” sneers Cooke.

Cooke’s accusation of hypocrisy suffers from two flaws, each of them fatal.

First, my 2012 essay, which Cooke does not link, does not celebrate liberal influence, it describes it, and indeed argues the conservative critics have reason to feel resentful:

This capacity to mold the moral premises of large segments of the public, and especially the youngest and most impressionable elements, may or may not be unfair. What it is undoubtedly is a source of cultural (and hence political) power.

Liberals like to believe that our strength derives solely from the natural concordance of the people, that we represent what most Americans believe, or would believe if Not for the distorting rightward pull of Fox News and the Koch brothers and the rest.

Conservatives surely do benefit from these outposts of power, and most would rather indulge their own populist fantasies than admit it.

But they do have a point about one thing: We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.

Cooke’s notion that I have been hoisted by my own petard implies that Hollywood is my petard, rather than an institution I analyzed critically as a source of liberal propaganda.

Second, the entire focus of that essay was on Hollywood – movies primarily, but also television shows like Modern Family, Glee, and so on.

My criticism of Lauer focused on television news. Those are different things entirely. Did I think morning television or soft-focus feature news has a pronounced liberal bias? No, I don’t think that, I didn’t think that and I didn’t write that.


Bahrain: Western PR firms to the rescue of this absolute monarchy

The Bahrain government has being wasting public money on protecting the absolute monarchic regime’s reputation by hiring western PR firms to trying to sanitize and salvage its awfully tarnished international image, since Feb 2011 uprising.  Most of the presidents of these firms have been serving US governments in various public positions.

A couple of days ago, the Bahrain government acknowledged using activities contrary to human rights laws. It seems that Western States have been too embarrassed singling out Syria regime when Bahrain has been executing physicians and surgeons who tended to injured peaceful demonstrators. You may read this post for knowing “what’s going in Bahrain”

Many Western PR firms/individuals were hired by the Bahrain government.  For example, you have this small sample of the Potomac Square Group, Sorini, Samet & Associates, Qorvis, Joe Trippi & Associates, Sanitas International, Bell Pottinger, Gardant Communications, BCB Group, Olton, Tom Squitieri (TS Navigations LLC)
I received a link detailing the names and bio of these PR men:
Four on the list come from US politics. Christopher Harvin (@cmharvin) worked for the White House and several other US government departments. Joe Trippi, (@JoeTrippi) managed Howard Dean’s 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign. Andrew Samet of Sorini, Samet & Associates previously served as Deputy Undersecretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration. Matt Lauer (@MattJLauer), of Qorvis, is a former State Department official. Additionally, Gardant’s Lord Paddy Gillford, or Earl of Clanwilliam, was a former advisor to the UK Conservative Party.
The Bahrain Ministry of Interior came out with a press statements like “Ministry urges families to keep women out of illegal activities“.  Here is an expanded record of those PR firms:

Potomac Square Group

Bahrain’s embassy in Washington DC signed a contract with the DC-based Potomac Square Group on the 17th of February, three days after the start of the uprising. The firm is run by a Chris Cooper, a former Wall Street Journalist reporter. He writes on his LinkedIn profile: “Clients include a foreign government seeking help in dealing with an internal crisis”.

According to the US registration documents the embassy was to pay him $20,000 (plus expenses) for a month’s worth of services (renewable). You can view the full document here.

Sorini, Samet & Associates

In April, the AFL-CIO filed a complaint with the US Department of Labor calling on it to terminate the Bahrain-US Free Trade Agreement in light of the mass sackings of workers in Bahrain following the protests. To formulate the response to this, Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs hired the services of Sorini, Samet & Associates LLC, a government relations firm specializing in international trade legislation.

The point man at the firm is Andrew Samet, who has previously served as Deputy Undersecretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration. The Bahrain government was to pay the firm an hourly fee ranging between $100 and $550 with an initial non-returnable retainer of $25,000. See the US registration documents here.

One would imagine these guys helped arrange the July meetings of Bahrain’s ministers of labor and industry with US officials and policy wonks in Washington DC (after Samet visited Bahrain in May).


Qorvis is a well-known D.C.-based PR firms, notorious for being hired by Saudi Arabia to improve its image after 9/11. The firm was hired by Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in April/May 2011 for a monthly fee of $40,000 (plus out of pocket expenses). The US registration documents are here.

The firm’s point man for the contract is Matt Lauer (@MattJLauer), a former State Department official. It seems that Qorvis is likely to be the source of the press statements on behalf of the Bahrain government regularly posted on PR Newswire. (See Brian Whitaker’s blog post ‘Spinning Bahrain, the Qorvis way‘).

Joe Trippi & Associates

Joe Trippi & Associates is a D.C.-based media firm headed by Democratic political strategist Joe Trippi, (@JoeTrippi) who managed Howard Dean’s 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign. He was hired some time before August by Dr. Saqer Al Khalifa, Ph.D. on behalf of Bahrain’s ministry of information.

According to the registration documents, Trippi is tasked with providing “strategic counsel” and assisting “with outreach to members of the media and non-governmental organizations.” The documents don’t mention how much the Bahrain government is paying for the services.

Sanitas International

Joe Trippi hired the services of a D.C.-based PR firm Sanitas International on behalf of the Bahrain ministry of information in July. Sanitas’ stated job is to once again “provide strategic council, public affairs and other media communications services” for the Bahrain government. The registration documents do not state the fee that Sanitas receives for its services.

The point-man for the contract is partner Christopher Harvin (@cmharvin), who has formally worked for the White House and several other US government departments. Earlier this year Harvin said in an interview that one of the trends that excites him the most is the wave of democratic reform in the Middle East:

In Egypt, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube facilitated the removal of Hosni Mubarak. Even as the Egyptian government shut down certain channels of communication, the opposition continued to influence, organize and connect through alternative forms of communication. In Syria, social media is fueling mass demonstrations and revolt. In Iran, the Green Revolution began on Twitter.

And yet this guy has no problems about being hired to whitewash the image of the regime in Bahrain that has used Facebook and Twitter in its brutal crackdown against the democratic movement and has arrested bloggers.

Bell Pottinger

Bell Pottinger is a major London-based PR agency that had a number of contracts with the Bahraini government, including one for the Economic Development Board since 2009, believed to be worth a seven-figure sum in pounds annually. The firm came under pressure in February for holding the contracts even after seven protesters had been killed in Bahrain, and in April BP suspended some of its contracts including the EDB one.

The chairman of the agency said “most” — not all — of the Bahrain contracts had been suspended, and stressed that it was not necessarily a permanent disengagement.

Gardant Communications

It’s not clear whether Bahrain still has a contract with Gardant, but it is still listed on the UK Public Affairs Council website for now.

Gardant is a London-based PR firm that seems to have been working for the Bahrain government since before the Feb 2011 uprising. It acts as the secretariat for the UK-Bahrain All-Party Parliamentary Group, arranging their paid visit to Bahrain in October 2010.

The point man for this contract is Lord Paddy Gillford, Earl of Clanwilliam, a former adviser to the Conservative Party. In June, Gillford got into a public spat with Anwar Abdulrahman, the editor-in-chief of the Gulf Daily News, a pro-regime Bahraini newspaper, who is regarded as very close to Bahrain’s prime minister. Abdulrahman lashed out at him in the newspaper for failing to do enough to protect the regime’s international reputation. It’s hard to imagine that Abdulrahman’s public criticism of a Gillford could have happened without a nod from the government. So unless they kissed and made up afterwards, its quite possible that the contract has been terminated now.

BCB Group

BCB is a marketing and PR firm based in Connecticut, USA. Its not clear exactly what their work is in Bahrain, but I do know that they had representatives at the “National Dialogue” back in July.


Olton is a UK-based intelligence gathering firm (that also offers “reputation management”) run by ex-military men and founded by a Paul Manister (@H4Hkiliclimb). Again, its not exactly clear what their work is in Bahrain, but they do have an office in the Bahrain Financial Harbour, and I have reason to believe that they have a contract with the government.

The group was promoting its ‘web-trawling’ technology named ORA at the International Defense Exhibition (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi this February. An editor at the UAE’s The National newspaper who visited the IDEX conference tweeted:

At #Idex2011 A western comp is pitching software to monitor soc media to identify ringleaders, saying it could head off unrest in ME #Fail

Note 1:  Matt Lauer and Qorvis are also currently on the payroll of the Yemeni government receiving $30,000 per month, and of Hosni Mubarak’s close associate Ahmed Ezz receiving $92,000 per month;




June 2023

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