Report says Donald Trump violated federal law in 1998, ABC and CBS stay quiet
News organizations have gotten plenty of criticism during the 2016 presidential race for not focusing on the issues that matter to many voters. Friday night, ABC and CBS may have added fuel to the blame-the-media fire.
Early Sept. 30 Newsweek released a report stating that Donald Trump violated the U.S. embargo against Cuba in 1998, when one of Trump’s companies sent consultants to explore business opportunities in Havana.
According to Newsweek, those consultants met with members of Fidel Castro’s government, financiers and other business people in Cuba — in direct violation of federal law.
NBC Nightly News covered the story in depth, examined the impact it could have on the election, particularly on Cuban-American voters in Florida, and included a response from Trump.
As NBC’s Andrea Mitchell said during the segment, “Any suggestion that Trump violated the embargo could cost him votes — especially with older Cuban Americans.” The report comes when polls show a close race in the pivotal swing state:
Despite the potential impact of the Cuba report on Trump’s chances in Florida and across the country, neither ABC nor CBS covered the story.
They concentrated on Trump’s ongoing feud with former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado — a subject all three networks have covered at length since Hillary Clinton mentioned Machado during the first debate.
Hooman Majd, author and a member of the Election Watch panel of professionals, praised NBC’s coverage.” Deciding what element of the campaigning is important, or what to include and what to not include, is a decision that that may be agonizing for the executives and producers,” he said. “But in this case — especially as the issue of the former Miss Universe was an issue of character and not legality—ABC and CBS should have covered it as one element in the campaign.”
Trump’s feud with Machado has dominated the media since last Tuesday. Scott Pelley opened Friday’s CBS Evening News by saying, “The biggest issue today was a beauty queen of 20 years ago.”
Despite the interest in the Machado story, Majd argued that the Cuban story was particularly important given the extensive coverage of Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. “Voters in general probably should be aware of a potentially illegal act on the part of one of the candidates,” Majd said. “To ignore the story completely is a dereliction of their duty to provide a public service to Americans without concern for profit—the reason they have free licenses from the government to broadcast over the air—and the fact that they chose to extensively cover a more sensational aspect of the campaigning indicates the decision was motivated perhaps by less noble intentions.”