PLAYING THE MEDIA
There's a secret to reality shows. You don't have to be the prettiest or the smartest or the most talented. You just have to pop. The true battle is over airtime. Former reality TV star DONALD TRUMP understands that this also applies to the presidential race. Say outrageous stuff, get more airtime. As of the end of February, Trump had spent $10 million on advertising. But he received the equivalent of nearly $2 billion of free airtime, the New York Times reports. Over two and a half times more airtime than HILLARY CLINTON, six times more airtime than TED CRUZ and nine times more than MARCO RUBIO.
Sure, not all of that is positive coverage. But cable networks have also been showing entire Trump rallies, live, without commercial breaks. Remember when Ross Perot paid for 30-minute infomercials on prime-time TV? CNN, Fox News and MSNBC have been handing those to Trump for free.
Other candidates have tried Trump's strategy. Cable networks showed Rubio's speeches live when he was leveling attacks at Trump's spray-tan and tiny hands. But when Rubio started talking about — ugh — boring policy, he noted, the networks cut away. (DANIEL WALTERS)
BREITBART BACKS DOWN
It's not only the Republican Party experiencing turmoil with the prospect of supporting frontrunner DONALD TRUMP. Breitbart News, a conservative news and opinion website, had to choose whether to back one of its own reporters, Michelle Fields, or Trump, after she accused his campaign manager of grabbing her at a Florida rally last week. Breitbart decided to cast doubt on Fields' account, and it's caused major fallout at the news organization.
Video has surfaced of Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, appearing to grab Fields. A Washington Post reporter has also claimed to have seen Lewandowski grab her. Yet Breitbart published a story expressing uncertainty regarding Fields' account, and its editor-at-large told staffers not to comment about it. Since then, Fields and several top executives — including the site's spokesman — have quit.
The response may illustrate how vulnerable conservative media outlets are to the Trump campaign. As the New York Times notes, the growth in readership at Breitbart as it welcomed Trump as a candidate has paralleled his rise in the presidential race. Now that his nomination becomes more imminent, deciding to back its reporter likely would have cost the site readers. Fields, who filed a police report, told the Times that the incident has put her in a tough position: "Anything I do, it seems like it is the wrong decision." (WILSON CRISCIONE)