Nets Air Attacks on Trump’s ‘Lipstick on a Pig’ Business Plan, Ignore Lawyer’s Defense

January 12th, 2017 3:52 PM

Network broadcasts slammed Trump’s plan to prevent his businesses from being conflicts of interest during his presidency, and provided scant balance to defend him.

During his first press conference on Jan. 11, President-elect Donald Trump introduced his lawyer who explained Trump’s multi-pronged approach to prevent conflicts of interest. Trump’s plan included giving control of his businesses through a trust to his sons, hiring an ethics adviser to review business deals and barring any Trump Organization deals with foreign entities.

ABC, CBS and NBC evening news broadcasts criticized Trump’s plan on the night of his press conference  as “not enough” and “lipstick on a pig,” while excluding any defenders of it. None of those news broadcasts mentioned Trump lawyer Sherri Dillon’s defense of the plan and her criticism of proposed alternatives.

CBS Evening News, for example, showed former George W. Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter suggesting that Trump could sell his business. Although Dillon countered this approach during Trump’s press conference, neither Evening News nor other network shows reported on her response.

Dillon argued that Trump selling his assets would “exacerbate” conflict of interest concerns rather than relieve them.

“If President-elect Trump sold his brand, he would be entitled to royalties for the use of it, and this would result in the trust retaining an interest in the brand without the ability to assure that it does not exploit the office of the presidency,” Dillon said on Jan. 11.

She also argued that the price paid for Trump’s businesses would receive criticism as well: “Was it too high, is there pay for play, was it too much to pay to curry favor with the president-elect.”

Journalists on twitter predictably criticized the plan. Both MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Think Progress Editor-in-Chief Judd Legum argued the new ethics adviser wasn’t enough. “Oh they're gonna have an Ethics Advisor? Well then, that solves everything,” Hayes tweeted mockingly. The Huffington Post tweeted that Trump’s plan “opened the door to years of ethics conflicts.”

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According to Dillon, Trump’s plan was not even necessary for him to comply with U.S. law, which would permit Trump’s current business arrangement upon entering the office. Yet, neither CBS Evening News nor ABC World News mentioned Trump’s exemption from obligations under federal conflicts of interest law. Only NBC Nightly News did.

Nightly News turned to legal ethics expert Kathleen Clark to criticize the plan. She said Trump’s plan was “like lipstick on a pig” and a nice “ornament” on Trump’s newly announced trust with his sons.

However, Dillon wasn’t the only attorney defending Trump’s proposal. According to Fortune, White & Case partner John Oliveri argued Trump's plan made “sense.”

Oliveri specifically targeted the idea that Trump should sell the rights to his name, saying it would create “problems.”

“You create the perception that someone bought the president's name, and paid a big price, because his becoming president made that name worth so much more," Oliveri said.