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November 17, 2021

Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and two-time supporter of Donald Trump for president, has a new book out. It’s called “Republican Rescue: Saving the Party From Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden.”

So when it comes to saving the Republican Party from truth deniers and conspiracy theorists, you might think one would look to — and call out — a certain very popular cable news network. At least that’s what MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace thought when Christie appeared on her MSNBC show, “Deadline White House,” on Tuesday afternoon.

Wallace asked Christie, “The book is about conspiracy and lies. And you really don’t take on Fox News. Why not?”

As Christie started to answer, Wallace said, “Have you seen the Tucker Carlson program?

Christie answered, “No, I don’t watch it.”

Wallace came back with, “Are you aware of what he does?”

Christie said, “Not really. I don’t pay a lot of attention to it.”

OK, let’s stop right here for just a moment. It’s hard to believe Christie is “not really” aware of Carlson, his program and the many things Carlson says on that program. Christie is a big sports fan and says he spends most of his evenings watching sports. I believe that. But I’m a big sports fan, too, and spend my share of evenings watching sports. Yet I’m fully aware of the content on Carlson’s program and I’m not even a national figure in the Republican Party who might run for president in 2024.

Then again, Christie isn’t stupid. He’s not going to make an enemy of Carlson.

Wallace probably wasn’t buying Christie’s claim either, as she continued pounding away. She pointed out how the book’s title includes “truth deniers” and “conspiracy theorists” and said that Christie attacks CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times, but not Fox News.

Christie said he didn’t attack those outlets as “conspiracy theorists” and “truth deniers,” but that he does talk about bias. Christie accused Wallace of conflating the issues, to which Wallace said, “I don’t think it’s an intellectually honest case to make about conspiracy theories without taking on Fox News.”

Christie said, “Well, you can write that in your book.”

Wallace held up the book and said, “Well, I’m not trying to rescue the Republican Party.”

Quite the comeback.

That was just a portion of it. The contentious interview continued with Wallace repeatedly asking Christie why he never calls out Fox News, and Christie avoiding calling out Fox News, saying that’s not what his book is about.

Wallace asked Christie if he thought Fox News was good or bad for the country, but Christie danced around it by saying there are some programs on Fox News that he likes and some he does not. In the end, Wallace seemed to make a good point about Christie’s obvious avoidance to take on Fox News. Really, that should come as no surprise. The last thing Christie wants to do is make an enemy of anyone at a news network that is extremely popular among Republican voters, especially if he is considering a run for the White House.

The two did talk about other topics as well, including Trump, but it was the Fox News discussion where Wallace was at her best.

A crisis of trust

The Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder put out its report this week, opening with this ominous finding: “America is in a crisis of trust and truth. Bad information has become as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, creating a chain reaction of harm. It makes any health crisis more deadly. It slows down response time on climate change. It undermines democracy.”

So what can be done with a problem that has reached a crisis stage?

The co-chairs of the commission — Katie Couric, Chris Krebs and Rashad Robinson — wrote, “To be clear, information disorder is a problem that cannot be completely solved. Its eradication is not the end goal. Instead, the Commission’s goal is to mitigate misinformation’s worst harms with prioritization for the most vulnerable segments of our society.”

The commission identified recommendations for Big Tech, government regulators, newsrooms, civil society, and others.

Appearing on last weekend’s “Reliable Sources,” Robinson told host Brian Stelter, “So much of what we have to do now is call on leadership across government and private sectors to engage in dealing with this problem because every single aspect of life will continue to be impacted and harmed.”

Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton wrote, “It’s a good report, worth reading. If I seem less than wowed by some of the recommendations — as I seem to have an unappealing habit of being — it’s honestly not because I have a list of 62 better ideas on a legal pad somewhere. I…don’t! I just think the ‘information disorder’ is both (a) a very real issue that naturally attracts the attention of Big Commissions and Big Think Tanks and Big Reports, and (b) a problem that is uniquely immune to Big Commissions and Big Think Tanks and Big Reports.”

China eases restrictions on U.S. journalists

Following President Joe Biden’s virtual summit with President Xi Jinping of China came the announcement that China will ease restrictions on U.S. journalists in that country. The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear writes, “… three news organizations — The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times — will be allowed to send journalists back to China, though it remained unclear whether the specific correspondents expelled last year will be permitted to return to work there.”

The State Department put out a statement that said, “We are gratified their correspondents will be able to return to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to continue their important work. We welcome this progress but see it simply as initial steps.”

It went on to add, “We will continue to work toward expanding access and improving conditions for U.S. and other foreign media, and we will continue to advocate for media freedom as a reflection of our democratic values.”

In a statement, Wall Street Journal publisher Almar Latour said, “We’re encouraged by the reported direction of these negotiations and continue to believe that independent, accurate reporting from within China serves our readers and serves China itself.”

Shear wrote, “The United States, which had limited visas for Chinese journalists to 90 days, will provide yearlong visas for the foreign reporters, renewable annually. Both countries agreed to make it easier for journalists to come and go from the countries without fear of losing the ability to return to work. Journalists for both countries will have to meet the standard eligibility requirements for visas under the laws of both countries.”

New York Times workers rally outside company headquarters in protest of ‘anti-union tactics’

(Courtesy: NewsGuild of New York)

For this item, I turned it over to my Poynter colleague Angela Fu.

Workers at the three New York Times unions — the Times Guild, Times Tech Guild, and Wirecutter Union — rallied outside the Times building Tuesday in protest of what they say are anti-union tactics by company management.

All three units, which are part of the NewsGuild of New York, have ongoing labor disputes with The New York Times Company. The Times Guild, which represents more than 1,300 employees, is renegotiating its contract after its previous one expired in March, and the Wirecutter Union is calling on the company to accelerate first contract negotiations after nearly two years at the bargaining table. The Times Tech Guild, which represents more than 650 tech workers, is still waiting for its National Labor Relations Board election, which will determine if the union is officially certified.

In between chants of “Hey Gray Lady, time to pay me” and “What’s appalling? Bosses stalling,” union leaders outlined the ways The New York Times has allegedly delayed negotiations. The NewsGuild of New York has filed at least five unfair labor practice charges against the company since August.

“Every single person here who makes the Times what it is deserves representation,” said NewsGuild of New York president Susan DeCarava. “They deserve fair wages. They deserve a newsroom and workplace that is safe and healthy and strong and runs according to the values that we all represent.”

New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha wrote in an emailed statement that the company supports the right of employees to decide whether to join a union.

“We’re actively working with The New York Times NewsGuild and the Wirecutter Union to put in place collective bargaining agreements that fairly reward our employees for their work and contributions to The Times’s success, and we look forward to continuing those negotiations at the bargaining table,” she wrote.

The rally comes less than two weeks before the Wirecutter Union’s Black Friday deadline for a new contract. If a deal cannot be reached by then, the union will go on strike and urge readers not to shop through the site between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The company has stated that they will not meet with the union before Dec. 3.

New in The Atlantic

Here are a couple of interesting stories out in The Atlantic this week.

The first is from Jill Lepore called “The Elephant Suit.” The subhead reads, “Happy the elephant isn’t a human being. But in the eyes of the law, can she be a person?”

Meanwhile, Ed Yong has another story out, this one titled, “Why Health-Care Workers Are Quitting In Droves.”

Yong writes, “Health-care workers aren’t quitting because they can’t handle their jobs. They’re quitting because they can’t handle being unable to do their jobs. Even before COVID-19, many of them struggled to bridge the gap between the noble ideals of their profession and the realities of its business. The pandemic simply pushed them past the limits of that compromise.”

Health care workers tell Yong that COVID-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated, are becoming harder to deal with. One intensive care unit nurse in Idaho said, “We’re at war with a virus and its hosts are at war with us.”

Sheetal Rao, a primary care physician who left her job last October, told Yong, “I’m worried about the future of medicine. And I think we all should be.”

The Los Angeles Times was on the story

Earlier this week, I linked to a disturbing story about Marilyn Manson in Rolling Stone by Kory Grow and Jason Newman. That story came out Sunday night. But on Tuesday, I was made aware that the Los Angeles Times’ August Brown and Suzy Exposito had a major story on Manson earlier this month: “Marilyn Manson accusers detail his alleged abuse. ‘He’s so much much worse than his persona.’”

The Times story, which was published Nov. 5, was a well-detailed account of many of the troubling accusations against the rock personality, and certainly worth a read. Sorry I missed it earlier.

Media tidbits

“CBS Morning” co-host Nate Burleson, left, interviews the cast of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” (Courtesy: CBS News)

  • On this morning’s “CBS Mornings,” co-host Nate Burleson will chat with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Paul Rudd, Ernie Hudson and McKenna Grace about their upcoming movie “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” from the New York City firehouse, Ladder 8, used in the original “Ghostbusters.” CBS says it’s the first time Murray, Aykroyd and Hudson have returned to the firehouse, together, since the 1980s.
  • CNN’s Fareed Zakaria will host a prime-time special this Sunday about Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “China’s Iron Fist: Xi Jinping and the Stakes for America — A Fareed Zakaria Special” will air at 9 p.m. Eastern on CNN and CNN International.
  • Here’s the Fox News version of “Who’s On First.” Is this real? I don’t know. But it’s funny.
  • Jennifer Szalai reviews Jonathan Karl’s book about Donald Trump: “In Another Trump Book, a Journalist’s Belated Awareness Steals the Show.” And Chris Megerian writes about the book in the Los Angeles Times.
  • Writing for New York Magazine, Clio Chang with “Felicia Sonmez’s War Against the Washington Post.”
  • This past Sunday, CBS’s “60 Minutes” drew its largest audience since Jan. 10. The news magazine show attracted 12.55 million viewers for Bill Whitaker’s report on the supply chain crisis, Scott Pelley’s interview with author and editor Andrew Sullivan, and Jon Wertheim’s report on previously unseen historic footage of the Beatles.
  • CNN Audio has debuted a podcast version of the late Anthony Bourdain and his “Parts Unknown” series. The first two episodes are out, including “Myanmar” and “Koreatown.”
  • Erik Wemple’s latest for The Washington Post: “Did the Justice Department overreach in raiding James O’Keefe’s home?”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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