December 7, 2021

If you only have time to read one story today, I suggest the latest cover story in The Atlantic from Barton Gellman: “Trump’s next coup has already begun.”

It might scare the heck out of you.

Gellman starts with:

Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.

The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already.

Gellman lays out that former President Donald Trump, with the help of the Republican Party, is in even better shape this time to subvert the 2024 presidential election than he was in 2020 when he, as we have since learned, nearly pulled it off.

In an editor’s note about the piece, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes, “As we know, the system held, but barely, America having been blessed, once again, by dumb luck. (The bravery of police officers on Capitol Hill, and the wisdom of a handful of state and local officials, also helped.) When President Joe Biden was safely inaugurated, two weeks after the attack on the Capitol, a belief took hold that Trump, and Trumpism, might very well go into eclipse. But that belief was wrong.”

The cover story leads an issue dedicated to examining the crisis of American democracy. It also includes:

  • Staff writer Tim Alberta’s profile of Republican Pete Meijer, who tried to rescue the party from itself in the days following the Jan. 6 insurrection.
  • Vann R. Newkirk II’s investigation into Republican efforts to prove that voter fraud is “real, systemic, and being committed on a massive scale.”
  • Staff writer Kaitlyn Tiffany on the “conspiratorial thinking (kicked into motion by QAnon) that has led well-meaning Americans to raise awareness about a child sex trafficking epidemic that simply does not exist.
  • And an essay by David Brooks, who writes that the conservatism that he fell in love with is gone and has been replaced with Fox News and voter suppression. He writes, “To be a conservative today, you have to oppose much of what the Republican Party has come to stand for.”

It’s an important issue a year out from the midterm elections and one year closer to the next presidential election.

Goldberg writes, “Stating plainly that one of America’s two major parties, the party putatively devoted to advancing the ideas and ideals of conservatism, has now fallen into autocratic disrepute is unnerving for a magazine committed to being, in the words of our founding manifesto, ‘of no party or clique.’ Criticism of the Republican Party does not suggest an axiomatic endorsement of the Democratic Party, its leaders and policies. Substantive, even caustic, critiques can of course be made up and down the Democratic line. But avoiding partisan entanglement does not mean that we must turn away from the obvious. The leaders of the Republican Party — the soul-blighted Donald Trump and the satraps and lackeys who abet his nefarious behavior — are attempting to destroy the foundations of American democracy. This must be stated clearly, and repeatedly.”

Somber news from The Washington Post

One of journalism’s more influential figures has died. Fred Hiatt, the longtime editor of The Washington Post’s editorial page, died Monday morning. He was 66. In Hiatt’s obit for the Post, Matt Schudel wrote Hiatt had a cardiac arrest on Nov. 24 and did not regain consciousness. He had a history of heart ailments.

Schudel wrote, “Mr. Hiatt was one of Washington’s most authoritative and influential opinion-makers. For two decades, he either wrote or edited nearly every unsigned editorial published by The Post — more than 1,000 a year — and edited the opinion columns published on the paper’s op-ed page and website. He also wrote a column and was a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing.”

In a note to staff, Post publisher and chief executive Frederick J. Ryan said, “Over the past two decades, Fred’s leadership made The Post’s editorial page into the most consequential in the news industry. A 40-year veteran of The Post, he built friendships throughout the company and made immense contributions as a writer, an editor, and a mentor to so many across the organization. His legacy also spans the globe: Few journalists have rivaled his idealism and complete dedication to the causes of democracy and human rights worldwide.”

Hiatt spent 15 years covering politics and national security, as well as serving as a Post correspondent in Tokyo and Moscow. He joined the editorial page in 1996 and took it over in 2000 after the death of editor Meg Greenfield. When Hiatt took over, he had a staff of about a dozen people.

“Mr. Hiatt offered to resign after The Post was purchased by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2013 but was asked to stay on,” Schudel wrote. “The paper’s fortunes turned around, and by 2021 the editorial department’s staff — all hired and supervised by Mr. Hiatt — had grown to more than 80 people. In addition to columns and editorials, the staff produces long-form essays, videos and podcasts. Opinions account for a substantial portion of The Post’s online readership and are often among the website’s most-read articles.”

Tributes poured in, especially from those who worked with Hiatt.

Deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus tweeted, “We at @postopinions are devastated at the loss of our leader and our friend, Fred Hiatt. Fred was the soul of our section, as kind as he was smart, the antithesis of pompous, the finest judgment, the finest person.”

Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah tweeted, “I’m shaking in shock as I type this… Fred Hiatt hired me in 2014 when I had little experience as a journalist. Since then, he mentored and guided me and so many others during my time at @PostOpinions. He was brilliant, and above all, kind. This is utterly devastating.”

The Post and syndicated op-ed columnist Catherine Rampell tweeted, “Fred Hiatt was a prince of a man. A champion of human rights, a kind friend and beloved mentor, a man who deployed his wit and brilliance to nudge all those around him toward a better, more humane, more democratic world. I’m devastated by his loss.”

And Bezos, the owner of the Post, tweeted, “Today the Washington Post and the world lost an exceptional journalist and remarkable man: long-time Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt. I will miss his thoughtfulness, professionalism, and warm friendship. Our thoughts are with his beloved family at this difficult time.”

Cuomo leaves SiriusXM show

Chris Cuomo. (zz/Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx)

Two days after being fired from CNN, Chris Cuomo was a no-show Monday on his weekday SiriusXM radio show. Then we found out why. Cuomo announced a short time later that he is leaving SiriusXM.

In a statement, Cuomo said, “The way my time ended at CNN was hard. While I have a thick skin, I also have a family, for whom the past week has been extraordinarily difficult. So, right now, I have to take a step back and focus on what comes next. That means I will no longer be doing my SiriusXM radio show. I am extremely grateful for the support I have received from SiriusXM throughout my time there. I also want to express my sincere appreciation for my loyal listeners. I will miss our conversations a great deal — but I look forward to being back in touch with you all in the future.”

So, from that statement, it really isn’t clear if Cuomo is leaving on his own or the two sides mutually parted ways.

Either way, it appears as if Cuomo is going away from the public arena for a while. It will be interesting to see if he will ever return to mainstream media. More specifically, it will be interesting to see if anyone throws him a microphone.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr and Sarah Ellison have a new story out with more about Cuomo’s dismissal from CNN. Barr and Ellison wrote that during a meeting with staffers on Monday, CNN president Jeff Zucker said, “Chris had been much more deeply involved than we had ever known, and than he’d ever told us.”

Zucker also told employees, “He’d clearly violated our standards and practices. The network had cause to fire him.”

So who replaces Cuomo? Michael Smerconish is filling in this week, but Zucker told staff no decisions have been made on Cuomo’s permanent replacement. The Post reports CNN will have a town hall meeting with employees today.

Olympic boycott

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaking to reporters on Monday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The United States will send athletes to February’s Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. But it won’t send dignitaries. The U.S. is imposing a diplomatic boycott in protest of China’s human rights abuses.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, “U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that. We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond.”

She later added, “This sends a clear message.”

The United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Summer Games entirely, including athletes, over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But the U.S. will send athletes to Beijing against the wishes of some politicians, such as Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Psaki told reporters, “I don’t think that we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training and preparing for this moment, and we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official U.S. delegation.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said a U.S. diplomatic boycott would be an “outright political provocation.”

It never felt as if the U.S. would forbid American athletes from attending the games, but you have to imagine NBC, which has the U.S. rights, is breathing a sigh of relief today.

A new desk at Vice

Today, Vice News is launching something called the Extremism Desk. The multi-platform desk will cover terrorism, ethnonationalism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, militias, and dangerous religious hate groups.

In a statement, ​​Jesse Angelo, Vice Media Group’s president of global news and entertainment, said, “Vice News has always been the global leader in extremism coverage, spanning multiple platforms and multiple formats. By bringing that work under one umbrella, the Extremism Desk allows us to extend and amplify our groundbreaking journalism, share sources and knowledge among our staff, and ultimately bring more vital reporting to the world. We are at a crucial point in history — the Extremism Desk will provide journalism that is needed now more than ever.”

The desk will launch with a “Vice News Tonight” special report looking back at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville four years ago.

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