By:
November 18, 2021

For more than a year now, we’ve heard some in conservative circles question the authenticity of the 2020 presidential election. In November 2020, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump to become president. That’s a fact. But with Trump leading the way — and many along for the ride — the disproven Big Lie that the presidency was stolen and that our election system is rigged continues to erode the country’s trust in democracy. It already stained one of the hallmarks of our country: the peaceful transition of power.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss the likes of a pillow guy and Rudy Giuliani as crackpots pushing goofball conspiracy theories about faulty voting machines and stuffed ballot boxes and dead people voting. But when legitimate news outlets question or amplify the baseless possibilities of unfair elections, the damage is incalculable.

That’s why it’s a tad frustrating to now hear Rupert Murdoch — the executive chairman of News Corp. who oversees outlets such as Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post — saying it’s time for Trump to let go of the past.

It’s not that Murdoch is wrong. In fact, he’s right. It just would have been nice if Murdoch made a big deal about this in November 2020 instead of November 2021.

Speaking at News Corp.’s annual meeting Wednesday, Murdoch said, “The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity. It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate, but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future.”

Wait, wasn’t it less than a month ago when The Wall Street Journal’s opinion section published a letter from Trump once again claiming the election was “rigged?”

And didn’t Trump often turn to Fox News anchor and willing accomplice Maria Bartiromo to complain about how the election might have been stolen?

And isn’t Fox News being sued by Dominion Voting Systems for things said on the air? (Fox News has defended its election coverage and vowed to defend itself against what it called a “baseless lawsuit.”)

Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson, who is probably Fox News’ biggest personality, recently had a three-part documentary on Fox Nation (Fox News’ streaming service) about the Jan. 6 insurrection. PolitiFact’s Bill McCarthy wrote a story with the headline, “Tucker Carlson’s ‘Patriot Purge’ film on Jan. 6 is full of falsehoods, conspiracy theories.”

Jared Holt, who monitors extremism on social media for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told NPR’s David Folkenflik, “These kinds of conspiracy theories about Jan. 6 used to be relegated to weird blogs and known conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones. In a way, you don’t need conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones to even exist if Tucker Carlson is going to do the job of conspiracy theorists for them.”

MSNBC opinion columnist Zeeshan Aleem called Carlson’s documentary “slick propaganda.”

To be fair, Trump was furious with Fox News because it was one of the first news outlets to call Arizona for Biden. The responsible journalists at Fox News have stayed away from peddling lies about the 2020 election. And there have always been rumors that, deep down, Murdoch really isn’t a fan of Trump. Then again, Murdoch is a fan of his business, which is why Fox News still needs to court Trump and, especially, Trump’s supporters.

So in the end, yes, it’s good to see Murdoch publicly pushing Trump — and, in essence, others — to move on from the silly conspiracies about the 2020 election. Perhaps those who work for Murdoch, especially on television, can strongly echo that message.

Speaking of Bartiromo …

In his new book about Trump called “Betrayal,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl writes that Bartiromo called then-Attorney General Bill Barr to complain that he wasn’t doing anything to stop the election from being stolen from Trump.

In the book, Karl quotes Barr as saying, “She called me up and she was screaming. I yelled back at her. She’s lost it.”

Bartiromo is denying that ever happened, according to a story by The Associated Press’ David Bauder. Bartiromo, through a spokesperson, told Bauder, “At no point did I lobby or make any demands of Bill Barr … nor did I call him screaming. The insinuation is absurd.”

Jackson speaks out on debut of show

In an interview with InStyle, NBC News’ Hallie Jackson opens up to Rainesford Stauffer about mental health and burnout in her new show.

“Hallie Jackson NOW” on the streaming service NBC News NOW is finally up and running. The daily show was supposed to debut Monday but was pushed back to Wednesday because Jackson was out sick. (She called it “the most spectacularly-ill-timed sick day of my career.”)

Stauffer wrote about Jackson’s show and how it hit home for Jackson: “In the segment on mental health and burnout, parts of the sessions Jackson participated in were too personal for the show to air.”

Jackson told Stauffer, “I come out of one of these sessions and my face is streaked with tears and my producer is like, ‘Oh my god, are you OK?’”

Stauffer wrote, “In that moment, she reevaluated her role, telling herself ‘OK, let me not be a journalist for this hour. I’m going to be like a participant here.’ She reiterates that it’s uncomfortable, despite a retreat leader’s private reassurance that if she can bring her authentic self to the space, her journalism would be better as it related to the topic. ‘I thought that was really powerful because I am not somebody who ever really feels OK connecting my personal life to my journalistic life,’ Jackson adds.”

Jackson went on to tell Stauffer, “My own sort of mental health issues predated the pandemic.” She said the network was supportive, but “I felt really ashamed of talking about it. I still do.”

Check out Stauffer’s story for more.

Britney’s next stop: Oprah?

Britney Spears in 2019. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Britney Spears posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday night to update fans following her conservatorship being terminated after 13 years. Spears told fans, “It’s a really long time to be in a situation you don’t want to be in. So I’m just grateful for each day and being able to have the keys to my car, to be able to be independent and feel like a woman. Owning an ATM card, seeing cash for the first time … It’s the little things. But I’m not here to be a victim. I lived with victims my whole life as a child, that’s why I got out of my house. And I worked for 20 years and worked my ass off.”

In the caption of her video, Spears wrote, “I might as well do a hint of my thoughts on the gram before I go and set things square on @Oprah.”

It isn’t clear whether or not Spears is definitely sitting down with Oprah Winfrey for an interview. But there’s no question that, just like Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, an interview with Spears would draw a big TV audience — maybe in the 15-million range, or just a little less than the number of Americans who watched the Harry and Meghan interview.

New name

Well, this is going to take some getting used to. The Staples Center in Los Angeles — best known as the home of the NBA Lakers and Clippers, the WNBA Sparks, the NHL Kings, and many concerts and shows, including the Grammy Awards — is getting a new name.

Starting Christmas Day, the arena will be called the Crypto.com Arena. Reports are that Crypto.com, a cryptocurrency platform and exchange headquartered in Singapore, is paying $700 million over 20 years. That’s believed to be the richest naming rights deal in sports history. The 22-year-old arena has always been called the Staples Center, after the office supply company.

You might ask, “What’s in a name?” The answer is: a lot.

Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke tweeted, “Losing Staples Center hurts. Losing the arena name that is synonymous with Kobe Bryant hurts. Losing the name of the place where I witnessed some of the greatest L.A. sports moments over the last 20 years hurts.”

He added, “Staples wasn’t some historical figure or pioneer, it is just an office-supply store, but it was a good solid arena name and it stuck. It was Kobe’s Staples. It was Shaq’s Staples. It was Lob City’s Staples. It was Candace’s Staples. It was two Stanley Cup trophies Staples. Staples was Game 7s, and icy overtimes, and the WNBA birth, and the rise of Clipper Nation, and one numbing memorial service where a grieving world witnessed a weeping Michael Jordan. The building is still there, I get it, but its identity is gone, and so are the settings for so many memories. There is a reason Los Angeles embraces the unchanging names of Dodger Stadium, the Rose Bowl, and the Coliseum. They tell us who we are. They show us where we’ve been. With today’s disappearance of Staples Center, I’m feeling a little lost, and I know I’m not alone.”

Speaking of Kobe Bryant, Bryant’s widow Vanessa had her thoughts on the name change by writing on Instagram: “Forever known as ‘The House That Kobe Built.’”

Big hire for NYT opinion audio

Irene Noguchi. (Courtesy: The New York Times)

Irene Noguchi is joining The New York Times as an executive producer for its opinion audio team. Noguchi will lead the programming that includes some of journalism’s more high-profile podcasts, including Kara Swisher’s “Sway,” “The Ezra Klein Show,” “The Argument” and the upcoming podcast hosted by Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who has joined the Times opinion section after a distinguished stint at NPR.

Noguchi has been the head of audio at Politico, where she has overseen the company’s podcasts and speaker content. Before Politico, Noguchi was at Vox, and before that, worked at NPR stations in San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas for a decade.

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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…
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