It sounds like a plotline for “The Morning Show.” But it’s real life and has the media world talking.
ABC News has a scandal on its hands, and it is being made worse by how they are handling it.
It all started last week when The Daily Mail reported (with photos and video) that “GMA3” co-hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes, both of whom are married to other people, are having an affair with one another. It burned up the gossip pages of the tabloids and caused quite the commotion on social media.
I didn’t include it in this newsletter because the two are consenting adults, their relationship didn’t appear to violate any workplace issues and it was interesting only because it was such juicy gossip. It wasn’t real media news.
But now it is.
ABC News has pulled Robach and Holmes off the air. According to several media outlets, ABC News president Kim Godwin told staff during an editorial call Monday that Robach and Holmes were being sidelined indefinitely because the relationship had become an “internal and external distraction.”
Godwin told staff that the relationship between the two co-anchors is not a violation of company policy. She added that such decisions as pulling the two off the air are “not easy, they’re not knee-jerk, but they are necessary for the brand.”
Ah, there you have it. It’s about “the brand.”
Godwin told her staff, “We can’t operate with gossip and speculation and rumors. We need to stay focused on the work.” She also told staff to “stop whispering in the hallways” about their colleagues.
The relationship has put ABC News in a delicate spot. On one hand, as Godwin pointed out, it doesn’t violate any rules. On the other hand, it just looks shady. Viewers of the “Good Morning America” offshoot that airs daily at 1 p.m. Eastern might be put off by it. At the very least, viewers might be thinking about topics other than what Robach and Holmes are discussing. It’s believed that management was unaware of the relationship until The Daily Mail broke the story.
Robach and Holmes both appeared on the air last week for two shows after the story broke, but made no mention of it. Variety’s Brian Steinberg wrote, “Since the disclosure, the pair has been the focus of tabloid reports, with viewers analyzing their every word on camera to see if either was making reference to the discovery of the relationship.”
ABC News correspondents Gio Benitez and Stephanie Ramos will serve as hosts of “GMA3” for now.
There are reports that both Robach and Holmes separated from their spouses over the summer, but the status of their marriages is not known publicly. Robach is married to actor Andrew Shue, who is best known for appearing in the 1990s hit show “Melrose Place.” His sister is actress Elisabeth Shue — best known for her roles in “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Cocktail,” “Adventures in Babysitting” and “The Karate Kid.”
My take? Sure, this is a bit of a distraction. But ultimately, unless there is more that we don’t know, this is not a fireable offense. Or even a punishable one. Does ABC News really want to play moral police when it comes to consensual relationships?
If I was in charge at ABC News, I’d put both Robach and Holmes back on the air immediately, assuming they’re up for it. If the two want to say anything on air or put out a statement, I would allow them. But if they don’t, that’s their decision and they should be allowed to continue on with their jobs and lives as normal.
They didn’t do anything illegal. They didn’t break any journalism rules. They didn’t betray the trust of the audience. The only explanations they owe are to their families. And while audiences might smirk for a while watching the two on air, that will go away.
In the end, I get what ABC’s initial instinct might have been — that this whole thing is a messy distraction. But ABC News just made it even more of a distraction by pulling the two off the air, even if it’s just temporary. Now it’s being dragged out, and discussed even more.
The quicker ABC News puts Robach and Holmes back on the air, the quicker this all goes away. Isn’t that what ABC News should want?
The Times and the Twitter Files
Last Friday, Twitter released a bunch of internal documents that new boss Elon Musk said would be “awesome.” This bombshell report, put together by journalist Matt Taibbi, would supposedly show how Twitter restricted posts that linked to a New York Post story about Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, right before the 2020 presidential election.
In Monday’s newsletter, I wrote that The New York Times didn’t even cover the release of the now-dubbed “Twitter Files.” Well, that’s only sort of true. The Times didn’t cover it as a breaking news story, but media writer Michael M. Grynbaum did write about it from a media perspective in “Elon Musk, Matt Taibbi, and a Very Modern Media Maelstrom.”
Grynbaum wrote the release of the documents “set off a firestorm among pundits, media ethicists and lawmakers in both parties. It also offered a window into the fractured modern landscape of news, where a story’s reception is often shaped by readers’ assumptions about the motivations of both reporters and subjects.”
Grynbaum accurately pointed out that many critics found the whole thing to be much ado about nothing, “saying the exchanges merely showed a group of executives earnestly debating how to deal with an unconfirmed news report that was based on information from a stolen laptop.”
Others, particularly those on the right and Donald Trump supporters, started yelling (misguidedly so) about First Amendment violations and how Twitter was in collusion with Biden’s camp — something backed by no proof.
Musk and others complained how little his Twitter Files made a ripple among mainstream media outlets, including the Times. But Grynbaum did drop this interesting nugget into his story: “The New York Times requested copies of the documents from Mr. Musk, but did not receive a response.”
In other words, the Times wanted to verify and contextualize the documents, but never received a response from Musk, according to Grynbaum’s story.
Check out the Times story, which also gets into some detail of Taibbi, whom Grynbaum described this way: “Once a major voice of the political left, Mr. Taibbi rose to prominence by presenting himself as an unencumbered truth teller. He is perhaps best known for labeling Goldman Sachs a ‘vampire squid’ in an article that galvanized public outrage toward Wall Street. But his commentary about former President Donald J. Trump diverged from the views of many Democrats — for instance, he was skeptical of claims of collusion between Russia and Mr. Trump’s campaign — and his fan base shifted.”
Rupert Murdoch’s turn
- Fox Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch in 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Next up? The big man himself. Rupert Murdoch, founder and chairman of Fox Corp., will be deposed next week in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Dominion claims that Fox News amplified what it says are false claims that Dominion’s machines helped rig the election in favor of Joe Biden against Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Fox News’ defense has been that they merely reported on claims made by Trump and those around him.
Murdoch’s deposition will be done virtually by teleconference. The 91-year-old will be the most senior person deposed by Dominion’s lawyers. Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert and the chief executive of Fox Corp., was deposed in Los Angeles. Others from Fox already deposed include Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, Fox News president Jay Wallace and on-air personalities Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro.
What’s in a name?
Do you like the name “Max?” Well, many of you could have Max in your homes someday soon. CNBC’s Alex Sherman and Lillian Rizzo report that, according to their sources, Warner Bros. Discovery is close to a name for its future streaming service that combines HBO Max and Discovery+ services. And the name is “Max.”
Sherman and Rizzo wrote, “Executives haven’t finalized a decision and the name could still be changed, but Max is the likely choice, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Some senior executives are still debating a final name, said two of the people. Internally, Warner Bros. Discovery has given the new service a code name of ‘BEAM’ while a final name is being debated, said the people. Lawyers are vetting other names, as well.”
Remembering those who made an impact
- Legendary tennis instructor Nick Bollettieri, shown here in 2018. (Photo: Hoo-Me.com /MediaPunch/IPX)
Wanted to link to some remembrances today.
Tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, who coached 10 kids who eventually became No. 1 in the world, died over the weekend in Bradenton, Florida — where he had his tennis academy. He was 91. Richard Goldstein writes about Bollettieri for The New York Times. And Joel Drucker writes about Bollettieri for Tennis.com.
Another sad passing was Bob McGrath, one of the original cast members of “Sesame Street.” McGrath was 90. Anita Gates remembered McGrath for The New York Times.
- Today is the Georgia runoff in the Senate race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Politico’s Brittany Gibson and Natalie Allison have the latest in: “Republican hopes fade as Warnock momentum picks up in Georgia.”
- In an opinion piece for CNN, Dean Obeidallah with “Elon Musk’s Twitter is helping to normalize a neo-Nazi.”
- Deshaun Watson is back in the NFL after serving an 11-game suspension following more than two dozen accusations of sexual misconduct. On Sunday, ESPN “Sunday Morning Countdown” host Samantha Ponder gave a tearful and powerful commentary about Watson’s return. Mediaite’s Luke Kane has the story, along with video of Ponder’s commentary.
- Author Isabel Kaplan writes a personal essay in The Guardian: “My boyfriend, a writer, broke up with me because I’m a writer.”
Major investigation from The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones: “Fearing scandal, Air Force blocked generals’ foreign consulting deals.”
BBC senior international correspondent Orla Guerin with “Haiti: Inside the capital city taken hostage by brutal gangs.”
Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos with “The White Lotus is reinventing the ugly American tourist.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
More resources for journalists
- Subscribe to PolitiFact’s weekly newsletter. Get facts delivered straight to your inbox.
- Hiring? Post jobs on The Media Job Board — Powered by Poynter, Editor & Publisher and America’s Newspapers.
- How Any Journalist Can Earn Trust (Self-directed course) — Enroll Now.
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.