November 29, 2022

Don Lemon might have moved from primetime to mornings, but he is still bringing his sharp interview skills to work.

Case in point: a testy exchange Monday when Lemon asked former Donald Trump administration aide Len Khodorkovsky, who is Jewish, if he condemns Trump having dinner with Kanye West (now known as Ye) and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.

Appearing on CNN’s morning show, Khodorkovsky told Lemon, “I can tell an antisemite when I hear one. And I tell you with confidence that President Trump is not an antisemite.”

Khodorkovsky repeated Trump’s claim that Fuentes wasn’t invited to dinner, that he showed up with Ye, and that Trump didn’t know who Fuentes was. Khodorkovsky added, “(Fuentes) is an anti-semite. He’s repulsive. His views are disgusting, and no one of any substance should give him any forum. It’s frankly beneath President Trump to meet him.”

Lemon’s co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins smartly laid out and let Lemon go. The conversation got testier when Lemon pressed Khodorkovsky to condemn Trump having dinner with Ye and Fuentes and told Khodorkovsky, “You say he should know who he’s meeting with, but then you’re saying well he didn’t know. It sounds like you’re making excuses for him. There’s no excuses for bad behavior, no excuse for antisemitism and no excuse for being the former president and not knowing who you’re allowing into a place where you have kept classified documents.”

Khodorkovsky said, “I’d appreciate it if you don’t put words in my mouth.”

Lemon later criticized Khodorkovsky for “whataboutism,” which led Khodorkovsky to say, “Don, it’s very rich when you’re telling somebody who is Jewish, who has experienced antisemitism firsthand, who is a grandson of Holocaust survivors, what is an appropriate way to address antisemitism. Frankly, it’s a little bit insulting.”

Lemon responded with, “It’s insulting for you to think I don’t understand bigotry and racism. I understand it. If someone was a bigot and racist, and you ask me about them, I will always say it’s wrong to traffic and meet with bigots and racists, regardless of what you might think about me and talking about a Jewish person. I’m not talking about the Holocaust. he’s a Holocaust denier. You’re bringing up the Holocaust. A Holocaust denier met with the former president who you worked with. That should be more insulting to you than me talking about how you should respond to it.”

Check out the entire interview. It was a strong segment for Lemon about a topic that is too important to let slide. He listened to Khodorkovsky’s comments, and was quick on his feet with follow-up questions. It was interviewing at its finest.

Speaking of that dinner …

Trump has said he didn’t know who Fuentes was and didn’t invite him to dinner. In other words, he has played dumb and downplayed the dinner as no big deal, instead of just condemning Fuentes. And let’s not forget that he did know that Ye, who has recently made antisemitic remarks, was coming to dinner.

But back to Fuentes. The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports that two unnamed sources familiar with the situation told him that Trump has ignored advisers and shied away from criticizing Fuentes out of fear of alienating a section of his base.

Lowell wrote, “Trump ultimately made clear that he fundamentally did not want to criticize Fuentes — a product of his dislike of confrontation and his anxiety that it might antagonize a devoted part of his base — and became more entrenched in his obstinance the more he was urged to do so.”

Lowell added, “But even with his ignorance of Fuentes taken at face value, the statements signal Trump will give extraordinary deference to the most fringe elements of his base — even if it means potentially losing support from more moderate Republicans who have not typically cared for his indulgence of extremism.”

Washington Post columnist Philip Bump writes, “This, not the antisemitism as such, is the GOP’s problem with Trump. It’s that Trump has always been desperate to send signals to his base of support that he agrees with and loves them. That his political instinct has always centered on stoking loyalty from his most energetic supporters, a tactic that helped him narrowly win the presidency in 2016. Others in the party, often worried about party primaries, adopted a similar policy of declining to confront Trump’s base, which is why the response to controversies has consistently been silence.”

Bump goes on to note that Trump no longer distances himself from the fringe as he used to. Bump writes, “In other words, the base to which he and his party is beholden is increasingly flecked with the sorts of elements that would once have been incomprehensible as targets of political outreach. By now, the fringe has been pulled so close to the establishment that only people like Fuentes still sit at the fringe in the first place. The disinterest in kicking anyone out of the party’s political tent is the central problem that makes a Trump-Fuentes dinner possible in the first place.”

Twitter vs. Apple

A Twitter app icon is displayed on a mobile phone. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Buckle up, this could get dicey. Twitter boss Elon Musk went on a Twitter rant Monday, claiming that Apple might take Twitter off its App Store. If that happened, some users might not be able to download Twitter. Musk asked if Apple “hated free speech in America” and tweeted other comments about Apple and so-called free speech. He also tweeted directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Musk also claimed Apple has “mostly stopped advertising” on Twitter. 

CNBC’s Kif Leswing correctly notes, “Apple’s App Store is the only way to distribute software to iPhones. If the Twitter app were pulled, the social network would lose one of its main distribution platforms, although the service is available for the web.”

The New York Times’ Kate Conger wrote, “With the tweets, Mr. Musk set the stage for a power struggle with Mr. Cook, who holds immense influence over other tech companies through Apple’s dominance. Mr. Musk has a vested interest now in Apple’s clout because of his ownership of Twitter, which he bought last month for $44 billion and which is used by iPhone owners around the world. In one tweet, Mr. Musk implied he was ready for ‘war’ with Apple.”

This story might be changing by the minute, but as of Monday night, it should be noted, Apple had not made any moves to remove Twitter from the App Store. Could it happen?

Axios’ Sara Fischer wrote, “Apple has shown no reluctance to ban apps, including several that cater to far-right users, if it determines that they do not operate effective content moderation policies to screen child sex abuse materials, threats to personal safety and other objectionable content. If Twitter’s scaled-back content moderation team and chaotic new policies lead to more such content making it past the service’s filters, all eyes will be on Apple.”

Iger’s town hall

On Monday, for the first time since returning as CEO of Disney, Bob Iger held a hall with employees. He started, reportedly, by quoting from “Hamilton,” saying, “There is no more status quo. But the sun comes up and the world still spins.”

Iger served (quite successfully) as Disney’s CEO from 2005 to 2020. He returned as CEO on Nov. 20. On Monday, Iger took questions, which were allowed to be been submitted anonymously, from those in attendance. He told employees that Disney’s hiring freeze, which was put in place before his return last week, will stay in place for now.

CNBC’s Alex Sherman wrote, “Iger acknowledged Disney’s focus must shift toward making its streaming business profitable rather than concentrating on simply adding subscribers, which was the company’s priority when he gave up the CEO job in 2020. He noted Disney won’t be pursuing any major acquisitions in the near future, adding he’s comfortable with Disney’s current set of assets.”

Word of the year

Merriam-Webster has named its word of the year for 2022, and it’s a word that is quite old: “gaslighting.” (Seriously, that’s the word of the year. We’re not trying to make you think otherwise!)

Merriam-Webster officially defines it as “psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”

Before the past few years, the word was best known for the 1944 film starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury. (The film was a remake of a 1940 film and based on a 1938 play). In the movie, a young woman is made to feel she is going insane by her manipulative husband. Part of that manipulation is when the gas lights in the home dim, the husband tells his wife that the dimmed lights are only in her imagination.

In announcing it as the 2022 word of the year, Merriam-Webster says, “In this age of misinformation — of ‘fake news,’ conspiracy theories, Twitter trolls, and deepfakes — gaslighting has emerged as a word for our time.

A driver of disorientation and mistrust, gaslighting is ‘the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.’ 2022 saw a 1740% increase in lookups for gaslighting, with high interest throughout the year.”

Other top words of the year, according to lookups on Merriam-Webster include oligarch, omicron, codify, LGBTQIA, sentient, loamy, raid and Queen Consort

A big weekend for football and Fox Sports

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throws a pass against the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

What did you do for Thanksgiving? Probably watched football. Last Thursday’s New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Fox drew 42 million viewers. That’s a ridiculously high number and the most for an NFL regular season game ever. The previous high was in 1990 when the San Francisco 49ers played the Giants and 41.47 tuned in.

The early game on Thanksgiving — Buffalo at Detroit — on CBS drew 31.62 million viewers. That’s the most ever for an early-window Thanksgiving game. And the primetime game between Minnesota and New England on NBC, Telemundo and Peacock averaged more than 26 million viewers, making it the second-most watched primetime Thanksgiving game.

It was quite the weekend for Fox Sports. They had that Thanksgiving Giants-Cowboys game. On Friday, they televised the USA-England World Cup match that drew 15.3 million viewers to set a record for the most-watched men’s soccer match on U.S. television.

On Saturday, they had the most anticipated college football game of the season between Michigan and Ohio State. That game drew 17 million viewers, making it the most-watched regular-season college game of 2022.

Media tidbits

Hot type

A haunting story in The New York Times from David Wolman (with photographs and videos by Jake Michaels): “Set Adrift. Driven by Covid chaos, online disinformation and a YouTube guru, two Americans went looking for solace on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. They found a different fate.”

In a superb piece co-published by ProPublica and The New Yorker, it’s Ava Kofman with “Endgame: How the Visionary Hospice Movement Became a For-Profit Hustle.”

Hamilton Cain in The Atlantic with “Seven Books That Will Make You Smarter.”

More resources for journalists

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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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