January 10, 2022

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has called the events on Jan. 6, 2021, a “terrorist attack.” In fact, he has done so, reportedly, more than a dozen times in the past year, and most recently as last week — the anniversary of the insurrection.

Then he took it all back when Tucker Carlson put him on blast.

On his Fox News prime-time show, Carlson crushed Cruz, saying, “Every word Ted Cruz uses is used intentionally. He’s a lawyer. He described Jan. 6 as a violent terrorist attack. Of all the things Jan. 6 was, it was definitely not a violent terrorist attack. It wasn’t an insurrection. Was it a riot? Sure. It was not a violent terrorist attack. Sorry! So why are you telling us that it was, Ted Cruz?”

What happened next? Cruz begged his way onto Carlson’s show so he could grovel for forgiveness. Cruz told Carlson, “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy, and it was frankly dumb.”

But Carlson wasn’t having it, telling Cruz, “I don’t buy that. … You take words as seriously as any man who has ever served in the Senate, and every word — you repeated that phrase, I do not believe that you used that accidentally. I just don’t.”

Carlson insisted Cruz was helping “the other side” by referring to what happened on Jan. 6 as a terrorist act. Cruz backed down.

And there you have it.

The exchange not only showed how spineless Cruz is, but more importantly, how much power Carlson has, particularly among many conservatives. It showed how in lockstep Fox News and Republicans are and the influence Fox News has.

Amanda Carpenter, a former staffer of Cruz and now a columnist for The Bulwark, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” that the key to the Carlson-Cruz interview wasn’t Cruz’s humiliation, but “his radicalization that happened right there in that interview.”

“This is how Tucker Carlson is guiding the message for the Republican Party on that network,” Carpenter said.

Meanwhile, another Fox News prime-time star, Sean Hannity, also has done more than opine about the news. He has been directly involved in the news. Last week, the Congressional committee investigating Jan. 6 released text exchanges that Hannity was having with then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Jan. 6, pleading that Donald Trump do something to stop the violence.

It was big news in most places.

“But,” Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi wrote, “it was quieter on the network on which Hannity has starred for the past 25 years. Over three days, Fox News journalists collectively devoted 88 seconds to the news.

Fox News’s coverage has consisted of brief mentions during news reports hosted by anchors Bret Baier, Dana Perino and Shannon Bream, the last after midnight on Wednesday. It has offered no discussion, no interviews and no statements from Hannity.”

None of this is a surprise, right?

Back when she was on her book tour, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham talked about how the Trump administration ran to Fox News whenever they wanted to get their message out. Grisham told The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, “There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, ‘Well, Sean thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this.’”

(By the way, be sure to read the story by Parker and Dawsey.)

The fact that Hannity and Ingraham were even texting Meadows while insurrectionists were storming the Capitol shows the direct line of communications between Fox News and the White House and the potential influence Fox News commentators had.

Jeff Cohen, author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media,” told The Post that the issue is the hosts are not disclosing how close they are with Trump. (Although, geez, by this point, we kind of know that, don’t we?)

Cohen told The Post, “Journalists and media are supposed to be public checks on power, not private advisers to power. A commentator is still a journalist, and even if the commentator doesn’t consider him or herself to be a journalist, they still have to tell the public when they played a role in something they’re commenting on.”

Many of those over at Fox News either don’t know that or they know that and simply don’t care. Neither is good.

A bad error

Ugh, here’s some sloppy work. Politico’s Playbook ran an item on Saturday morning saying Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had dinner at some swanky D.C. restaurant on Friday night with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. This would have been only hours after Sotomayor did not appear for oral arguments about COVID-19 mandates in the Supreme Court.

But, as it turned out, the woman in the photo that Politico thought was Sotomayor was actually Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall. Politico ran a correction that partly blamed the person who sent the photo and said, “POLITICO standards require we verify this information. The editor who received the tip failed to do so in this case. We deeply regret the error.”

Everyone makes a mistake now and then, but this is a bad one because of the implications involved had it been true. Not showing up for important in-person Supreme Court work but then hanging out at a restaurant that night? With Democratic leaders, no less?

This is a bad mistake that could’ve been cleared up with a phone call or two and, instead, has led to some bad misinformation and conspiracy theories.


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Suing The Atlantic

In 2020, freelance writer Ruth Shalit Barrett wrote a story for The Atlantic called, “The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League-Obsessed Parents,” Barrett looked at how rich parents pushed their kids into niche sports such as lacrosse and fencing, to better their chances of getting into an Ivy League school.

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple raised questions about the article and Barrett. The Atlantic issued a 777-word editor’s note correcting some of the problems with the story. But shortly after that, it retracted the story and put out another editor’s note, which included this: “We cannot attest to the trustworthiness and credibility of the author, and therefore we cannot attest to the veracity of the article.” The note also said, “the author misled our fact-checkers, lied to our editors, and is accused of inducing at least one source to lie to our fact-checking department.”

But now comes this stunning twist: Barrett is suing The Atlantic for $1 million, alleging the retraction and editor’s note, which mentioned incidents of plagiarism in her past, “destroyed her reputation and career.” She claims The Atlantic “unlawfully smeared” her and said The Atlantic’s actions were a “character assassination.”

In a statement, Atlantic spokesperson Anna Bross said, “We stand by our full retraction and editor’s note from November 2020. We completely reject the allegations and believe the suit is meritless, will be filing a motion to dismiss, and are confident we will ultimately prevail.”

If you’re interested in more, check out Katie Robertson’s story for The New York Times.

Out of Times

Ben Smith won’t write any more media columns for The New York Times. Smith announced last week that he was leaving the Times after two years to launch a global media company with Justin Smith, who is stepping down as chief executive of Bloomberg Media.

Over the weekend, Smith tweeted, “No more media columns from me! So grateful to the Times for incredible editing and support over two incredibly fun years, and of course thanks to everyone on here for keeping me honest.”

The Media Equation column at the Times is one of the best gigs in media criticism and now attention turns to who might step into the seat once filled so well by the late David Carr. (I thought Jim Rutenberg, who took over for Carr, did a solid job, as well. He has gone on to be a writer at large for the Times and The New York Times Magazine.)

Smith was certainly an outside-the-box hire, considering he was running BuzzFeed’s newsroom at the time, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Times go against the norms again. For that reason, it’s impossible to even hazard a guess as to what’s next.

For all the marbles

University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

College football’s national championship is tonight in Indianapolis on ESPN. It’s a rematch of SEC powers Alabama and Georgia. Alabama, which is seeking its seventh title in the past 13 seasons, beat Georgia, 41-24, in the SEC Championship on Dec. 4.

Hard to imagine picking against Alabama and Nick Saban, but something tells me Georgia pulls off the upset.

Here’s some reading to catch you up:

Media tidbits

  • The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis with “The Athletic Set Out to Destroy Newspapers. Then It Became One.”
  • And another piece about The New York Times’ acquisition of The Athletic: Awful Announcing’s Ben Koo with “Audacious and polarizing, The Athletic’s acquisition is a success that split the difference between its believers and haters.”
  • CBS’s lead NFL play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz didn’t work the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Carolina Panthers game Sunday because of COVID-19 protocols. Tom McCarthy filled in alongside Tony Romo.
  • Speaking of that game, Buccaneers radio play-by-play announcer Gene Deckerhoff and analyst Dave Moore both missed the Bucs’ regular-season finale, too, because of COVID-19 protocols. Both reportedly are feeling OK. It’s notable because Sunday was the first regular-season or playoff game Deckerhoff has missed since becoming Tampa Bay’s play-by-play announcer in 1989.
  • Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo will interview JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon today and the interview will air on “Mornings with Maria” on Tuesday morning.

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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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