May 23, 2022

One of the more bizarre interviews over the weekend was Brian Stelter interviewing Kathy Barnette on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” Barnette finished third in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate behind Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick. Oz and McCormick appear to be headed for a recount.

On Tuesday night, Oz thanked Fox News’ Sean Hannity, saying he was like a “brother” and offered advice throughout the campaign. That certainly irked Barnette, who put out a video last week blaming Hannity, in part, for her loss. She said, “Never forget what Sean Hannity did in this race. Almost single handedly Sean Hannity sowed deep seeds of disinformation, flat out lies every night for the past five days and that was just extremely hard to overcome.”

Barnette is a big supporter of Donald Trump, and yet Trump endorsed Oz in this race. So that brings us to Sunday and the interview with Stelter.

There was some social media criticism for CNN and Stelter for even having Barnette on, seeing as how she was an unknown candidate who didn’t even come close to winning a primary. Why have her on, especially after she has made, according to CNN, controversial remarks in the past, including anti-Muslim and anti-gay statements?

Having said that, she did have some interesting thoughts when Stelter asked her about Hannity’s influence on the race.

Barnette said, “I think what we saw with my race is a broader issue, right? So the spotlight was shining on me. But I think it’s a much broader story here, and that is partisan journalism we see across both sides of the aisle. Because there are so many people, there are people coming at me from the left and from the right. And on Friday evening, five days ago, the American people were being told I’m a member of Black Lives Matter, and then three days later, the same American people were being told I’m marching with white supremacists, right? That created an echo chamber. … There’s a reason so many people feel they cannot trust mainstream media and have to go out and do their own research because there’s so much partisan journalism going on that is creating a very challenging environment for Americans to know what’s true, what’s not true.”

If you choose, you can watch the entire interview here. Some of it went a little sideways and Barnette complained a lot about the media. At times, Stelter tried to fact-check Barnette in real time and, with Barnette in a different location, it was Stelter and Barnette talking over each other.

You could still make an argument that handing her a megaphone was irresponsible, but seeing as now Stelter runs a media show, it was a peek into how some politicians feel about the media. And I would argue that getting that insight is worthwhile.

Speaking of Trump …

Fascinating story in Sunday’s New York Times from Nick Corasaniti, Karen Yourish and Keith Collins: “How Trump’s 2020 Election Lies Have Gripped State Legislatures.”

Check out this sobering opening paragraph: “At least 357 sitting Republican legislators in closely contested battleground states have used the power of their office to discredit or try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to a review of legislative votes, records and official statements by The New York Times.”

According to the Times, those 357 legislators make up 44% of the Republican legislators in nine states where the race between Trump and Joe Biden was the closest. All of this despite no evidence of fraud or that the election was unfair.

The article then states why this is so important: “The Times’s analysis exposes how deeply rooted lies and misinformation about former President Donald J. Trump’s defeat have become in state legislatures, which play an integral role in U.S. democracy.”

Using detailed graphics, the story shows where legislators have argued that the election was unfairly conducted — again, with no evidence.

It’s an important and disturbing story that you should read.

Also check out this story from The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey: “The Election Denier Who Could Run Michigan’s Elections.”

One last thing on this topic …

To wrap up this topic (for today), what is going on in Pennsylvania is truly concerning. Josh Shapiro, who is the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor, joined CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday’s “State of the Union” and was asked about running against Republican Doug Mastriano, who has backed Trump’s assertion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Shapiro told Bash, “Well, we know, in 2020, we had a free and fair, safe and secure election. And, Dana, I went to court over 40 times when I was sued by the former president and his enablers. And we won every single time to protect the will of the people and protect the sanctity of the vote. Now, my opponent, Sen. Mastriano, he wants to take us to a divisive and dark place, where he has openly talked, if he were governor, about, with the stroke of a pen, being able to do away with voting machines that had votes on it that he didn’t agree with. And it’s very dangerous because, here in Pennsylvania, the next governor will appoint the secretary of state. And the governor, and the governor alone, appoints electors based on the will of the people. And Sen. Mastriano has made it clear that he will appoint the electors based on his belief system. Listen, he’s essentially saying, sure, you can go vote, but I will pick the winner. That’s incredibly dangerous. And it is what is at stake in this governor’s race.”

Calling out Fox News

Legendary journalist Dan Rather, along with filmmaker and former CBS News producer Elliot Kirschner, called out Fox News in a scathing piece on Substack.

They wrote, “Fox News is powerful in large part because it has the word ‘News’ in its title. Its claim to be a corrective to the supposed ‘liberal biases’ of the so-called ‘mainstream media’ represents a marketing bonanza that has generated excellent revenue for owner Rupert Murdoch and eight-figure annual salaries for its primetime stars — most notably Hannity and Tucker Carlson.”

Besides what is seen on air from some of Fox News’ pundits, there’s a real danger in what’s going on off air. As an example: Hannity’s possible influence on the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania.

Rather and Kirschner write, “The steady stream of hatred, racism, and vitriol emanating from Fox News deserves all the attention it receives. But just as insidious is this inside game and what it says about a media outlet that is a functional arm of the Party of Trump. The former president has created a landscape where the norms of our democratic institutions have been shattered, and media creations like Dr. Oz and Sean Hannity can conspire to push us further into the abyss.”

Live from New York

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The season finale of “Saturday Night Live’s” 47th season was Saturday night and we now know that at least four long-time cast members are not returning next season: Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson. McKinnon and Bryant have been with the show since 2012, Mooney had been there since 2013 and Davidson joined the show in 2014.

McKinnon, Bryant and Davidson all got a chance to give a farewell, which isn’t always the case with departing “SNL” cast members. As The New York Times’ Dave Itzkoff noted, “Historically, ‘S.N.L.’ has been a bit stingy about allowing its departing cast members to take victory laps on their last shows. For every Kristen Wiig, who got a farewell serenade from Mick Jagger, there are countless other performers who have exited quietly in the off-season and even a few who seemed to be leaving but came back the following fall.”

In the cold open, McKinnon played her recurring character who gets abducted (and not treated kindly) by aliens. The skit ended with McKinnon’s character deciding to leave Earth and join the aliens. As she appeared to get emotional, she said, “I always felt like an alien on this planet anyway. Well, Earth, I love you. Thanks for letting me stay awhile.”

Bryant got to say her goodbye during a “Weekend Update” bit, as did Davidson, who told the audience, “I appreciate ‘SNL’ always having my back and allowing me to work on myself and grow.”

While McKinnon and Davidson are getting most of the headlines for their departures, here’s a shoutout to Bryant and Mooney — both of whom were highly underrated and always solid. As a regular watcher of “SNL,” I was a big fan of both.

Saying goodbye to a legend

Author Roger Angell in a photo from 2006. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Words like “legendary” and “icon” and “brilliant” often get thrown around a little too liberally when talking about writers, but there aren’t enough accolades for writer Roger Angell, who passed away Friday at the age of 101. Angell is, perhaps, the greatest baseball writer who ever lived, having written books and essays about the sport for The New Yorker.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, said in a statement, “No one lives forever, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Roger had a good shot at it. Like the rest of us, he suffered pain and loss and doubt, but he usually kept the blues at bay, always looking forward; he kept writing, reading, memorizing new poems, forming new relationships.”

Thomas Boswell, a pretty fair baseball writer himself who recently retired from The Washington Post, wrote, “Angell was profoundly learned across all the arts, including classical music. He carried himself like a tweedy Ivy League professor, genial but with authority in reserve. Friendly meets deeply formidable. He’d chosen a literary life that required commitment to psychological depth, to grasping and empathizing with the widest possible range of subjects and experiences. In that harsh highbrow league, there are flashes of provisional insight, but seldom final truths.”

Angell wrote nearly a dozen books, most of them about baseball, including must-read classics — 1977’s “Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion” and 1988’s “Season Ticket: A Baseball Companion.” What’s notable, however, is that Angell didn’t start writing about baseball until he was in his 40s when he was sent to spring training to see if he could come up with something interesting to write.

Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay wrote, “Angell’s baseball stories doubled as cultural renderings, detail-rich snapshots of time and place. His 1981 masterpiece about the famous Yale-St. John’s pitching duel between Ron Darling and Frank Viola, in which Angell lured a 91-year-old Smoky Joe Wood to come watch the game with him, is a remarkable melding of baseball’s past and future. His account of the 1986 Mets World Series reads like a frantic taxi ride around New York City, a noisy town that could still fall hush for tense innings.”

Angell was born in New York in 1920. His mother, Katherine, was the founding fiction editor of The New Yorker. His stepfather was famed essayist E.B. White, who is well known for writing “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little.” Angell’s father, Ernest Angell, was an attorney who once was the head of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gay wrote, “I interviewed Angell for the first time a year and a half ago, shortly before he turned 100. It is generally wise advice to never meet your idols, or even interview them on the phone, but Angell lived up to every hope: feisty, funny, full of long-paragraphed observations about the game he still adored.”

Angell continued to write into his 90s. In 2014, he was awarded the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, the award given by the Baseball Hall of Fame for writers.

In a detailed obit, The New York Times’ Dwight Garner wrote, “Mr. Angell was sometimes referred to as baseball’s poet laureate, a title he rejected. He called himself a reporter. ‘The only thing different in my writing,’ he said, ‘is that, almost from the beginning, I’ve been able to write about myself as well.’”

Observation of the day

Watching Elon Musk troll and lash out at critics on Twitter made me think this: If I was the richest person in the world and had as much going on as Musk does, I hope I’d be … cooler?

That’s not to say this whole Twitter deal isn’t important. It is. As Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan explained on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” “The social media platforms — and I think maybe even particularly Twitter — are very influential in our overall media ecosystem, how everybody gets informed. You don’t have to be on Twitter to be affected by it. Musk’s ownership of Twitter — if it comes to that, which is dubious — would be extremely influential. And his talk about being a free speech absolutist, while it sounds kind of good in a way, I don’t think it would actually work out very well for the users of Twitter because it would introduce even more horrible stuff than is there now.”

But as far as Musk? She didn’t mention Musk or anyone else by name, but author, CNN commentator and former government official Juliette Kayyem smartly tweeted, “I know myself and maybe I just don’t think big, but if I were a multi billionaire I would definitely buy a huge beach house, give to some charities, consider myself lucky and never be heard from again.”

Same here.

Media tidbits

Comedian George Carlin in 2007. (AP Photo/E. Pablo Kosmicki/file)

  • I highly recommend the HBO special on George Carlin: “George Carlin’s American Dream.” It’s a really good reminder at just how culturally relevant Carlin was, and how he constantly evolved over time. Brian Tallerico of wrote, “It’s also more than just a recounting of a professional career like so many celeb docs. It digs into Carlin’s personal life in a way that’s honestly moving, showing the big heart behind the persona that was often falsely perceived as misanthropic.” Tallerico added, “Specials about comedy talents are often just excuses to watch the best bits of a famous star, but ‘George Carlin’s American Dream’ is way more than that. It is loving and appreciative of his genius without ever devolving into fan service. After all, he would have hated that.”
  • The New York Times Thomas L. Friedman with “My Lunch With President Biden.”
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor George Stanley with “Our Sunday paper, long focused on in-depth reporting, is least affected by print move.”
  • The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker with “In new book, Kellyanne Conway takes aim at many targets — except Trump.”
  • A pat on the back to CBS Sports for its compelling coverage of golfer Mito Pereira coughing away the PGA Championship. All he needed was a par on the 18th hole Sunday to win the tournament, but he hit the ball into the water and ended up with a double-bogey. Commentator Dottie Pepper summed up what Pereira might be feeling going forward in devastating fashion: “There’s going to be some scar tissue there.” Credit to the classy Pereira for agreeing to be interviewed on camera and good questions by reporter Amanda Balionis. In the most honest quote of the weekend, Pereira said, “I guess you have so much pressure you maybe don’t even know what you’re doing.”

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

More resources for journalists

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
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…
Tom Jones

More News

Back to News