We have arrived at what could be one of the most pivotal weeks in our nation’s history. That’s not being overly dramatic. An already severely divided nation will learn the results of a midterm election that could shift the balance of power in both the House and Senate, and further cement the divisiveness that exists from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon.
Well, that could happen this week. With several tight races, it could be more than a week before we know for certain the results in all the races.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejía have an excellent breakdown of each state in “When Will We Know 2022 Midterm Election Results?” They write, “States like Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania that are key to Senate control could take multiple days to count all their votes.”
Regardless of what happens with this election, it seems unlikely that the heat will be turned down. In fact, with many Republicans already questioning the legitimacy of the election (or refusing to say they will accept the results if they lose), the animosity could become even more intense.
The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner and Rosalind S. Helderman wrote, “Two years after Donald Trump tried to overturn a presidential election, Tuesday’s midterms will test American democracy once more, with voters uncertain whether they can believe in the process, Republican election deniers poised to take positions of power and the mechanics of voting itself under intense scrutiny.”
NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald and Jonathan Allen wrote, “For many voters, a vicious spiral of violence and fear is creating angst, paranoia and an overwhelming sense of dread that the nation is on the eve of destruction, according to a growing body of public opinion research.” They added, “Polls consistently show that Americans — of both political parties and no political party — are worried about the state of the union and their place in it.”
Ramping up the anxiety is not knowing what will happen this week. In many elections, polling is consistent and reliable. But polling, combined with early voting numbers, have led to uncertainty this time around. Republicans, however, are confident of a red wave. They are likely to take control of the House, while the Senate could go either way.
The New York Times’ Lisa Lerer, Jennifer Medina and Jonathan Weisman wrote, “The midterm’s final landscape two days before Tuesday’s election hinted that voters were prioritizing fiscal worries over more existential fears about democracy or preserving abortion rights. From liberal northeastern suburbs to Western states, Republican strategists, lawmakers and officials now say they could flip major parts of the country and expand their margins in Southern and Rust Belt states that have been fertile ground for their party for much of the last decade.”
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Behind the scenes at “Meet the Press”
Ever wonder how a Sunday morning news show is put together? A week ago, I watched a taping of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and interviewed its moderator Chuck Todd. The story can be found here.
“Meet the Press” is the longest-running show on TV, and it celebrated its 75th anniversary on Sunday. Todd has been moderating the show since 2014, and said the mission for the show is simple: inform, educate, explain.
“(Viewers) are looking for somebody to weed out the nonsense,” Todd told me. “I feel like one of my missions each week is to focus on what mattered and let people know what didn’t matter. … What are we teaching the viewer today? How are we educating them today? I think that’s where the Sunday shows in general should stand out. We’re your weekly Ted Talk.”
Todd has his share of critics — those who think he cuts the right too much slack or carries water for the left. Todd said he’s not there to be an activist journalist.
“There’s a role for activist journalism, but not on ‘Meet the Press,’” Todd said. “And not in mainstream media. Most of the critiques of the Sunday shows are not coming from people who are serious journalists. They’re coming from people who are political activists. And I say this with no disrespect. There’s nothing wrong with being an activist.”
The Daily Beast reported in August that NBC News might be thinking about making a change at “Meet the Press” and that Kristen Welker was being lined up to eventually replace Todd. Those rumors have died down, and Todd said he has no intention of leaving “Meet the Press.” He thinks back to the late Tim Russert, who moderated the show from 1991 to 2008.
Todd said, “There should be a sell-by date on all journalists in Washington. I’m a believer that you shouldn’t have one person in a beat forever. But I’m not done growing this show. I’m certainly not going anywhere anytime soon. But I know how long Tim did it and I wouldn’t do it that long. So there ya go. There’s a number.”
For much, much more, be sure to check out my story.
“Meet the Press” trivia
Which guest has appeared on “Meet the Press” more than any other? The late John McCain. The Arizona senator and 2008 Republican nominee for president appeared on the show more than 73 times, according to “Meet the Press.”
Late last week, in a controversial move just days before the midterm elections, MSNBC canceled Tiffany Cross’ weekend show and then cut ties with Cross.
The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison reported that sources told her MSNBC president Rashida Jones was deeply involved in the decision to let go of Cross. No reason has been given for the move.
Variety’s Brian Steinberg reported, “At partial issue, according to people familiar with the matter, are on-air volleys between Cross and commentators like Tucker Carlson and Megyn Kelly, who have criticized the MSNBC anchor’s views in recent months, sometimes spurring Cross to retort. MSNBC executives felt the segments were not up to standards, but Cross supporters wonder why the network didn’t do more to shield her from the criticism.”
Semafor’s Max Tani wrote, “MSNBC’s ratings depend on its delivering a progressive point of view to its liberal audience, which has for years boosted primetime hosts like Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell. But the network also has another less explicit expectation for its hosts: Be nice. The rule at the network since Trump’s departure from office has been to avoid snark and bombast — much less the combination of the two that conservatives respond to from Tucker Carlson.”
Though CNN and Fox News programming drew more viewers in Cross’ timeslot, Cross still averaged 600,000 viewers — a decent number for weekends.
In a statement, Cross said she was “disheartened” by MSNBC’s decision. She wrote, “From the beginning, we were intentional about centering communities of color, elevating issues and voices often ignored by the mainstream media, and disrupting the echo chambers. It is my hope that the last two years at MSNBC have been disruptive and transformative, changing how politics are discussed and making policy more digestible.”
Cross also wrote, “Fresh off the heels of a ‘racial reckoning,’ as so many have called it, we see that with progress there is always backlash. With a career in media spanning two decades from CNN to BET and MSNBC, I have not only navigated newsrooms but built them as well. With a rapidly changing media landscape, I look forward to maintaining a platform that continues to reflect the changing demographics of the country.”
Cross also wrote that she “will not stop. The attacks on me from other outlets and former hosts will never control my narrative.”
As far as Cross’ timeslot, several reports say MSNBC will use a rotation of guest hosts until a permanent one is named.
Keeping up with Twitter
The Twitter story seemingly changes as fast one can fire off a tweet. The biggest move since Elon Musk took over the social media company was making immediate and widespread changes. He has fired the chief executive officer, the chief financial officer, the general counsel and, on Friday, there were massive layoffs. About half of Twitter’s employees — about 3,700 — were laid off.
As The Wall Street Journal’s Chip Cutter wrote, “The billionaire’s swift actions stand in contrast to those of many new leaders, who often use the first 90 days to meet with employees, listen to concerns and assess how to improve a company’s products before embarking on strategy shifts, executives and corporate advisers say.”
Meanwhile, Musk’s other big move is rolling out verification check marks to subscribers who pay a $7.99 a month subscription service. Originally, it appeared as if that could happen today, but The New York Times’ Ryan Mac, Kate Conger and Mike Isaac report that might not happen until after the midterms.
The Times wrote, “many Twitter users and employees raised concerns that the new pay-for-play badges could cause confusion ahead of Tuesday’s elections because users could easily create verified accounts — say, posing as President Biden or as lawmakers or news outlets and publishing false information about voting results — which could potentially sow discord. In an internal Slack channel on Saturday, one Twitter employee asked why the social network was ‘making such a risky change before elections, which has the potential of causing election interference.’”
With so many key leaders dismissed, who exactly is running Twitter at the moment? The Washington Post’s Gerrit De Vynck and Hamza Shaban had a story out Sunday: “These are the men running Elon Musk’s Twitter.”
De Vynck and Shaban write that Musk’s lieutenants include Musk’s personal lawyer, his chief of staff, a couple investor friends and a former Twitter executive who left the company years ago. The Post has a breakdown on who each of them are.
Bloomberg Insider’s Kurt Wagner and Edward Ludlow write: “Twitter Now Asks Some Fired Workers to Please Come Back.” Wagner and Ludlow write that Twitter is reaching out to “dozens” and asking them to return. Wagner and Ludlow report, “Some of those who are being asked to return were laid off by mistake, according to two people familiar with the moves. Others were let go before management realized that their work and experience may be necessary to build the new features Musk envisions, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.”
What’s in a name?
A trend started to emerge over the weekend with people changing their Twitter handles and pretending to be Elon Musk. It appeared to be a way for users to jab Musk for some of things he wants to implement on the site, including the whole blue verification check plan. It happened enough that Musk tweeted, “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”
Musk added, “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning. This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”
NBC News’ Ben Collins, who covers disinformation, extremism and the internet, tweeted, “Like I always say with content moderation, every social media site owner who is ‘pro free speech’ meets their line eventually. For 4chan, it was anime child porn. For Facebook and YouTube, it was white nationalist terror. For Elon, it was people making fun of him.”
In the land of Oz
John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz are locked in a tight battle for the Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Let’s put the actual politics — you know, like policies and campaign promises and so forth — aside for a moment. A big knock against Oz is that he’s not really from Pennsylvania. His longtime main residence has been New Jersey and a recent Fox News poll showed that 44% of voters are worried Oz isn’t familiar enough with the issues that concern Pennsylvanians.
What’s amusing, however, is how Oz keeps trying to sound like someone from the Keystone State and somehow manages to make it worse. For example, earlier this year, Oz put out a video saying he was at a supermarket chain called “Wegners.” There is no such place. It appears Oz combined “Wegmans” with the chain “Redners.”
Then during an appearance outside of Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oz told the crowd, “Tomorrow morning, when you awaken, I want you to contact 10 people — do it at church, do it before the Steelers game, just find the time. Here’s the question you’re going to ask them. ‘Are you happy with the way America’s going?’”
Nothing will earn you quicker favor in Pittsburgh than invoking the name of the Steelers. (I should know, I’m from Pittsburgh.) But nothing will make you look goofier than trying to sound cool about the Steelers when you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Oz didn’t realize the Steelers were off on Sunday, which Fetterman was quick to point out on Twitter: “The Steelers have a bye this week.”
Speaking of Oz, he became relatively famous for his appearance as a celebrity doctor on Oprah Winfrey’s show. He then got his own show — “The Dr. Oz Show” — in 2009 with Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.
But Winfrey is endorsing Fetterman. She said at a virtual event last week, “I said it was up to the citizens of Pennsylvania, but I will tell you all this — if I lived in Pennsylvania, I would’ve already cast my vote for John Fetterman, for many reasons.”
- The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum with “How Molly Jong-Fast Tweeted Her Way to Liberal Media Stardom.”
- For The Washington Post, Naomi Nix, Jeremy B. Merrill and Hayden Godfrey with “This year, GOP election deniers got a free pass from Twitter and Facebook.”
- Ben Smith’s latest media column for Semafor: “The villains of ‘She Said.’”
- Strong message about antisemitism during the CBS’s “The NFL Today” from host James Brown.
Meticulous and outstanding work in The New York Times from Annie Karni, Malika Khurana and Stuart A. Thompson: “How Republicans Fed a Misinformation Loop About the Pelosi Attack.”
The Houston Astros are the World Series champs. The Wall Street Journal’s Lindsey Adler with “The Unloved Houston Astros Have Become Inevitable Winners.”
The Ringer’s Jake Kring-Schreifels with “Eminem Found Himself in ‘Lose Yourself.’ Will We Ever Let It Go?”
More resources for journalists
- Subscribe to PolitiFact’s weekly newsletter. Get facts delivered straight to your inbox.
- Midterm Essentials: Election Issues Broadcast Journalists Should Know. Enroll now.
- Honor free press, democracy and the distinguished careers of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at Poynter’s Bowtie Ball. The duo will receive the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism with Carl Bernstein accepting the honor in-person on Nov. 12, 2022, in Tampa, Florida. Get tickets.
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