February 9, 2023

What were the big takeaways from President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night?

Of course, as always these days, it depends on where you get your news.

The usual suspects chipped away at Biden.

But many praised Biden’s optimistic approach despite facing, at times, disrespectful heckling from some members of the GOP. Many also lauded his vigor in what might be seen as a test-run speech for a second term as president. CNN’s Kevin Liptak wrote, “As Biden prepares to ask voters to keep him in office until he is 86, it was critical he look and sound like someone who is able to keep doing the job. His delivery was energetic, even if he stumbled over a few of his prepared lines. When Republicans interrupted him, he responded quickly, deftly turning their heckles back around into challenges.”

Politico founder editor John F. Harris wrote, “This time, it was ordinary Republicans putting the spotlight on themselves — through extraordinary rudeness. With boos, taunts, groans, and sarcastic chortles, the opposition party effectively turned themselves into prime-time props for President Joseph Biden.”

Harris added, “In terms of pure theater, the jeers helped Biden come alive.”

In fact, The New York Times’ Katie Rogers wrote, “He got an even bigger burst once the Republicans’ heckles and boos began, and was most animated when he veered off the teleprompter and addressed them directly before a live television audience of millions. At times, the House floor seemed like the British Parliament, where catcalls and shouted insults from the opposing party are tradition.”

Such heckling used to be unthinkable during a State of the Union address. In 2009, South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson yelled out “you lie” while President Barack Obama was speaking. Wilson publicly apologized immediately afterward and was later formally rebuked by the whole House.

“Times have changed,” Rogers wrote in the Times. “Republican lawmakers shouted both ‘liar’ and ‘bull(expletive)” at parts of Mr. Biden’s speech, and no one appeared shocked. After the speech, Representative Andy Ogles of Tennessee defended yelling out ‘it’s your fault’ as Mr. Biden described the fentanyl crisis, telling reporters it was ‘a visceral response.’”

CBS News chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes said on air after the address, “We’ve seen Republican hecklers at States of the Union before, but this time the speech almost turned into a call-and-response at some point. At least four times the House speaker had to visibly shush members of his party … definitely not what the House speaker was seeking this evening.”

Lawrence O’Donnell, host of “The Last Word” on MSNBC, said, “That was the single most confrontational State of the Union address that we’ve ever seen. Anyone who picked Joe Biden for that is quite a good guesser. I never would have predicted that this guy, who goes in there deliberately determined to do the opposite, ends up delivering the most confrontational State of the Union address ever.”

O’Donnell added, “This is the worst possible night for (Speaker) Kevin McCarthy. The negotiation ended in that room with Marjorie Taylor Greene yelling at a president who took her on, handled it right in front of McCarthy. And McCarthy, by the way, there is an isolated camera on McCarthy that’s going to show him saying ‘no, no, no,’ every single time they did that.”

Here is more notable journalism regarding Tuesday night’s State of the Union address:

The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent with “Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s strange ‘woke’ rant reveals a big GOP problem.”

Twitter hearings

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., center, talks with House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, during a House Committee on Oversight and Accountability hearing on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

You likely already have a major headache if you watched even a few minutes of the Republican-led House Oversight Committee grilling Twitter executives on Wednesday about the social media company and how it handled a New York Post story about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his infamous laptop.

Twitter executives said they made a mistake blocking the story, but adamantly denied they were pressured to do so by Democrats. GOP members insist this is a prime example of Big Tech “censorship” against conservatives.

The Associated Press’ Farnoush Amiri and Barbara Ortutay wrote, “Emboldened by Twitter’s new leadership in billionaire Elon Musk — whom they see as more sympathetic to conservatives than the company’s previous administration — Republicans used the hearing to push a long-standing and unproven theory that social media companies including Twitter are biased against them.”

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, testified, “The decisions here aren’t straightforward, and hindsight is 20/20. It isn’t obvious what the right response is to a suspected, but not confirmed, cyberattack by another government on a presidential election. … Twitter erred in this case because we wanted to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016.”

Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the committee, said, “Twitter is a private, First Amendment-protected media entity. And you make your own decisions like Fox News makes its own decisions.” Then he added, “This has been a wild, cyber goose chase all day. It has turned up absolutely nothing.”

New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “A whole hearing about a 24-hour hiccup in a right-wing political operation. That is why we are here right now. It’s an abuse of public resources and an abuse of public time. We could be talking about health care, we could be talking about bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, we could be talking about abortion rights, civil rights, voting rights. But instead we’re talking about Hunter Biden’s half-fake laptop story. I mean, this is an embarrassment.”

The New York Post didn’t take too kindly to AOC’s words, as you can see here in this thin-skinned response.

Twitter issues

Meanwhile, Twitter had a weird glitch on Wednesday. Some users were unable to tweet and got a message saying they had exceeded their daily limit for sending tweets. Of course, there is normally no limit on the number of tweets a user can send.

Disney to slash 7,000 jobs

In his first earnings report since coming out of retirement, Disney CEO Bob Iger dropped a bombshell on Wednesday. Disney plans to cut costs by about $5.5 billion and will lay off approximately 7,000 — about 4% of its total workforce worldwide.

Iger said, “While this is necessary to address the challenges we’re facing today, I do not make this decision lightly.”

Iger did not say when the layoffs would take place or which divisions of the company would be impacted. Disney is also making some organizational changes. The company will now be separated into three main divisions: theme parks, ESPN and entertainment, which includes movies and the Disney+ streaming service.

The New York Times’ Brooks Barnes wrote, “Content production and distribution, including streaming, will be housed in a single division (instead of two, which were sometimes at odds), with the exception of sports. To that end, ESPN and its streaming offshoot will become a stand-alone unit for the first time, a move that was instantly interpreted as making the sports behemoth easier to spin off or sell, should Disney decide to pursue such action.”

But Iger said, “We did not do it for that purpose. ESPN continues to create real value for us. We just have to figure out how to monetize it in a disrupting world.”

Iger also said, “We’re not engaged in any conversations right now or considering a spinoff of ESPN.”

Times gained a million digital subscribers in 2022

The New York Times reported Wednesday that it had gained one million digital-only subscribers last year. That does not include the approximately one million subscribers of The Athletic, the sports site the Times bought in early 2022.

The Times’ total number of paying subscribers is now at 9.6 million. It wants to get to 15 million by the end of 2027. Print subscribers have gone down from 795,000 to 730,000.

In a statement, Meredith Kopit Levien, the chief executive of the Times, said, “It was our second-best year for net digital subscriber additions, behind only 2020. Importantly, with each passing quarter, we saw more proof that there is strong demand for a bundle of our news and lifestyle products.”

The Times’ Katie Robertson has more from the Times’ quarterly report.

Walking out

Back in December, union members in The New York Times newsroom walked off the job to protest dragging negotiations for a new contract. Now another newsroom is expected to have a 24-hour walkout.

At NBC, more than 200 represented by the NewsGuild of New York are planning a one-day walkout today to protest the recent layoffs of seven union-covered journalists. The NBC Guild has been in contract negotiations with management since 2019.

The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr reported, “Tate James, a video editor for NBC News who serves as chair of the unit, said the decision to walk out was borne out of a growing belief that NBC management is excluding the union from key employee matters, such as the process of negotiating layoffs and the terms of severance agreements. NBC management did not follow the correct steps before last month’s layoffs, the union has charged.”

James told Barr, “There was a general vibe of: If we’re not going to walk out over illegal layoffs, what are we doing here? NBC is not offering us anything worthwhile in bargaining, after years of trying. We need to see some change from management, and this might be the thing that moves them.”

An NBC News spokesperson told Barr, “We are disappointed by the NewsGuild’s continued attempts to misrepresent the facts while we work in good faith with them to reach an agreement.”

King of the NBA scorers

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, left, hands the ball to Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James after James passed Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

One of the biggest records in all of sports was broken Tuesday night. LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. The game was paused with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Abdul-Jabbar coming onto the court in Los Angeles to congratulate James.

TNT aired the game and provided splendid coverage, including this mic’d-up version of James breaking the record. In addition, the “Inside the NBA” postgame show had this interesting moment when Shaquille O’Neal asked James if he now considers himself the greatest NBA player ever.

James said, in part, “I’m gonna take myself against anybody that’s ever played this game. … I always feel like I’m the best to ever play this game.”

Here are a few other notable pieces about James breaking the record:

Irvin sent packing

Here’s an eye-catching headline in the New York Post: “Michael Irvin sent home by NFL Network from Super Bowl after woman’s complaint.”

Details, as of Wednesday, were still a little sketchy. Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand and Ryan Glasspiegel wrote that a woman at a hotel where Irvin had been staying had made an “unspecified complaint.”

An NFL Network spokesperson told the Post, “Michael Irvin will not be part of the NFL Network’s Super Bowl LVII week coverage.”

In a radio interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Irvin said he talked to a woman in the lobby for about a minute and then later was told by the network that he was changing hotels. Irvin said, “… I guess the girl said I said something to her within that minute that we talked, and so they moved me.”

Irvin added, “That’s why I’m kind of hiding to wait and see how everything comes down. It was a minute meeting somewhere in the lobby. I don’t even remember it really because I had a few drinks, to tell you the truth.”

Irvin told The Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken that he had no physical interaction with the woman beyond a handshake. He told the Morning News, “I don’t really recall that conversation, to tell you the truth. We were out drinking. It was just a friendly conversation. ‘What’s up?’ I don’t even know. … I am totally perplexed.”

Gehlken also reported Irvin will not make his usual Friday appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” and won’t be involved with ESPN’s Super Bowl coverage.

Media tidbits

  • The Washington Post has named Justin Bank as managing editor for audience and visual journalism. The Post announcement said, “Working closely with The Post’s engineering and product teams, Bank will lead newsroom areas focused on audience growth and strategy, curation and distribution, new story formats and visual journalism.” Bank most recently had been the senior director of digital news and strategy at NPR. Before that, he worked at the Post. And prior to that, Bank founded the inaugural audience development team at The New York Times.
  • Politico has named Chris Cadelago as its first-ever California bureau chief. Before Politico, Cadelago was a reporter for The Sacramento Bee and The San Diego Union-Tribune. The move is Politico’s first major one in its California expansion — a part of Politico’s long-term strategy.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Toonkel and Joe Flint with “Warner Bros. Discovery to Keep Discovery+, in Strategy Shift.”

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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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