A David Schwimmer tale offers insight into the Hollywood culture

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A caution in evidence long ago

The Hollywood dam has burst with sordid tales involving Harvey Weinstein. Now one has self-flagellation mixed with social commentary as this morning's Wall Street Journal reports: "Huffington and Katzenberg Say Weinstein Behavior Is Systemic — Speaking at WSJ D.Live Technology Conference, executives Arianna Huffington and Jeffrey Katzenberg say Hollywood, Silicon Valley guilty of tolerating behavior of top performers."

So it's worthy to at least note a film critic who reminds one of another reality: how famous and powerful men in Hollywood do know better.

Nell Minow, a member of a richly accomplished family, recounts to me her interviewing actor-producer David Schwimmer, best associated with NBC's iconic "Friends," at the Phoenix Hotel in Washington, D.C. in 2011. Minow is a prominent corporate governance expert who for years has also authored "Movie Mom,"  a terrific look at movie, culture and values for parents. Wondering about whether you should take your kid to a certain flick? Check out "Movie Mom."

She was set to interview him about a movie he'd directed, "Trust," the tale of a young girl preyed upon by an online abuser (a real-life story that involved someone Schwimmer knew). They were scheduled to chat in the first-floor restaurant but that proved crowded and noisy. They tried to start but it wasn't working. It prompted Schwimmer to hesitantly broach the notion of going up to his room.

Heck, Minow was twice his age, so she didn't feel the slightest anxiety. But Schwimmer quickly added that if she wanted, he could make sure there was a third person in the room. Perhaps somewhere in the mix, she thinks, the very subject matter of his film prompted anxiety about what she, or others, might think if they went alone, which they did.

The avalanche of Weinstein coverage led to the long-forgotten recollection by Minow, one of three brilliant daughters (one being the former dean of Harvard Law School) of Jo and Newton Minow, the latter an irrepressibly vital 91-year-old Chicago lawyer who served President John Kennedy as FCC chairman and gave a 1961 speech still quoted about TV as a "vast wasteland" (and, he wrote a Washington Post op-ed last week that our five living former presidents should step forward "and lead us to safety" from Trump).

"I haven’t thought of that since it happened but the Weinstein stories made me not just remember it but remember it in an entirely different context as an indicator of the prevalence of predatory behavior and as an indicator of Schwimmer’s integrity and sensitivity," Minow said. "This wasn’t just about his being a good guy who would not have tried anything. He understood what it is like to have to be constantly on the alert and he wanted to make sure I understood I was safe." So they did do the interview in his room.

As she recalled all of this Monday, she also remembered going to an out of town business meeting in her other capacity, with a colleague she didn't really know well offering to fetch her at the airport since he was going to the same meeting. When he picked her up there, he said they had lots of time and that he'd take her to his house for lunch.

"He was a perfectly nice, middle-aged guy, and I had no reason to mistrust him, but still, because — and this is my point — being a woman means that every time you’re alone in an elevator with just one man you have to hope he’s not going to try anything inappropriate, I had a moment of wondering what he had in mind.  It turned out his wife was there and she had made a lovely lunch for us and everything was fine. But I had to worry because every woman does, all the time. This isn’t about Hollywood any more than Roger Ailes was about journalism. This is the beginning of a true change in the conversation about what it is fair for women to expect in a workplace."

Oh, any final thought from Minow to Schwimmer after all these years?

"I just want to say thank you. And, also, your movie was very good."

Panama Papers blogger killed in violent blast

The Guardian reports that "Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday afternoon when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device which blew the vehicle into several pieces and threw the debris into a nearby field. A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana Galizia was recently described by the Politico website as a 'one-woman WikiLeaks.'"

Quiz question

Which magazine has brought you covers featuring Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Susan Lucci, Jay Z, Tiger Woods, Alec Baldwin, Joe Montegna, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris Noth, Gen. Tommy Franks and Fidel Castro?
 
Bzzzzzz. Time's up. It's Cigar Aficionado, which is celebrating a 25th birthday.

Dealing with bots

 "Whether it’s one relentless tweeter or legions of upset strangers who come out of nowhere, the reality is that Twitter makes it hard to know much about the people (or bots) spamming your name.

So what should you do? Here's what Poynter suggests.

Technology at the Washington Post 

Will machines one day be able to write your favorite newspaper stories? The subject came up during a two-day techies bacchanal at Northwestern University, where the opening speaker was Shailesh Prakash, the chief information officer for The Washington Post.

During the question-and-answer period I attended, he expanded on Heliograf, which is known as an "automated storytelling agent" and thus seeks to automate at least some storytelling. "I've gotten beaten up on Twitter on this one," he told the large conclave, which was sponsored by Northwestern's school of engineering, office of research and Medill Journalism, as well as Mozilla and Google News Lab.

He said, "The goal is not to replace journalists." Then came a pause.

"At least not right now."

Fact-checking the White House

In a recent New York Times story on Trump and regulatory overhaul, reporter Eric Lipton wrote, "'The Trump administration is confident in its legal positions and looks forward to arguing — and winning — before the federal judiciary,' Kelly Love, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement. 'This is in stark contrast to the previous administration, which may be the worst win rate before the Supreme Court since the Taylor administration ...'"

Love's was almost a complete rhetorical lift from a paper by Lee Epstein of Washington University and Eric Posner of the University of Chicago. But, substantively, is it correct?

I wondered and now have an all-you-want-to-know answer via Adam Feldman of the blog Empirical SCOTUS. He refers to the Solicitor's General Office (OSG), which represents an administration before the court, in concluding, "Data from the United States Supreme Court Database shows that as a representative of its main client, the United States, the OSG’s success rate was lower during the Obama years than it was during any administration since the Office of the Solicitor General was created in 1870. In fact, the United States was represented by the Attorney General (OAG) the last time it had a lower success rate, which was, as Epstein and Posner describe, in the late 1840s under President Zachary Taylor. "

"If we discount the OSG under administrations that did not complete at least one term (Trump is in his first term and the Taylor administration only lasted a year before President Taylor died in office) then the last time the Justice Department had a success rate representing the United States lower than the OSG had during the Obama years was in the 1830s under President Andrew Jackson."

A Ron Burgundy moment

Longtime sports announcer Dick Stockton was announcing an NFL game Sunday when halftime came and it was his job to throw back to the Fox studio crew for highlights and jabber. He completed the pre-scripted throw by declaring, "Look on graphic for final two points." Oops, no, he was supposed to actually look at a graphic for his final two points. It happens. Right, Ron?

Maggie Haberman's dad on Trump

Clyde Haberman, a great longtime New York reporter-columnist who's now a contributing writer to The New York Times, late last evening tweeted, "What's remarkable about Trump untruth is the falsehood is instantly provable. Does he lie, or is he too addled to know true from false?"

The morning Babel

Brian Kilmeade, a co-host of "Trump & Friends," wasn't on the usual studio couch but on a darkened White House lawn because guess whom he's interviewing later this morning? Yes, the show's hero. Not exactly a tough "get" but let's see whether they wax as chummy as Trump and Mitch McConnell yesterday. Sadly, Kilmeade would thus miss co-host Ainsley Earhardt pumping her own book (with the help of her dad and daughter), "Through Your Eyes," touted as "a "sweet new book that celebrates everyday wonders and miracles." (What? You expected the show to be pushing Garry Wills' new "What the Qur'an Meant: And Why It Matters," which in part skewers the right for basic misunderstandings of the book and the Muslim world?)

Now CNN's David Chalian offered some light in the morning darkness as he unveiled polling that claims 30 percent of Americans trust Trump more than Congress to "handle major issues," while 47 percent trust congressional Republicans more (17 percent trust neither). Now, take just Republicans and it's 63 percent backing Trump to handle major issues, only 29 percent trust Republicans in Congress. Playing the "outsider" still seems effective (except when it comes to poor numbers on how he's handled hurricane responses). And, too, there was video of ailing John McCain last night intoning about "half-baked spurious nationalism," obviously a shot at the White House and allies like Steve Bannon.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" was Trump, Trump, Trump, with the suggestion that McConnell was forced to stand at Trump's side at their press conference. Oh, co-host Joe Scarborough offered historical clarification in the form of rare contrition.The Albert Einstein Institute, he said, had informed that he was wrong and that Einstein did not say "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." "So I'll say say it was Maury Smith of Queens. But it's the same concept. They're (the White House and congressional Republicans ) doing the something over and over" and that Nancy Pelosi will be the next House Speaker.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: jwarren@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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