How a bulldog TV host turned lapdog in Trump interview
Remember Piers Morgan? Well, he too was in Davos
Veni, vidi, vici ("I came, I saw, I conquered"), Julius Caesar wrote the Roman Senate in 47 BC after a military victory. For British talk host Piers Morgan it was more like "I came, I saw, I sucked up" in 2018 as he interviewed President Donald Trump.
Stephen Colbert had his opening Monday monologue essentially written for him as a result of an interview conducted in Davos, Switzerland, by Morgan, the onetime failed Larry King successor at CNN who is now back in London as star host of "Good Morning Britain" on ITV. And while Colbert's fodder were the many factual errors (or outright falsehoods) Trump spewed (including on global warming), there was also the similarly cocksure journalistic modus operandi of Morgan.
As Ed Power of the Daily Telegraph put it a few hours earlier, "Piers Morgan’s world exclusive interview with Donald Trump (ITV) was a towering feat of journalism, yielding scoops by the platterful and revealing the Commander-in-Chief to be thoughtful, humane, witty and a shoo-in for the manager’s job at Arsenal."
"Don’t take my word for it — just ask Morgan who, not satisfied with cornering Trump for a 45-minute chinwag at the Davos World Economic Forum, was also considerate enough to furnish his own running commentary on how the interrogation was going."
Yes, for starters, " 'Some remarkable revelations here … he tweets in bed,' went a breathless Morgan voiceover." Power aptly referred to this encounter between "Twitterdom’s two great self-publicists" and informed (at least for us ignorant souls across the ocean) that it been marketed to the hilt given "the many blockbusting revelations Morgan had supposedly inveigled from the President."
And not that this would remind us of any U.S. television host — can you imagine! — but Power said that the air of occasional tough-mindedness aside, "Morgan had come to gild as much as to grill." There was mention of Morgan himself appearing on "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2008 and having found his subject tough but fair. Yes, the big suck-up.
And then there was this line, which does unintentionally suggest that big-time TV interviews can exhibit a certain ego-driven common denominator in this fashion: "The interview in truth revealed more about Morgan than the President, who radiated his usual forcefield of bluster."
Morgan has cut a tough-guy, no-holds-barred image as a morning show host — figure a beefier Chris Cuomo with a Brit accent — and apparently just loves "his Mr. Nasty image." But, as even just the clips Colbert played last night let on, it was "a persona he appeared to have left on the luggage carousel at Davos airport."
Perhaps it was the rarified and genteel air of the elite gathering surrounding them, but Morgan morphed from "the jackhammer-tongued villain of breakfast telly" into a "fine-tuned flattery-dispensing machine."
"He looked a bit like one of those novelty nodding bird toys as Trump outlined what he described as the record breaking performance of the U.S. economy office since he took office. 'A lot of people don’t want to give you credit,' growled GMB’s vicious attack dog. “ 'But] a lot of that is indisputable.' "
So, too, the groveling, with its own inherent reminders of the pathways to success in the TV business for a slice of our most prominent practitioners. Morgan was a two-legged vessel for fake news, which is perhaps perfect for this confusing era. Colbert spliced together a spoof of Morgan, with him seemingly interviewing Trump, calling it an "Exclusive Fake Interview."
It almost made one yearn for Larry King, if not Julius Caesar.
A pissed-off Tom Brady
The quarterback cut short a regular gig on Boston's WEEI-FM show "Kirk & Callahan" because the host of another show on the station had called Brady's daughter an "annoying little pissant." In his mind, it was an accurate assessment of a scene in a new Facebook documentary on Brady. That was dumb and resulted in an indefinite suspension for the host, Alex Reimer.
Reimer is a very young radio personality who's gotten into trouble before, as noted in a Boston Herald piece by Steve Buckley, who's co-hosted a podcast with him. "Does he deserve a lengthy suspension? Of course he does. But I hope he gets a chance to fix this."
As for how radio stations handle this sort of mess, a simple answer: it varies dramatically.
Why Mars (as in Bruno) was really out of sight
Variety reports, "Viewership of Sunday’s 60th annual Grammy Awards is down significantly from the 2017 telecast, nabbing the smallest audience in the show’s history in the key demo. In addition, the three-and-a-half-hour awards show averaged a 5.9 rating in adults 18-49 and 19.8 million viewers, according to time zone adjusted numbers. Last year’s show drew a 7.8 and 26.1 million, meaning the 2018 Grammys are down approximately 24 percent in both measures."
So is the mix of very old and very new the worst of several worlds, namely both too edgy and too stodgy? Are there now inherent perils in its premeditated diversity?
The Nunes memo
CNN had a camera trained outside a hearing room during a private session of the House Intelligence Committee as host Wolf Blitzer rather breathlessly awaited word from a committee Democrat as to what was up. It was part and parcel of chunks of the media portraying as another Washington spiteful fight the decision by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee to release a disputed GOP-crafted memo, which accuses the FBI of dubiously getting a surveillance order on a onetime Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.
But it's disgraceful or, at minimum, as Axios' Jim VandeHei put it on "Morning Joe" very early Tuesday, clearly "unprecedented," namely voting to de-classify classified material. So the executive branch for the first time has let Congress decide what is or is not classified without allowing the executive branch to review the document even after the executive branch provided the classified info. Even the Trump Justice Department (oh, you know, populated by all those "Deep State" denizens) says this is all nuts.
So do check out this analysis in Just Security by Josh Geltzer, a former National Security Council counterterrorism specialist, who makes all the right points about the executive branch resisting any temptation to surrender the authority to protect certain national security information.
State of the Union warmup (Morning Babel addition)
"Trump & Friends" was ecstatic over its heating chairs as they sat on a rooftop in 38-degree temperatures with the Capitol behind them. And it had its own countdown clock for "what is supposed to be a bipartisan address to bring us all together," as co-host Brian Kilmeade put it. And he gave us an inside look at the making of the media sausage as he strode a short distance away to show us the makeshift Fox green room in a tent, replete with its scrambled eggs, bacon, soft drinks and at least two awaiting pundits.
No such upbeat preambles were found elsewhere as "Morning Joe" (staying warm inside with the Capitol behind them) and CNN's "New Day" (inside, too, with the Capitol behind them, not that it was a slave to stagecraft convention) both riffed on the Trump White House politicizing law enforcement and how the White House had reviewed the classified GOP House memo. It was all an act of cherrypicking classified intelligence and just throwing it out in the public arena "without context," as one MSNBC pundit put it.
There were no countdown clocks at either, at least not this morning, meaning viewers would have to maintain the discipline and rigor of keeping time themselves and deciding whether to turn on the tube, or go online, to watch at 9 p.m., or put kids to bed, download anything else on Netflix or find some college basketball game to distract them from the unifying bipartisanship that Fox seemed to believe is on the way.
Scooped on Chief Wahoo
Cleveland.com reported, "Chief Wahoo, the longtime logo of the Indians, will be gone after the 2018 season. The Indians will disassociate themselves with the logo and will no longer wear it on their uniforms or caps following the 2018 season. The logo has been a flashpoint for the team for several years, drawing criticism and lawsuits from Native American groups who consider it racist."
But this, too: "The New York Times was the first to report the story."
Conspiracy theorist out of work
"CBS46 has fired Ben Swann, the evening anchor, three days after the station discovered he had tried to revive his Reality Check news reports without their knowledge," reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"The station’s general manager, Lyle Banks, released a brief press release today: 'Ben Swann is no longer an employee of WGCL-TV, effective immediately. We thank Ben for his contributions and wish him well.' "
"His Reality Check reports over the years have often veered into alt-right conspiracy theories. His last one focused on PizzaGate, which aired on CBS46 a year ago, led to his first suspension and removal of his Truth in Media website and most of his social media platforms."
Why people turn passive in sexual abuse cases
The media's tendency to demonize lots of folks in sexual assault cases — the cases of the monstrous Michigan State University gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and also MSU's football-basketball programs — can lose sight of some realities, as bioethicist Arthur Caplan and New York University colleague Lee Igel underscore in a Forbes piece.
"There are several reasons why otherwise decent people would keep quiet about abuse claims in their organization. Self-protection is at the top of that list. It is a choice about the balance between risk and reward — financially, socially, and politically. Mechanisms to overcome that and obligate people toward what is moral are necessary."
Then there's the sexual component. "Sexual molesting is behavior subject to shame, guilt, self-hatred, stigma, and denial. Imagine if Nassar had been punching these young women — how long would it have taken for reports to have been filed and action taken? America is still puritanical when it comes to sexual crimes. And blaming the victim is all too often the pathetic response that emerges."
And they laud an Atlanta Journal-Constitution series ("License to Betray") as they reiterate how medicine itself "often tolerates sexual predators among its ranks."
The state of conservative magazines
Yes, Trump has heightened the audiences of some media, including the more flamboyant outlets like Fox News — the king of mainstream conservative media — and Breitbart. But it's been clear for a long time that he's also bolstered more contemplative conservative operations, including small circulation magazines such as the National Review and Weekly Standard, a reality that T.A. Frank elaborates on in The Washington Post.
"Now that Donald Trump has made such conversations, and many others, unavoidable, conservative magazines have become oddly vital once more. While Sean Hannity and Breitbart News carry water for Trump, and many liberal publications dodge introspection in favor of anti-Trump primal screams, right-of-center magazines have been debating and reassessing the soul of their political philosophy. Trumpism has torn down the conservative house and broken it up for parts. Conservative magazines are working to bring a plausible intellectual order to this new reality — and figure out what comes next."
A triple scoop
"The LA Clippers have agreed to trade Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons, according to reports from David Aldridge of TNT, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Shams Charania of Yahoo," reported NBA.com, with the tweets virtually simultaneous at 5:30 p.m.
Reporting on a competitor
Bloomberg details, "Thomson Reuters Corp. is in advanced talks with Blackstone LP to sell a stake in its financial and risk business, which accounted for more than half of its annual revenue in 2016. The unit provides a range of offerings to financial markets professionals, with $6.1 billion in annual sales, according to a statement from the Toronto, Canada-based company. Reuters reported Tuesday that the private equity firm is in talks to buy about 55 percent of the business for more than $17 billion."
What about Reuters News? “As part of any proposed partnership, Thomson Reuters would retain a significant interest in the F&R business and would retain full ownership of its Legal, Tax & Accounting and Reuters News businesses,” according to a formal statement.
Wittes on Rosenstein
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been in the middle of a bunch of Trump-inspired disputes, including the firing of FBI Director Jim Comey, and there's been ample debate among lawyers as to whether he's been in conflict of interest related to the Robert Mueller Russia investigation. Writing in Lawfare, a blog he co-founded, journalist and Brookings Institution fellow Ben Wittes writes that to believe there's something defective in the investigation "one has to believe not merely that the Obama administration conducted inappropriate surveillance against the Trump campaign based on laundered opposition research from the Democratic National Committee."
"You also have to believe that the Trump administration itself is still doing it. You have to believe — or have to choose to believe— that Rosenstein is a corrupt actor out to get the president. That belief is a political choice. It is a political choice to accept a big lie that the president and his defenders have been peddling for months about federal law enforcement and intelligence."
Not so stellar?
"Six years after Walt Disney Co. spent $4 billion to buy a single franchise, 'Star Wars' is looking a little less stellar," writes The Wall Street Journal. "Despite being one of the past year’s most successful movies, 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' has fallen short of Wall Street’s expectations due to a faster-than-expected falloff at the box office, declining toy sales and a poor showing in China."
Headline of the day (courtesy Wall Street Journal)
"Melania Trump’s Military Flights Before Her Move to Washington Cost More Than $675,000: First lady flew 21 flights in three-month period while living in New York after President Donald Trump’s inauguration"