How conservative media signals what a big mess Roy Moore presents

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A fissure that 'may well spell the end of the GOP'

You'd think that Bill Clinton was still president, lying about his personal life, and that impeachment was imminent (again). 

The controversy over Alabama's Roy Moore offers a window onto the far from monolithic right-leaning media. Moore may have a firewall to protect him, given his popularity, but the quivering among establishment Republicans is obviously revealing fissures within the party.

Will Sommer, an editor at The Hill who cranks out a weekly newsletter surveying conservative media, notes how, "Fox and most of the rest of conservative media have been as sparing in coverage of this as they can reasonably get away with, and repeating decades-old Bill Clinton allegations along the way."

"It's the same playbook we saw perfected after the Access Hollywood tape came out — avoid talking about it as much and as long as possible, until there's a defensible narrative that can be rallied around. With Access Hollywood, it was 'locker room talk;' with the Moore allegations, it's claims that the allegations are 'he said-she said' or that the (Washington) Post can't be trusted. And, just as the Access Hollywood tape fallout inspired Steve Bannon to bring back Bill Clinton's accusers, conservative media is doing the same this time around."

He notes the vivid outlier of Breitbart News, which is far more activist than other media on the right. It broke news that the Post was about to publish the Moore story (obviously fed that by the Moore camp) and has sent reporters to Alabama to discredit the accusations. This is largely because Bannon has real skin in the game. If Moore goes down, it hurts Bannon's essential case against a moth-eaten GOP hierarchy that he sees embodied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief of libertarian Reason.com and Reason.tv, says that one impossible to predict outcome of the Moore saga is "that the Republican Party and many of its press allies — think  McConnell, National Review, and The Weekly Standard — have called for Moore to quit his race, even if it means a Democratic pickup in a deep-red state." McConnell, obviously, now says Moore should exit.

"National Review, which long ago distanced itself from Donald Trump despite sharing much of his legislative agenda, especially on immigration, has similarly called for Moore to take a long hike off a short pier," says Gillespie. He notes not just how its Jonah Goldberg "casts conservative support for Moore as an existential threat to his movement's seriousness and moral standing," but how The Weekly Standard makes a similar argument.

"Only a few weeks ago, the media was awash in stories about 'the Republican civil war' pitting limited-government conservatives against less-principled tribalists and who simply want to win at any cost. Roy Moore may well represent the final straw for principled conservatives."

 "The GOP has manifestly failed to shrink the size, scope and spending of government every time it has run the roost; this year's failure to pass a repeal-and-replace Obamacare bill, let alone a sensible budget, is more salt in those wounds."

"Given his lack of ideological coherence or commitments (not to mention his pussy-grabbing comments), Trump was bad enough. A Senate seat isn't as big a deal as the presidency of course, but it may well be the cherry on top of the shit sundae that the Republican Party has become."

 "What comes next is anybody's guess, but here's hoping that the 'clarifying effect' of all this is an actual commitment to shrinking the state and limiting its power in all aspects of our lives." Oh, as he asserted to me last night, this "may well spell the end of the GOP once and for all."

Next in the sexual harassment line ...

Recode reports, "Famed venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson is leaving his job at Draper Fisher Jurvetson in the wake of an investigation into sexual harassment. Jurvetson is the highest-profile venture capitalist to be forced from his job amid an industrywide evaluation of how Silicon Valley treats women. Jurvetson sits on the board of two of tech’s flashiest companies, SpaceX and Tesla, and the news has already stripped him of those posts, at least temporarily."

A GOP defection on Moore after ducking before an editorial board

Peter Roskam is a suburban Chicago Republican congressman who served in the state legislature with Barack Obama (they actually had a constructive relationship on criminal justice matters) but has become a bit of a weenie as he's risen in the GOP's congressional pantheon. That looked to be the case when he surfaced at Crain's Chicago Business and inevitably was asked about Moore.

"A few hours after refusing all comment on Moore and his alleged sexual misconduct toward teenage girls, Roskam is calling on Moore to step aside and let someone else fill the Senate seat that was vacated by fellow Republican Jeff Sessions when he became U.S. attorney general."

"'The allegations leveled against Roy Moore are disturbing,' Roskam said, according to an NBC News tweet sent after Roskam refused to talk about Moore in a meeting with Crain's editorial board.​"

This was not an example of towering moral principle. First, "Roskam had told Crain's that he was meeting with the edit board to talk about tax policy, and not other matters." Then came The New York Times report of a fifth woman who's come forward in the Moore matter. And, then, "two of the Democrats competing to run against Roskam next year issued statements slamming him for ducking the issue, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked Moore to step down." So Roskam saw the light.

Headline of the day

"DOJ Still Demanding Identity Of Twitter Users Because Someone They Shouldn't Have Arrested Tweeted A Smiley Emoji"

The Atlantic notes a sea change

Caitlin Flanagan writes,"The most remarkable thing about the current tide of sexual assault and harassment accusations is not their number. If every woman in America started talking about the things that happen during the course of an ordinary female life, it would never end. Nor is it the power of the men involved; history instructs us that for countless men, the ability to possess women sexually is not a spoil of power; it’s the point of power. What’s remarkable is that these women are being believed."

Meanwhile, the magazine this morning unveils a melancholy profile of Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website boss Andrew Anglin, a 33-year-old college dropout, and how he went "from being an antiracist vegan to the alt-right’s most vicious troll and propagandist."  

How Trump deregulation works

A joint New York Times-ProPublica effort underscores the welcoming environment found by pesticide lobbyists at the Agriculture Department. No surprise there, nor in department officials claiming they're heeding all relevant ethical standards. You be the judge. 

Amid the DNAInfo-Gothamist rubble

With Omaha billionaire Joe Ricketts having abruptly closed DNAInfo and the Gothamist only days after the New York branch voted to be represented by a union, the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) has negotiated an exit package that includes:

"Each employee will receive three months of full pay and benefits, even if they obtain other employment. At the end of that period, each employee will receive four weeks’ severance pay. Each employee has the right to use their own work, including work that was already published by DNAinfo or Gothamist, and to create new works derived from what they did for the publication. No employee will be required to sign a non-disparagement provision. The company has confirmed in writing that it will not remain in business or create any neighborhood news media site for at least two years; any asset sale must be to a third party, conducted at arm’s length."

Behind the curtain of The Paradise Papers

Starting with a discreet meeting at the Munich offices of Suddeutsche Zeitung, an army of reporters and editors at more than 90 publications worldwide labored on The Paradise Papers, the latest trove of leaked records on use of tax havens.

Vice was allowed to do a documentary that followed the Nov. 5 release of the first batch of stories. It's been unavailable if you missed it on HBO on Nov. 6.  But now it's available on YouTube. It's very good and worth a look.

Why Gawker is missed (ironically)

There was no shortage of mainstream media naysayers about Gawker and its intrepid ways, which was sometimes marked by a journalistic modus operandi that made some folks, queasy, long before it was beaten into financial submission by Hulk Hogan. Those naysayers included The Washington Post, which even railed about Gawker ("the snarky New York cultural and media website") totally ripping off one of its stories.

The feelings could be mutual. Gawker once wrote, "The Washington Post, the pre-Politico newsletter of choice for The Political Establishment, has the worst opinion section in America. Today, they once again prove why: the paper, which helped to break the NSA Prism spying story, editorializes that the U.S. government must stop Edward Snowden from leaking any more of that awful news."

Oh, well. So it's notable to see The Post suggest in a video how the unceasing revelations about high-profile sexual harassment are a reminder of why Gawker should be missed. For sure, the stories that Gawker did at the time about Louis C.K., Bill Cosby and others probably would not have met The Post's standards for publication. But surprise nostalgia can have unusual breeding grounds.

Law and Order, Hangzhou

So I'm watching an ESPN college basketball game from Shanghai, with UCLA vs. Georgia Tech, with the idiosyncratic, 1960s flower child UCLA legend Bill Walton announcing the game. Walton is not synonymous with understatement, and that certainly wasn't the case in broaching how three UCLA players were under Chinese house arrest for shoplifting in Hangzhou (Trump broached the subject with his Chinese counterpart, as The Washington Post disclosed.)

"I am sad, disappointed and embarrassed ... members of our family have displayed an appalling lack of honor, respect, decency. I want to apologize right now on behalf of the human race for this tragedy."

Hey, when was the last time you heard a sports commentator — or, come to think of it, some ink-stained wretch of a sports beat reporter! — apologize on behalf of the human race?

Granite State tranquility

Knock on wood things are pretty quiet in New Hampshire in the period between its legendary presidential primaries. Take yesterday, according to the opening screen of the Union Leader newspaper:

"Three teens charged in Exeter car thefts; one vehicle was found burning"

"Police: Brothers face stalking, other charges after assault outside Merrimack court"

"Authorities: Sandown man died when gun handed to juvenile went off"

"Derry man pleads guilty to making and possessing child porn"

"Manchester man charged with criminal threatening following report of shots fired"

"Strafford County sheriffs seize thousands in cash, illegal drugs"

Knock on wood for upbeat news from Portsmouth that "police closed an investigation into reports about someone rifling through a resident’s underwear drawer when the family determined the perpetrator was the family cat, said police Sgt. Kuffer Kaltenborn."

Trump judicial appointees

The New York Times is doing very solid work on the rising impact of Trump on the judiciary, especially federal appeals courts. But its strongest tale is not disclosure that "One of President Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees did not disclose on publicly available congressional documents that he is married to a senior lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office." They, and others, also underscore how Brett Talley has not actually tried a case.

For starters, it can't be any great secret whom the guy is married to. Second, the implicit notion that having no (or, say, scant) trial experience should itself be a bar to serving on the bench is poppycock. I've known a fair number with little or no trial experience, with some proving to be superb. Richard Posner, the most influential judge outside the Supreme Court during the past several decades, had not an iota of real-world court experience (after arriving on the appeals court in Chicago, he did occasionally oversee trials in the lower district court to see what it was like). There are others. It verges on the atypically naive for the paper to argue that no trial experience, especially on an appeals bench, is a big yellow flashing light. If the guy or gal is also an idiot, yes. If not, not necessarily. 

David Boies' latest mess

So the New York Times ended its relationship with the star attorney after its own disclosures of his slimy dealings in defending Harvey Weinstein. Now The Wall Street Journal reports that he "fended off concerns of Weinstein Co. directors about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assault without alerting them he was in business with Weinstein Co., according to two board members."

Speaking of Weinstein ...

This is not any American phenomenon, as the Associated Press makes abundantly clear:

"The sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein that rocked Hollywood and sparked a flurry of allegations in other American industries, as well as the political arena, are reaching far beyond U.S. borders. Emboldened by the women, and men, who have spoken up, the 'Weinstein Effect' is rippling across the globe."

"Nearly half of the '#metoo' mentions since the movement has been launched have come from outside the U.S., and decades-old accusations have led to the downfall of some of those countries’ most powerful men. Here’s a look at where the fallout — and the falls — have reverberated most strongly, from the United Kingdom and Israel to India and Peru."

Special counsel to probe Clintons?

Donald Trump Jr. exchanging messages with WikiLeaks during last year's campaign and Jeff Sessions contemplating a second special counsel that might look at the Clinton Foundation, among others, were the nearly homogenous topics on cable news this morning. CNN "New Day" co-host Chris Cuomo called WikiLeaks an "agent of the Russian interference," while its legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin's take on Trump Jr. was that  "he's not that bright ... crude in his thinking and just trying to get his father elected." Is Trump campaign-Russia collusion proven? No, said pundit David Gregory.

Rather predictably MSNBC's "Morning Joe" hammered away at the Russian story, primarily via videotape (including from "Trump & Friends") throwing past denials of campaign-Russian involvement by Vice President Mike Pence right back at him. Over at "Trump & Friends," a lot more time was spent on its desire to ditch the diversity visa program than on any embattled U.S. Senate pick from Alabama. But, alas, former CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman did not appear to toe the Fox line (namely ditching it) that co-host Brian Kilmeade had seemingly wanted. He said, "I don't think shutting down the visa diversity program is necessarily going to be the better path to counter-terrorism effectiveness for three reasons." Kilmeade tried to quickly switch the subject.

The Europeans try to combat fake news

Poynter reports, "The European Commission announced a new strategy to combat misinformation and fake news online. It’s asking for more help."

"During the first of a two-day conference in Brussels, the Commission announced the launch of a public consultation and the creation of a high-level expert group to help the European Union develop a strategy to stop the spread of fake news. The resulting strategy will be presented in spring 2018."

Bloomberg adds, "Regulators are attempting to tackle concerns that false news reports might have sought to influence French and German elections this year as well as votes in Catalonia, the Netherlands and the U.K. French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year accused Russia of meddling in the country’s election by putting out fake news."

Brian Williams

His 11 p.m. MSNBC show is editorially strong and ditto ratings, as he tops Fox newcomer Shannon Bream and the second hour of Don Lemon's CNN show.

From MSNBC: "For the week, MSNBC averaged 1.5 million in total viewers (beating Fox News at 1.4 million and CNN at 759,000) and 362,000 in the 25-54 demo (beating Fox News at 343,000 and CNN at 287,000) at 11 o’clock."

The media slave trade

A book publishing industry salary survey details responses to questions on the use of interns. "Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that their houses worked with interns. Sixty-seven percent of those respondents said that they paid their interns, with a median hourly rate of $11.80."

"Unsurprisingly, small publishers were less likely to pay their intern. At houses with more than $100 million in annual sales, eighty-one percent of internships were paid." Why one in five ginormous houses don’t pay their interns is left as an exercise to the reader.

A Robert McFadden classic

Mention of The New York Times obituary of gossip columnist Liz Smith, which was written by Robert McFadden, 80, inspired a bunch of kudos about his work in general. One former Times executive reminds of his classic opening to the paper's account of a new century that was headlined, "1/1/00: FROM BALI TO BROADWAY; A Glittering Party For Times Square." 

"Two thousand years after Christ's obscure birth in a dusty town in Judea, the world's six billion people — most of them non-Christian and many of them preoccupied with terrorism, computers, diets, bank accounts, politics and the perils of the future — rode their turning blue planet across time's invisible line today and, by common consent, looked into the dawn of a new millennium."

"What they saw first was a party. It was garish, glittering and global, and millions, setting religious considerations and personal concerns aside, joined in the festivities to celebrate the conjunction of a new year, a new century and a new thousand-year cycle of history. They also put aside the inconvenient fact that the millennium, technically, is still a year off. It hardly mattered. In Times Square and across the United States, in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, in cities and towns all over the world, bells pealed, crowds shrieked and surged, skyrockets soared into the night, fireworks burst into supernovas, 'Auld Lang Syne' rang out, lights pulsed, loved ones and friends embraced, and the music and Champagne flowed."

"On a rainbow day whose moods ran the spectrum from tensions and prayers to euphoria and irresistible hyperbole, what most were calling Christianity's Third Millennium arrived in 24 stages as the Earth revolved through the time zones and midnight elapsed again and again in an around-the-clock, around-the-world series of golden moments that began at the international date line in the Pacific and raced westward across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas."

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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