When it comes to libel, Donald Trump is a (courtroom) loser
Good morning. Here's our daily summary of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.
"Donald J. Trump is a libel bully. Like most bullies, he's also a loser, to borrow from Trump's vocabulary."
That's the opening of "Donald J. Trump Is A Libel Bully But Also A Libel Loser," an analysis of seven different lawsuits he's filed, by Susan Seager, a media law specialist at the University of Southern California. (Media Law Resource Center)
"Trump and his companies have been involved in a mind-boggling 4,000 lawsuits over the last 30 years and sent countless threatening cease-and-desist letters to journalists and critics." Neither he nor his companies have won a speech-related case, something to be recalled as he threatens The New York Times and several women who have accused him of sexual assault.
In the cases whose records she dissects, there were four dismissals on the merits, two voluntary withdrawals, and one Trump arbitration win by default. Perfect example of his frivolous ways: suing HBO comedian-host Bill Maher "for suckering Trump into sending his birth certificate to prove he was not the 'spawn' of an orangutan." Trump filed a $5-million breach-of-contract lawsuit since Maher said he'd donate $5 million to charity if Trump could prove it, only to then withdraw the suit after it was quickly ridiculed.
Long before was his suit against my late former Chicago Tribune colleague, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Gapp. Gapp wrote that a proposed 150-story, nearly 2,000-foot high Trump office tower in Manhattan was "one of the silliest things anyone could inflict on New York or any other city," later telling The Wall Street Journal it was "aesthetically lousy" and that Chicago itself "has already been loused up by giant-ism."
Trump said the story and an artist's conception of the building "torpedoed his plans." A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit and derided Trump.
But Seager concedes that journalists and whistleblowers can be forced to expend lots of time, energy and money. The Tribune spent $60,000 defending Gapp (and that was 30 years ago).
Amid facile derision of Trump's threats, it's a reminder of how he may just want to be a pain in the neck, a reflex that comes naturally. And, as John Oliver put it Sunday night on his HBO show, the guy is "pathologically unable" and "medically incapable" to ever concede he's a loser.
The final debate totals
The three presidential debates and the vice presidential face-off lured a total of 259 million viewers, says Nielsen. "The 1992 debate cycle held the previous record, as a total of 250 million viewers tuned into the three George H. W. Bush–Bill Clinton–Ross Perot debates, and the Dan Quayle–Al Gore–James Stockdale vice presidential debate." (Adweek)
Unmentioned point of information: The U.S. population was 256 million back then. It's about 320 million now. So, reporters, don't start heralding some revived civic engagement.
Samantha Bee on the press
On her TBS show last night she singled out several news hosts, including Bret Baier of Fox and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow for being among the many who gave Trump fairly decent grades for first 25 to 30 minutes of the last debate (I agreed with them).
"Only kindergarteners get credit for using their inside voices. Our media are so punch drunk from the 16-month Hindenburg explosion of Trump's candidacy, they no longer notice how awful he is unless he...grabs the foundational principles of our country by the pussy."
Millennial doubts about AT&T deal
"What are they going to do that's special?" said a dubious Jon Steinberg, founder of Cheddar, as he interviewed Wall Street Journal reporter Ryan Knutson about the proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal. Said Knutson, "at the end of the day people think it's just about buying a stream of revenue that can help AT&T cover its dividend and help it diversify" amid the wireless industry's concentration in just a few hands. (Cheddar)
Hint of a Clinton rout
Even factoring in Democrats' typical early turnout lead with absentee balloting in Nevada, Nevada journalist and politics maven John Ralston reports that you could easily extrapolate from the early numbers that Election Day could be a disaster for Trump and Republicans in the state. (Ralston Reports)
The bigger picture
Bloomberg's Shira Ovide notes, "Even with the drama of the election season, aggregate ratings of five major cable TV network owners have declined this year."
Yup. "Television viewership numbers for the NFL (more King Content) are down so far this year. Ratings of the country’s five biggest cable networks have fallen by an aggregate 5 percent through Sept. 30 of this year, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analysis. Meanwhile, those new aggregators of attention — Facebook and Google — are absorbing more of viewers' time and nearly all new dollars spent on advertising. " (Bloomberg)
Disgrace begets a new media gig
Curt Schilling, the former great baseball pitcher who got canned by ESPN for tasteless remarks, will host a new Breitbart online radio show starting Tuesday. (New York)
Hopefully a classic blowhard will seek listener comment on his Facebook posting about the North Carolina transgender bathroom law that declared, "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently?" Pathetic.
White House correspondents' "consternation" with Trump, Clinton
The White House Correspondents' Association sent letters to the two campaigns with its "profound concern and consternation" at their "failure to establish a 'protective pool' (for journalists) at this late date on the political calendar."
With Trump, it alludes to the abuse the press has taken at rallies, at least one fat lie told by Trump staffers about travel plans, and how the press corps covering him was left stranded in New York and missed most of an event in New Hampshire.
Association president Jeff Mason of Reuters, vice president Margaret Talev of Bloomberg and vice president-elect Olivier Knox of Yahoo note that Clinton gave reporters the slip in September, an incident that underscores "the purpose and importance of a protective pool arrangement."
Russell Baker on Trump and the press
Here's Russell Baker, now 91, in The New York Review of Books' issue on the not-so-glamourous work of politics. "It is a killer job: phone ringing all night with bad news, constant wars in distant unpronounceable countries, incessant funeral speeches to comfort next-of-kin after mass slaughters of the innocent by people exercising the constitutional right to bear arms." (New York Review of Books)
It's part of a great issue that features work from an all-star cast.
Vice vs. the old guard
Can Vice offer a successful alternative on its new HBO nightly newscast?
Last night the homogeneity of the broadcast networks was largely underscored. CBS' Scott Pelley opened with "Time is running out for Donald Trump," namely a not-very-newsy piece on his campaign. NBC's Lester Holt opened with "Battleground Blitz," a not-very-newsy piece on the campaign. Over at a far more tabloidy ABC, there was the "urgent manhunt for a killer" outside Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, the anchor-less "Vice News Tonight" on HBO opened with at least mention of a larger world out there: migrants set fire to a European Union office in Lesbos, Greece; the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline moving forward after protesters were arrested; opium production up 43 percent in Afghanistan; and the French clearing a Calais refugee camp. But, yes, briefly in its version of opening headlines, Trump saying polls are rigged, which everybody had.
Its first large pieces were campaign were longer and far less frenetic than broadcast network stories, as were smart segments on divided Iraqi loyalties toward the government amid the fight over Mosul; individuals with dual American-Iranian citizenship jailed in Iran; the AT&T-Time Warner deal (the weakest, most derivative segment); and remote Tangier Island, Virginia (population: 500), where rising waters threaten its future.
It was all so understated and thoughtful, with reporters dressed informally as if at Home Depot on Saturday morning, it will take some getting used to. Ditto the absence of ads for Prevnar 13.
The quality divide on visuals gets greater
Check a terrific use of images and video by The New York Times in "Living in China’s Expanding Deserts — People on the edges of the country’s vast seas of sand are being displaced by climate change." It's a fine story by Josh Haner, Edward Wong, Derek Watkins and Jeremy White, but the pictures are as impressive — and evidence of the big guys distancing themselves from the pack that can't or won't afford this level of imagery. (The New York Times)
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" opened per usual with John Roberts on the Trump campaign in Miami, with word that the Bay of Pigs Museum would endorse Trump, then regurgitating polls and warning that new leaked emails (Clinton camp criticism of some Elizabeth Warren supporters) "mean trouble in liberal paradise," as Brian Kilmeade put it.
CNN heralded its own poll, showing (again) Trump's lead in non-college educated voters but his doing poorly among the college educated (perilous for a GOP candidate). It devolved into discussion of tactics and Clinton's superior "infrastructure," a favorite and facile topic of pundits, and offered a puffy profile of "Mom On A Mission" Kellyanne Conway, Trump's campaign manager.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" was immersed in electoral speculation, like Trump's need to win rarely-mentioned New Hampshire, even Maine. "They're (the Trump campaign) saying Arizona is a lock, Arizona is not a lock," said Joe Scarborough, who still doesn't buy into notions that the race is necessarily over. "You have two weeks, a tumultuous electorate, people who hate Hillary Clinton" as part of a fluid mix, at least for him.