Good morning. Here’s our morning roundup of all the media news you need to know. Want to get this briefing in your inbox every morning? Subscribe here.
Donald Trump is nothing if not transparent, especially when it comes to views of the press and outright evasions about his business holdings.
That was self-evident at his Wednesday spectacle (labeled “press conference”) in which he bashed media and also beckoned a Washington attorney to detail his zealous quest to avoid conflicts of interest.
Washington lawyer Sheri Dillon, who structured the agreements involving his holdings, declared quickly, “As you know, the business empire built by President-elect Trump over the years is massive, not dissimilar to the fortunes of Nelson Rockefeller when he became vice president. But at that time, no one was so concerned.”
First, as Time magazine pointed out, that “no one was so concerned” about Gerald Ford’s pick for vice president (and nearly the Republican presidential nominee in 1964) is B.S. (Time) A lot of folks were. The last of the great Northeast Republican moderates, whose greatest fame was as New York governor, was one of America’s richest fellows, with most of that inherited (remind you of anyone?).
But what wasn’t noted by anyone — team Trump or the media — is the Grand Canyon-like chasm between Trump and Rockefeller when it came to disclosure.
I asked historian Richard Norton Smith, who wrote the only comprehensive Rockefeller biography, “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller.” The former director of several presidential museums, mostly notably Abe Lincoln’s in Springfield, Illinois and Ford’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he’s working on a biography of Ford.
As Smith also notes in his book, there was full disclosure of Rockefeller’s holdings, including taxes. The only near dealbreaker involved an initial demand all Rockefeller family members to reveal their financial holdings.
On the day that Ford nominated him, Rockefeller was questioned by nominations expert Tom Korologos, a famous Washington Republican lobbyist. It was his job to get Rockefeller confirmed, and guess what worried the nominee? It was that full disclosure would show people he wasn’t as rich as they may have assumed!
“He fully complied with committee requests for financial disclosure, including several years of income taxes,” said Smith.
The Rockefeller wealth was run out of Room 5600 at 30 Rockefeller Center, home now of NBC and MSNBC, among others. J. Richardson Dilworth (yes, his name), who ran the show, testified on Rockefeller’s behalf before Congress and brought along lots of charts and graphs to details the family business interests.
He even got into specifics of holdings, such as spinoffs of Standard Oil, origin of the family’s fortune. In Nelson’s case, lots of his assets were in fine art but, unlike Trump, not in tacky portraits of himself.
So maybe Dillon, the Washington lawyer, should bill Trump for a few upcoming hours either Googling or taking the free shuttle National Archives shuttle bus to its archives in nearby College Park, Maryland. You can catch it at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
As you know, Sheri, for now you can stick with The Wall Street Journal’s take on the supposedly transparent moves you announced yesterday: “Donald Trump to place business holdings in a trust run by adult sons: Some ethics experts say the trust and other measures don’t create the firewall needed to fully insulate him from his holdings.” (Wall Street Journal)
CNN, BuzzFeed (Part 1)
As Jack Davis, a former big-time newspaper publisher in Virginia and Connecticut, told me, “CNN wants to occupy the high ground of talking only about the process of Washington dealing with an outlandish report. CNN would have us think that BuzzFeed is somehow less principled for actually presenting the particulars (not the same as ‘the facts’).”
“But CNN’s serious tone about meetings and presentations was far more misleading than Buzzfeed’s merely saying, ‘Here’s the dossier.’ Reading Buzzfeed, one would conclude this is outlandish, probably not true. Listening only to CNN, one would conclude that something important was happening.”
CNN, BuzzFeed, (Part 2)
Under The Wall Street Journal story identifying the likely key source, a former
British intelligence official who runs a London-based private investigations firm, was the comment of a reader who identified herself as Jennifer Small:
“Journalism 101: Report claims Trump’s attorney went to Prague at a specific date (date not mentioned in the above article.)”
“So, Brenda Starr, girl reporter, calls the attorney and says, ‘Mr. so-and-so, I have a report that you were in Prague on date so-and-so to meet with Kremlin officials. Could you explain the reason for your visit?'”
“The attorney says, ‘I have never been to Prague in my life. You can photocopy my passport for proof.'”
“Then Brenda Starr, girl reporter, goes back to so-called source and says, ‘Your report has no credence. Let me know if you have anything verifiable.'”
“And that is how it is supposed to be done and was done for decades until recent years.”
If it’s $1.8 million, don’t waste your time
“The New York Law Journal would like to provide more coverage of outcomes in civil cases. If you secure a verdict or settlement of $2 million or greater, let us know right away.” (New York Law Journal)
Everybody hawks trips, notably The New York Times, with five-figure exotic treks that feature its own correspondents and editors. They accentuate the paper’s self-image and brand.
The Los Angeles Times is clearly more consumed with less pricy travel, now advertising a five-day “New Zealand Wildlife & Wine Adventure” for $1,099. Do you sleep inside your Samsonite luggage in the cargo hold at that price? (New Zealand.com)
There are other opportunities, including a $45 dinner for two in Santa Ana. (Los Angeles Times) Well, it’s surely a lot cheaper than buying a subscription.
Obama’s lonely hope
Amid the reams written about Obama’s final speech, there’s Vinson Cunningham’s very good “The increasingly lonely hope of Barack Obama” (The New Yorker)
“The coming Trump Administration will be a monumental test of Obama’s enduring optimism, and, perhaps, of his impatience with those who don’t share it. On Tuesday night, Obama carried on his long-running argument in favor of positive thinking, not as a perfect analytical tool — ‘there will be times when the process disappoints you,’ he said — but, instead, as a moral obligation, and an instrument in the work of continual American renewal. Trust me, he seemed to be saying: You’ll need it.”
And totally missed by the mainstream media
Look at every account of Obama’s farewell speech and see if you can find this angle:
“Arguably no one (unless your last name is Hadid or Jenner) has been bigger choker enthusiasts than the Obama girls.” (Racked)
“Even as the year of the choker (what we call 2016 around here) has drawn to a close, Sasha and Malia Obama remain doggedly committed to the trend. We were reminded of this as Malia took the stage last night at her father’s farewell speech, what might be her last public appearance as first daughter, with a delicate black choker around her neck.”
You say David Muir had it on “ABC World Tabloid News Tonight?” Nah, don’t think so.
Weighty radio scoop
Just in from Maine: “After doctors told him he faced the prospect of diabetes, Gov. Paul LePage had surgery in September to trim off excess weight.”
“’There’s 50 less pounds of me to hate,'” LePage said Wednesday during his weekly interview with WLOB radio in Portland.” (Boston Globe) And his relationship with the press makes Trump’s look harmonious. (New York Daily News)
The bumbling LePage “said the bariatric surgery was amazing. He said he went in on Sept. 29 for a non-invasive procedure and was back at work the next day.” Sorry, Mainers.
Chuck Todd on Wednesday’s winner
Brian Williams had MSNBC anchor duties post-Trump press conference with colleague Chuck Todd, who was justifiably struck by the Ringling Brothers aspect of what had played out. In fact, “I was struck at how normal a circus is to us now. This was a circus. We have never seen a president-elect, a transition, like we saw today.” (Vanity Fair)
And he was right about this: “Politically, BuzzFeed did Donald Trump a political favor by doing what they did. It allowed them (Team Trump) to deny a specific without dealing with the bigger picture.”
Say goodbye to FM radio
Little Norway (population 5 million) is a thought and technology leader, so it’s worth noting, “As Norway switches off its FM radio network this week, other nations have abandoned similar plans, leaving the Scandinavian country a lonely beacon of digital-only broadcasting in a world that’s rapidly moving on to music streaming and podcasts.” (Bloomberg)
Coverage of Trump overwhelmed confirmation hearings for at least three cabinet nominees that had their moments, high and low. (U.S. News & World Report) A personal favorite:
Elaine Chao, the pick for Transportation Secretary and a master of rhetorical and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, was talking vaguely about “streamlining” the regulatory process and, yes, “intermodal compatibility and interaction that can occur” among different modes of transportation.
Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar alluded to an awful bridge collapse in her state and then turned to aviation questions and the threat to American workers from “unfair” competition.
Chao said she “looks forward to working with you on this important issue.” Which was to say, “Amy, don’t hold your breath.”
The morning babble
Steve Doocy of “Fox & Friends” opened by saying “it is a couple of news outlets that published things in the last 24 hours that really got it” from Trump. He showed the exchange between Trump and CNN’s Jim Acosta, then gave us video of Rush Limbaugh now praising Trump for “cutting it (the media) down to size.”
CNN’s “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota felt compelled to repeat, for the umpteenth time, and defensively, what the network’s reported on those Trump-related Russia documents. Chris Cuomo said that now the real story is as much about the window given on how the Trump administration will react to a story it doesn’t like.
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” argued via Mike Barnicle that for Trump to equate professionals who do their jobs in the intelligence community with Nazis was over the top. Cokie Roberts defended the CIA, while The Washington Post’s David Ignatius noted how many media outlets exhibited discretion in having the crazy dossier of allegations and not publishing it after not verifying it. Yes, if only the public realized same, which it won’t.
And this from Trump Whisperer Joe Scarborough: The president-elect should stop trashing the likes of former rival Sen. Lindsey Graham, as he did yesterday. Graham, and especially former rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, can “gut him” in the Senate if he doesn’t watch out. Some evidence came during Rubio’s theatrical but effective undressing of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. (The New Yorker)
Today’s media agenda
The revolving door of confirmation hearings brings CIA nominee Mike Pompeo and HUD nominee Ben Carson to the fore, with testimony, too, from Defense nominee James Mattis. Oh, just after 1 a.m. this morning, the Republican-led Senate took the first big step in repealing Obamacare during what’s known on Capitol Hill as a “vote-a-rama” litany of legislative actions. (The Washington Post) The unintended consequences of a post-Obama world beckon.