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There are smart conspiracy theorists. And then there’s Alex Jones of InfoWars.
You can debate whether Megyn Kelly should be giving him loads of primetime attention Sunday on her new NBC News gig. But is he really undermining her by disclosing portions of the planned Sunday evening interview by her “and her intelligence operatives,” as he puts it in the tape’s preamble?
Does it do him any good to now give us a version that ends with a reference to what he deems an “NBC-globalist-George Soros hit job?”
“You alone will be the jury as to who’s fake news and who stands for America,” he tells his online audience in a 30-minute mix of a seeming pre-interview phone chat and very small portions of the actual interview done at Jones’ InfoWars operation in Austin, Texas.
There was some guffawing on social media last night, with some folks thinking Jones’ initial declaration that he was going to divulge the interview was some act of tactical genius in upending the big, bad corporation. “What a disaster for NBC News,” tweeted Los Angeles Times correspondent Matt Pearce. (@mattpearce)
Initially, Jones offered a brief snippet of pre-interview sucking up by Kelly as he claimed to have surprised and upended her. Later came the 30-minute version that’s heavily edited and includes lots of his side commentary.
As these things go, the smidgen he releases of her telephonic pre-interview entreaties to him is discomfiting but not outrageously egregious. She spoke to Jones of his being “fascinating” to her and how she’d never, ever double-cross anyone. “It’s not going to be some gotcha, hit piece, I promise you that….Hell no, it’s not an investigative piece into fake news.” She talks of how fair and careful NBC News is, suggesting more so than her alma mater, Fox News.
Reporters frequently schmooze potential subjects (or their publicists) as they assert the benign nature of their quest. Kelly’s pretty unctuous but not beyond the pale as she gets Jones “to take the challenge,” as he puts it, and thus “not hide from evil.”
He tells his viewers in the 30-minute version of deciding to enter “the labyrinth of the Gorgon of this modern-day Medusa.” At the same time, he says “I’ve always been a fan of yours” any how much he looks forward to meeting her. Apple-polishing went both ways.
I’ve always wondered why more people that I interview don’t tape our sessions. One former cable news executive told me last night that it was surprising that so many subjects “would just stand by and not do their own recordings of the nets’ interviews.”
And Kelly, or any reporter, would be a nincompoop for not assuming that an interviewee has a tape of their session, even if surreptitiously recorded. That assumption might make for far more precise journalism.
Plus, as the former cable executive said, Jones “is a dumb ass” for not waiting to see how NBC actually does edit the interview and then release whatever he wants to presumably benefit his cause. He’s clearly holding back a big chunk, meaning he probably is half a dumb ass.
A former top broadcast news executive told me, “Here’s a guy who sees conspiracy everywhere…whose ‘reporting’ on events is untrustworthy to start. So I worry how he might edit or re-edit what happened to fit into his own version of the truth.”
As far as the booking process, and the seeming flattery displayed by Kelly, that’s “always a tricky matter. Trying to make a guest feel comfortable. Explaining why you think they’re important. But also making it clear that you’re in control. And that critical questions will be asked.”
Should one trust Jones, the Sandy Hook massacre denier (in this, he says, “In hindsight, I think it probably did happen”), when it comes to editing anything, including a birthday party invitation? This is clearly not the entire interview, as Jones edits in tape of lot of other stuff, including many media criticisms of him and recent coverage of NBC’s disclosure of an interview.
Can the conspiracist be trusted when alleging his own victimization by a conspiracy? Is “disaster” enveloping NBC? I have more faith that my second grader’s coach-pitch team can beat the Cubs.
Finally, running even what he has — even if not the whole shebang — could make life ultimately easier for NBC News boss Andy Lack, suggests a third former top TV executive I contacted last evening.
Say that competitors now run their little stories on the Jones mini-version of the interview. It slightly embarrasses the network but also gives Lack a perfect way out of the debatable decision to interview the guy in the first place.
You just assert that terms of the interview are now violated by Jones and cancel the episode. Kelly and the network will survive.
She can do a quick-and-dirty substitute with an alleged “exclusive” on something else, probably the Virginia shootings. Violence, like conspiracy theories, does have enduring marquee value.
Or they can exploit the hubbub and run the whole mess. “This is your chance to tell people who you are,” Kelly says in her pre-interview sucking up. Lucky him. Lucky us.
Snap shares fall (again)
“Shares of Snap Inc dropped 4.9 percent on Thursday to their initial public offering price, highlighting investors’ loss of confidence in the social media company that faces fierce competition from Facebook.” (Reuters)
A politically incorrect analysis
Wrote HuffPost: “The Congressional Baseball Game is going ahead tonight; if the 2000s New York Yankees didn’t sate your appetite for old rich dudes with little-to-no athletic ability, you should definitely go.”
Fuller disclosure at Instagram
“A lot of Instagram’s most popular users are paid to promote advertisers’ products. A lot of those same users don’t actually disclose that they’re promoting an advertisers’ products.” (Recode)
“So Instagram is asking these users, many of them celebrities or media organizations, to include a ‘paid partnership’ label on posts that they’re being compensated to share.”
Bezos goes short-term
Jeff Bezos is a famously long-term strategist when it comes to Amazon, his rocket business and The Washington Post. But now, he tweets, he wants to go short-term as far as having an impact with his philanthropic dollars. He’s asking anybody to throw ideas his way. Or if you think he’s all wet. (@JeffBezos)
The morning babble
“Trump & Friends” and “Morning Joe” heralded the congressional baseball game, while CNN went heavy with unconfirmed reports that Russia killed the key ISIS leader during a May 28 airstrike.
“We can hope for more unity in the future,” said MSNBC co-host Mika Brzezinski in what surely was sincere but also wishful thinking (just read this New York Times story that describes how senators from both parties are pissed over Republicans’ secrecy in writing a healthcare bill, or The Washington Post on Trump lashing out over the Russia investigation).
Not all victims are equal
I got a smart note from Connie Doebele, former longtime C-SPAN stalwart who’s now at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia producing the PBS show, “American Forum.”
She’s also a former 1980s congressional staffer justifiably taken aback by one aspect of the media’s coverage of the Virginia shootings:
“I am predictably sensitive to how little attention the injured staff people are getting in all this. When working on the Hill, I remember thinking that if anything bad happened, the headline would be ‘Congressman Injured, Staffer Killed.’ In the 24 hours of news coverage since the shooting, the critically injured staffer has gotten so little attention.”
“Yes, I feel awful for Rep. Scalise and his staff and family. But watching this on Cable and Twitter and Facebook and all the gush over him, you would think he was the only one injured. A life is a life. Shouldn’t our media do a better job here? Is this reflective of a class system that is so prevalent in Washington? Read: Elected Members are important. Staff is not.”
The state of free speech
On June 20, The Washington Post will host a forum that includes prominent First Amendment specialist Floyd Abrams, University of Chicago chief Robert Zimmer and, yes, Ann Coulter, among others. It’s at 3 p.m. and will be live-streamed on the paper’s site.
Poynter on Thursday profiled Associated Press longtime golf writer Doug Ferguson (“the most-read golf writer in the world”). It was appropriate on the eve of U.S Open in Wisconsin.
But it might be noted that the best pre-U.S Open story — there’s not a close second — was by The New York Times’ Karen Crouse, one of the few women on the golf beat. She broke word that golf legend Phil Mickelson, who desperately wants to finally win the Open, would not compete because he had opted to attend his daughter’s high school graduation.
A former reporter confirms a rumor
“An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general’s sworn testimony given this week.” (The Guardian)
That would be Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany who long ago was a New York Times correspondent.
New gig for an old hand
After 9,000 columns on California politics and exiting The Sacramento Bee, Dan Walters, 73, will write four times a week for the nonprofit CALmatters. “So here I am again, beginning the third incarnation of my running commentary on all things California, but particularly its politics.”
An InfoWars editor’s note
“Editor’s note: We have it from high-level sources The Hollywood Reporter was ordered to pull their interview with Alex Jones, possibly by elements within the Central Intelligence Agency. Jones says he spoke to sources who said they’d never seen anything like it before. In the interest of free speech, Infowars is re-publishing this article…” (InfoWars)
But at least there was this sober assessment and magnanimous offer elsewhere on the site: “By constantly pushing violence against President Trump, the mainstream media was completely complicit in the GOP shooting, and we are now offering cash rewards to people who can help expose their guilt to the public at large.” (InfoWars)
“In what is being called one of the greatest disasters of its kind, millions of gallons of oil began spilling into Washington on Friday following a rupture in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.” (The Onion)
OK, nobody goes four-for-four every day, especially with satire.
But my weekend includes going two-for-two, at least, at a doubleheader Bar Mitzvah (twins), and a couple of baseball games. It’s light parental duty, even with brief stops in and out of the Third World airport known as LaGuardia. See you next week.