A member of Congress has launched a full-throttle attack against his hometown paper

October 8, 2018
Category: Newsletters

Nunes' Bee stings; slain TV news host; wrong Kavanaugh

It's President Trump vs. the national media, writ small.

Trump's stand-in to slam journalism in this case is Rep. Devin Nunes, recused and later un-recused GOP head of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes, when not under ethics investigation, is in charge of House efforts to get to the bottom of Russia's election interference in the 2016 elections. However, Nunes has sought to shield Trump — and he once implied to GOP fundraisers that fellow Congressional Republicans will have to clear Trump if Jeff Sessions or Robert Mueller do not.

Facing his toughest re-election battle ever, Nunes chose a target: The Fresno Bee, the biggest paper in his district. He launched television advertisements over the summer against the paper, and now he's upped the ante. His campaign has sent a glossy magazine out to voters in the district, telling them they cannot trust the McClatchy newspaper, which has dared to ask Nunes if he plans to have any town meetings again in his district. (To see the magazine in its entirety, click here.)

The language of the Nunes mailer and the cartoon figures it uses — bees that appear to be drinking Kool-Aid — were so strong that they invited ridicule.

"Hey Devin Nunes," tweeted the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, "the Fresno Bee isn't socialist — we should know. We're actual socialists!" 

Nunes has refused to sit for an interview with The Bee since a February session when he made it clear he did not like its questions, The Bee's editor, Joe Kieta, told me. 

"Not speaking with The Bee," Kieta said, "seems to be a calculated decision on his part. But that doesn't mean we won't cover him or his campaign, which is relevant to The Bee's audience and is of intense interest. He has taken issue with some of our coverage, but we stand completely behind our work. We're just doing our jobs as journalists and telling stories and revealing facts about Nunes and the other candidates."

Bee columnist Marek Warszawski responded by telling readers that the Bee and the McClatchy Washington bureau are producing the stories that Nunes wants to hide. Warszawski wrote that each day, reporters pass a framed reminder in the office that reads: “Our mission: to inform and advocate for the enhancement of life in the Valley.”

"You don’t want people to know about the limo rides, fancy restaurants, five-star hotels and courtside seats at Boston Celtics games," Warszawski wrote, addressing Nunes. "You don’t want to be constantly reminded it’s been eight years (!) since you attended a public forum in your district. Or circulate that grinning photo of you and the guy flashing a white-supremacist sign."

Not to mention the winery he partly owns getting sued after hosting a cocaine- and prostitute-fueled yacht party for its biggest investors, all men, who drew straws over which sex worker to hire. Warszawski said the paper would have written about the lawsuit against the winery whether Nunes or his political opponent had a stake in the business. Also, Esquire followed The Bee's reporting that Nunes' efforts to promote himself based on his family farm were a myth: His family sold the California farm more than a decade ago and moved to another spread in Iowa. 

Lauren Gustus, who edits the Sacramento Bee and heads the newspaper chain's western papers, backed up the Fresno reporters in a tweet. Citing Warszawski's column, she wrote: "The Fresno Bee was here long before Nunes. And it will be here long after."

Quick hits

NEWS ANCHOR SLAIN: Victoria Marinova's last Bulgarian TV newscast was an in-depth interview Sept. 30 on fraud involving European Union funds. The journalist's body — beaten, raped and strangled — was found six days later. The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded that Bulgaria fully investigate. (h/t Miriam Elder)

SHE'S NOT ALONE: Where is Jamal Khashoggi, a leading Saudi journalist and Washington Post opinion writer? The Saudis deny a Post report, citing Turkish officials, that conclude Khashoggi was slain inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week by a Saudi hit squad. Says The Post's Jason Rezaian: "We're not going to ease up on this until we know exactly what happened." Writes veteran Middle East reporter Robin Wright for The New Yorker: "The last time I spoke with Jamal Khashoggi, in August, he was worried about his life."

THEY'RE NOT ALONE: CPJ chair Kathleen Carroll noted two other slayings of journalists in as many weeks: the knifing of reporter Abdirisak Said Osman in Somalia and the shooting of reporter Mario Leonel Gomez Sanchez in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

ATTENTION-GRABBER: "My overall assessment is that Metro has lost its footing and needs urgent, fundamental change." That’s a line in a memo to the staff from New York Times Metro Editor Cliff Levy. In the note, he also announces voluntary buyouts but says staff levels will remain the same as the department adjusts.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY: First off, he doesn’t have a “u” in his last name. Secondly, Brett Kavanagh — the 27-year-old Kentucky guy, not the judge — told the Louisville Courier Journal that he’d “had a few beers and I thought, ‘I'm just going to throw this out there.'" So he tweeted: “This is a terrible time to be named Brett Kavanagh.” His tweet prompted more than 1 million likes, 650 new followers and sympathetic comments from a George Martin, a Susan Collins, a Mike Pence and a Bruce (Y.) Lee.

WHAT’S UP WITH MEN?: A new study of American millennial men says one third of them would prefer to vote for a white political candidate, all things being equal, BuzzFeed’s Matt Berman writes. That’s among findings of a poll in which nearly half of the millennial Democrats surveyed identify as socialists or democratic socialists.  

C'MON, MEN: In an exquisitely timed podcast titled "Man Up," Hidden Brain's Shankar Vedantam questions why so many men are so concerned with even slight moves across gender boundaries, like wearing a pink shirt or temporarily holding a companion's purse. Why, he asks, doesn't an out-of-work steelworker apply for abundant open jobs in other fields, such as home health aides? "There is very little movement of men, period," answers Northwestern University social psychologist Alice Eagly. Is this reluctance hurting families and America? Here's the NPR podcast and the transcript

THREE IN ONE: Now there's a free iPhone/iPad app that gets you the latest fact-checks from factcheck.org, PolitiFact and The Washington Post. Here's more about FactStream.

MOVES: Angel Rodriguez has been promoted to assistant managing editor for sports for the Los Angeles Times. … Alex Sujong Laughlin, until last month part of BuzzFeed’s now-disbanded “Pod Squad” team, is helping produce “The Argument,” a podcast debuting this week by The New York Times. … Theresa Clift is leaving Western Pennsylvania's triblive.com to become a city hall reporter at the Sacramento Bee … Amanda Hull, managing editor of Purseblog, is joining The Atlantic as a staff writer covering health, including the beauty and nutrition industries.

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