There is finally some good news for the media amid cascades of repetitive, even now monotonous studies on declining respect and the rise of fake news: Donald Trump's hotels are even more the source of aggravation. We might want to end the week by running to the nearest Courtyard Marriott to toast the comparative good news! Maybe we stay overnight for a complimentary breakfast.
Yahoo Finance is succinct: "Morning Consult’s inaugural report of the Most Polarizing Brands in America is out, and the top 10 is comprised entirely of news outlets — with two exceptions: Trump Hotels and the National Football League."
"After Trump Hotels are: CNN; Fox News and NBC News, tied at No. 3; New York Times; and MSNBC and the NFL, tied at No. 6." Yes, CNN is said to be more polarizing than Sean Hannity & Co. Who would have thought that Fox can now see themselves as C-SPAN compared to CNN, or at least not quite as badly mistrusted.
"Trump Hotels is the No. 1 most polarizing brand, Morning Consult finds, which means that it has the largest difference in favorability between Democrats and Republicans." Yes, given the increasing gulf in media respect between Democrats (very strong) and Republicans (once strong, now weak and getting weaker), this constitutes reassurance for the role of a free press in a democracy.
So we can figure that Victor, the concierge at your nearby Trump hotel, is in more danger of public rebuke than Jake Tapper, Laura Ingraham or Chris Hayes. Whew.
Not willing to accept the word of Yahoo Finance, I delved deeply into this treatise and learned that the NFL isn't alone in being suspect, meaning that athletes' political stances have elicited animus toward the NBA and NASCAR, too.
In addition, there's important counsel for political reporters who may spend inordinate time at their desks, in TV studios or awaiting Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the White House briefing room. It would be best if you get to a Papa John's or a Little Caesars with a notepad and ballpoint pen, even if merely picking up cheap eats for a 6-year-old's birthday party.
"Papa John’s is more popular with Republicans than with Democrats, by 24 percentage points in net favorability … Republicans are also more likely than Democrats to favor Domino’s, Little Caesars and Pizza Hut … Large pizza chains accounted for 36.5% of sales in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, compared to 23% of sales in states that voted for Hillary Clinton."
Oh, dig deeper, one finds that Walmart shoppers are appreciably more inclined to build The Wall on the border than Target shoppers. And Target customers support abortion in higher numbers. But you sort of figured that one, didn't you? Finally, I can offer these questions for late-night tavern wagers:
Who's more polarizing, Time Magazine or Chick-fil-A? (Answer: Time)
Who's more polarizing, Breitbart or Bass Pro Shops? (By a sliver, it's Breitbart.)
So if you're going out to dinner Saturday night, and mulling whether to bring up Breitbart's coverage of the Dreamers or, instead, Bass Pro Shops' new Johnny Morris Signature Series Baitcast Reel, I'd go with the $159.99 fishing item. It's apparently less polarizing.
Stormy on Jimmy
Jimmy Kimmel tweeted late Thursday that Stormy Daniels will be his guest after the State of the Union address. Political journalists should stand down and turn the dial to Kimmel for what presumably will be an engaging discussion on the real impact of tax cuts, ongoing deregulation, the feverish competition to be Amazon's second headquarters city (see Friday's Wall Street Journal story), China's growing assertiveness, and, of course, federal housing policy (as it relates to rent subsidies for carriage houses adjacent to strip joints).
Trump orders the firing of Robert Mueller
The New York Times broke the story of Trump ordering that Mueller be canned, then being talked out of it last June. Justifiably, it dominated cable news last evening — or at least CNN and MSNBC. Fox was either more interested in Tucker Carlson spending time bashing Barack Obama and Louis Farrakhan or continuing its crusade about the text messages of an FBI agent and his FBI lawyer girlfriend, even as a lot of its conspiracy theories on that matter and a related story on alleged FBI animus toward Trump were seriously deflated by various disclosures.
Rachel Maddow delved into the Land of Very Reasonable Inference when noting the relatively frequent appearances in stories of White House Counsel Don McGahn as a de facto "superhero," saving the nation from calamity by figuring out ways to curb Trump's excesses. In the latest tale, he's the guy who upends the fire-Mueller order. Her question: Has McGahn been the source of some of these tales?
Meanwhile, there's also the reality that back in June, Trump buddy Chris Ruddy, who runs Newsmax, had explicitly indicated that Trump was mulling firing Mueller. The White House denied it back then. The Times now discloses that the order came at about that very time. The Times and Ruddy are looking good.
The Morning Babel
Here's how "Trump & Friends" covered the Times' Trump-firing-Mueller story: Co-host Steve Doocy held up the paper's front page, then cut to video at Davos where Trump passed it off Friday as a "typical New York Times fake story;" substitute co-host Pete Hegseth chided it as "typical New York Times" and said it "screams of a leak from the special counsel;" and co-host Ainsley Earhardt closed the pre-sunrise case for Team Trump thus: "The president says it's fake news, that happened last June, it's something we've got to tell you about because it's a headline in the New York Times. What do you think about that, do you even care? Something you probably care about is immigration, and Congress is working on a plan …"
Enough of such untidiness! After a commercial break it was on to more immigration and a guest from Arizona who said it was "fantastic" to see Trump's plan.
MSNBC went well-to-wall Times story, with Times reporter Michael Schmidt explaining it all on another morning where the Times (often The Washington Post, too) should be sending an invoice to the cable and broadcast news networks for providing their programming. With Fox the exception, they went over its saga over and over and over, with only an 800-new subscriber number not flashed across the screen as partial gratitude.
A CNN pundit, Daily Beast editor John Avlon, said "the American people benefit" from the story's disclosure and McGahn "looks like a principled guy who stood in front of a train." Former prosecutor Michael Zeldin, who should have a Murphy bed somewhere in CNN's Washington studios, rather than waste time running back and forth from his office and home, was on once again (he surfaces more than pharmaceutical ads). He framed the key ultimate questions: Can you abuse your power by firing people and can you be indicted while in office (some say you only do that after, leaving impeachment while in office). And it had its fave New York Times reporter, Maggie Haberman, who was a byline on the Mueller story with Schmidt.
Writing off The Times scoop, Aaron Keller, on the Law & Crime website, belittled the three supposed Trump claims of Mueller conflicts, most notably a dispute over fees that led him to quit Trump's fancy golf club in Virginia. "We do think it’s hysterical that Mueller resigned from Trump National the same year Trump started peeing in the snow around the Obama White House regarding whether President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fake. Trump leveraged that issue into a few serious and high-profile hint-drops that he had serious political ambitions of his own. We’re completely speculating here, but Trump was starting to really heat himself up politically in 2011, so maybe — just maybe — Mueller wanted to leave the golf club specifically to avoid a conflict of interest in associating socially with an increasingly vocal political figure."
Shepard Smith again departs from the script
With many of his colleagues pressing various anti-FBI conspiracy theories, Fox's Shepard Smith zeroed in on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who's claiming he's got some damning internal committee memo about the FBI but won't release it. Smith thinks that based on actual facts that are known, including sources he says have seen the memo, support for the ballyhooed implications is tenuous, if not bogus. "Especially at a pivotal moment in American history when it behooves the man in charge for supporters to believe the institutions can’t be trusted, investigators are corrupt, and the news media are liars. Context matters."
So would you believe that MSNBC's "Morning Joe" aired his comments this morning? "Wow, Shep Smith for President," said co-host Joe Scarborough, an especially magnanimous act given that it's always rumors that he toys with a return to elective politics. Well, maybe Smith runs as a moderate Republican and the former GOP congressman from Florida as a born-again Democrat (which presumably would force him to construct a primary campaign strategy against Oprah).
Is Fox amping things up?
In U.S. News & World Report, Robert Schlesinger notes how Will Sommer, who crafts the Right Richter newsletter on conservative media, discerns a new "manic, anger tone" at Fox. What's up?
"Sommer argues that Fox is feeling market pressures from its right. 'I think Fox's new agitated voice is being driven by the fact that they're constantly facing competition within the right-wing media,' he writes. 'Fox was walloped during the presidential campaign for not going far enough right and getting accused of "cucking out" on Trump. This time around, Fox is happy to deliver what the audience wants.'"
Well, there is always Shepard Smith, the seeming rebellion within, the two-legged bastion of an ever-so-quaint just-the-facts journalism tradition.
The libertarians roll their eyes
Matt Welch of libertarian Reason offers "a brief recap of one of conservatism's most embarrassing 41-hour stretches," pillorying Sen. Ron Johnson's crazy and unsupported claims of corruption "at the highest levels of the FBI," ABC News blowing the "secret society" mantra out of the water and Johnson then conceding to CNN that it was a "real possibility" the text that justified hours of Fox gabbing was, ah, well, "written in jest."
Should Trump really testify?
Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien says, ah, no.
"Speaking from experience, I think the president's attorneys should grab their worry beads. Trump sued me for libel in 2006 for a biography I wrote, 'TrumpNation,' alleging that the book misrepresented his business record and understated his wealth. Trump lost the suit in 2011, but during the litigation my lawyers deposed him under oath for two days in 2007. We had the opportunity to ask Trump about his business and banking practices, his taxes, his personal finances and his professional relationships."
As he explains, it wasn't pretty, as O'Brien was represented by Mary Jo White, a prominent former federal prosecutor.
"Hammered by White and her deputies, Trump ultimately had to admit 30 times that he had lied over the years about all sorts of stuff: how much of a big Manhattan real estate project he owned; the price of one of his golf club memberships; the size of the Trump Organization; his wealth; his speaking fees; how many condos he had sold; his debts; and whether he borrowed money from his family to avoid going personally bankrupt. He also lied during the deposition about his business dealings with career criminals."
A fruitless search
Michael Ferro, the head of Tronc, purchased a vaunted ARC platform created at the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post. It's been installed at the Los Angeles Times, but apparently could use a little tinkering (amid what is also a rather uninspired site redesign).
I put in the name of columnist Steve Lopez in the search field and got, well, take a look. It wasn't anything having to do with him but did give me an NBA round-up and the week ahead in L.A. theater.
I did a bit better when i put in the name of publisher Ross Levinsohn. I got a couple of golf stories and, lower down, the same story twice about the paper's publisher taking an unpaid leave of absence after an NPR story on sex harassment allegations and settlements involving him.
But it was failure when I put in Kevin Spacey's name and got a whole bunch of unrelated stories, including high school sports, other than one way lower down about the new movie in which Christopher Plummer replaced him. The paper's I.T. department has some work to do this weekend. It's a bit of a mess.
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That's it for us this week. The weekend brings multiple indoor baseball practices, choir rehearsal, a soccer practice and a soccer game. Cheers.
CORRECTION: CNN host Don Lemon did not declare "I am a shitholer." This story has been edited to reflect that.