Billy Bush says he didn’t hear Trump’s ‘grab them’ expletive, plus another Weinstein victim goes public and a jaw-dropper from ‘Frontline’

September 10, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good morning and happy Tuesday. “CBS This Morning” has a big interview today, so let’s start there.

Billy Bush to Gayle King: I didn’t hear it

We know it by its infamous name: The Access Hollywood Tape. Donald Trump was caught on tape saying that if you were powerful, you could grab women by the (expletive). When it was released a month before the 2016 presidential election, it nearly derailed Trump’s chances of becoming president.

However, it was “Access Hollywood” correspondent Billy Bush who lost his job at NBC News and the “Today” show because he was heard laughing at Trump’s comments. Bush returned to TV on Monday as the new host of “Extra,” and “CBS This Morning” will air an interview today that he did with Gayle King.

He told King that he felt the tape was “weaponized.”

“Yeah … I got taken out, but I wasn’t the target,” Bush said.

Based on a portion of the interview with King that CBS shared Monday, Bush seems to realize why those who heard the tape were upset with him. He said he’s a “different guy.” But he also reminded King that the tape was 11 years old at the time and he was still new in the business. He said he was simply trying to get along with Trump, which is why he didn’t push back against someone no one ever would have guessed would turn into a legitimate presidential candidate.

“Well, Trump’s the kinda guy who would say, you know, ‘Forget Billy Bush,'” Bush said, adding, “And then, I might have gotten, ‘Hey, why did you lose Trump? He’s the biggest guest we have.’ I mean, it was — there was always a little bit of, you’re a little anxious around him because you just want it to end well and get out.”

The part often forgotten in this story: Trump’s comments, caught on a hot microphone, were part of an old interview. What’s revealing, however, was Bush saying “everyone knew” there was tape of what Trump said and yet it didn’t come out until October of 2016. King also said that Bush told her he didn’t even hear Trump use the offensive word.

King said, “Billy, how can you not hear it?”

King said Bush told her that he was looking for the next shot, talking to the crew and so forth. To which King said, “I actually believe that.”

Another Weinstein victim comes forward

“Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie (left) interviews New York Times reporters Megan Twohey (center) and Jodi Kantor (right) on Monday. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

A new Harvey Weinstein accuser told her story Monday on NBC’s “Today” show. Rowena Chiu — an assistant at Weinstein’s production company, Miramax — originally revealed details of her encounters with Weinstein in the book “She Said,” written by the New York Times reporters who broke the story. That book is due out today and the authors, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, also appeared on “Today,” as did Weinstein accuser and actress Ashley Judd.

Chiu told of an incident 20 years ago when she was pushed onto a bed by Weinstein and feared that she was going to be raped. The incident didn’t become public because Weinstein allegedly paid her off and she signed a non-disclosure agreement. She continued working for Weinstein after the incident.

“You have to remember at the time we were pretty young,” Chiu said. “It was my first job or so out of college and I was 24 years old, and my passion all my life was to work in the film industry so I didn’t want to see that come to an end. I signed the NDA and I hoped that I could move on and I interviewed with many film and television companies across London, which is where I was based at the time, and everybody wanted to pull in a former assistant of Harvey Weinstein for interview, nobody wanted to give that person a job.”

But, Chiu said, she decided to break the NDA two years after the Weinstein story first appeared in The Times.

“So when this story broke in the press about two years ago, I wasn’t ready,” Chiu said. “I felt intimidated. I felt terrified. I didn’t know what the repercussions would be both legally and personally, and so it really has taken all of two years to square some of those things away both in terms of my own personal life, in terms of coming forward and speaking to my parents, speaking to my husband, speaking to my closest friends.”

NPR leader accused of ‘hurtful’ words

Last week, while speaking at a conference for public radio programmers, NPR news chief Nancy Barnes said NPR was “more lacking than we realized” in “disciplined, direct coverage of race relations and the culture wars.”

Those comments did not sit well with staffers of color at NPR, who sent Barnes an email saying her statement was “baffling and insulting.” They also said, “These words travel and not only are they hurtful, they further marginalize people of color in an organization with historic problems of under-representing and/or dismissing the voices, creativity and work of non-white journalists.”

The letter was signed by more than 80 staffers. The email ended with requests that Barnes further explain her comments, hold an all-staff town hall to discuss reorganization and future plans, and make the hiring of people of color in editorial decision-making positions a priority.

In a statement to Poynter, Barnes, whose official title is senior vice president for news and editorial director, said:

“The coverage of racism, anti-Semitism and hate-driven violence consuming this country could not be more essential than it is today. For years, many journalists across NPR, including the Code Switch team, have produced groundbreaking journalism, well ahead of many other national organizations. In my remarks at a recent public radio conference, I shared some thoughts on how we will tackle critical issues, including race and racism. What I intended to convey was that I was looking for more resources to augment this important work on a daily basis. I regret that I didn’t speak to what we’re already doing and have done in the past. I am grateful to the Code Switch team for this week’s constructive conversation, and I am looking forward to talking more with our staff as we design the direction of our coverage.”

‘People are going to die’

The water plant in Flint, Michigan. (Photo courtesy of “Frontline”)

In April of 2014, the state of Michigan switched Flint’s water supply. As a result, thousands of children were poisoned by lead. At least a dozen adults died from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Matt McFarland, the operations supervisor at the plant, went to his sister, Tonja Petrella, the day before the switch and warned that someone was going to die, according to a “Frontline” episode airing tonight on most PBS stations and online.

Petrella told “Frontline,” “I remember specifically the day before they actually flipped the switch, he called me and he said, ‘Tonja, contact everyone that you in Flint, anybody you care about, and tell them, do not drink the water. … It’s not safe. We’re not ready. … People are going to die.”

McFarland died in 2016, but in this “Frontline” episode, Petrella speaks publicly for the first time about her brother’s concerns. “Frontline” said, “Her account sheds new light on what was happening inside the treatment plant just before the Flint water crisis began.”

How it’s supposed to work

Back in March, I wrote about NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden reporting on the humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic and how her stories helped UNICEF raise nearly $2 million. Now another one of her reports is raising money for others in need.

In July, McFadden did stories that ran on the “Today” show and then on “NBC Nightly News” about how military spouses are struggling to feed their families.

According to an NBC News spokesperson, an anonymous person saw McFadden’s stories and donated $10 million to Feeding America to combat military family hunger.

NBC News snags new political hire

NBC News made a major hire Monday, picking off Chloe Arensberg from CBS to be the Washington, D.C., deputy bureau chief. Arensberg had been with CBS since 2002 as a Washington-based senior producer for “CBS This Morning,” overseeing coverage of the White House, Congress and all government agencies.

She starts at NBC later this month and will be responsible for the network’s Washington-based editorial coverage, managing correspondents and producers and working closely with the investigative, political and digital teams.

New journal aims to help with transparency

For this item, I turned it over to managing editor Barbara Allen.

A new online journal hopes to help journalists and citizens get better access to information that’s supposed to be public.

The University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information has announced the online Journal of Civic Information, a quarterly “open-access, interdisciplinary journal that publishes peer-reviewed research related to the field of public information accessibility.”

The journal will include articles written both by researchers and journalists about public records and meetings, transparency in courtrooms, public employees and elected officials and more, with an emphasis on issues at the local and state level.

“Our goal at the Brechner Center is to produce ‘practical scholarship’ that addresses the daily needs of people working on the front lines of law, journalism and government,” said Frank  LoMonte, UF professor of media law and director of the Brechner Center.

Its first editor will be is David Cuillier, associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Cuillier is a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and co-author of  “The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records.”

Hot type

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. in March. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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