December 13, 2019

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Annnnnd in this corner, wearing red, white and blue … Chris Wallace!

This is an astounding statistic. According to a Freedom Forum Institute poll, 29% of Americans think the First Amendment goes “too far.”

Think about that for a second.

The First Amendment — the very first principle that our founding fathers wrote down when starting a new country — goes too far, according to nearly a third of the country. In addition, 77% say “fake news” is a threat to our society.

These numbers were quoted in a speech this week, a speech that was notable for something you don’t see every day, or hardly ever at all: someone from Fox News criticizing Trump for how he treats the media.

Speaking at an event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Fox News host Chris Wallace said, “I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history.”

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple points out that Wallace said something similar in a 2017 speech, which also included this: “Since early in the campaign, he has done everything he can to delegitimize the media — attacking us institutionally and individually. And I think his purpose is clear: a concerted campaign to raise doubts that when we report critically about his administration — that we can be trusted.”

Wemple writes, “Should we dock Wallace for speech-language recycling? Heck no. To the contrary, this fundamental truth needs to be repeated, stressed, pounded into Americans’ ears.”

Wemple also suggests that someone collect all the times Wallace has stood up for the press and then show that tape to his colleagues at Fox News.

Wallace concluded his speech at the Newseum by saying, “The bottom line is we’ve seen presidents come and go. We will endure. So will Freedom of the Press.”

(Wallace’s speech is one of the last events at The Newseum, a museum dedicated to the news media, which is closing at the end of this month.)

Trolling the president, again

Climate activist Greta Thunberg. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)

In case you missed it, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and Trump had another back and forth this week. After Thunberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, Trump tweeted:

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Of course, it didn’t take long for Thunberg to needle back, changing her Twitter profile to read, “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

Remember back in September, after Thunberg’s defiant speech at the UN Climate Action Summit, Trump sarcastically tweeted: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”

Thunberg changed her profile to read, “A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.”

Just spit-ballin’ here, but it’s probably not a good idea to get into a social media feud with a 16-year-old. Chances are, you’re going to get destroyed.

The rest of the story …

Trump’s attacks on Thunberg’s “anger management” and sarcastically calling her “a happy young girl” delve into another area that should be addressed. First, there’s nothing light or fun about climate activism. It’s a serious issue that requires serious talk.

But beyond that is another issue that Vox’s Anna North wrote about. Not only has Trump attacked Thunberg’s personality, but so did Fox News’ Michael Knowles, who called Thunberg a “mentally ill Swedish child” after her UN speech.

Thunberg has Asperger syndrome — which is NOT a mental illness. But, as North wrote, it’s not uncommon for those who suffer from various forms of autism to be attacked, particularly young girls.

Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, told North, “Autistic girls tend to face a lot of pressure not just to act like non-autistic people, but also to live up to the same gendered expectations many girls face. We always have to be smiling and compliant.”

‘It was my face, that was the problem’

Peloton actress Monica Ruiz, center, on the set of the “Today” show with co-host Hoda Kotb and actor Ryan Reynolds. (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

The viral commercial at the moment is the Peloton ad that folks are criticizing as sexist and misogynistic. (I wrote last week about how the woman in the ad looks frightened and seeks approval from her partner by working out.)

Well, kudos to NBC’s “Today” show for landing an interview with Monica Ruiz, the actress in the ad. When asked if she sees why people reacted negatively to the commercial, Ruiz laughed and said, “Honestly, I think it was just my face. My eyebrows looked worried, I guess. People were like, ‘You look scared.’ I’m telling you, it was my face, that was the problem, and it just exploded it from there.”

Hoda Kotb said in the light interview that Ruiz turned down several requests to appear on “Today” before finally giving in to her first interview since the ad went viral.

“I just wanted to let everyone know I’m fine,” she said. “I’m OK, I’m not in a rehab for mental health anywhere.”

By the way, playing off (and poking fun at) the Peloton ad, Ruiz has since appeared in a commercial for Aviation Gin. She appears to be playing the same character, forgetting about her Peloton days and her partner by drinking with friends. Actor Ryan Reynolds has a stake in Aviation Gin and joined Ruiz on the “Today” set as the two met for the first time.

Merkel is No. 1

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Forbes came out Thursday with its list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. No surprise who was No. 1: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This was the ninth consecutive year that Merkel topped the list. She was followed by European Central Bank head Christine Lagarde and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Other notables: Oprah Winfrey at 20 (which seems too far down on the list, doesn’t it?), Queen Elizabeth ll (No. 40), Ivanka Trump (No. 42), Rihanna (No. 61), Beyonce (No. 66), Taylor Swift (No. 71) and Serena Williams (No. 81). Time Person of the Year Greta Thunberg comes in at No. 100.

Notable absences are current First Lady Melania Trump and former First Lady Michelle Obama, who was first in 2010 — the last time Merkel didn’t top the list.

How many debates does it take?

Debates, debates, debates. A ton of them are on the way.

The Democrats have set the schedule for four debates in January and February as the caucus/primary season heats up:

  • Jan. 14 in Iowa, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register
  • Feb. 7 in New Hampshire (ABC, WMUR and Apple News)
  • Feb. 19 in Las Vegas (NBC, Nevada Independent)
  • Feb. 25 in South Carolina (CBS, Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Twitter).

Moderators and formats will be determined at a later time. The debate in South Carolina will mark the 10th Democratic presidential debate in this election cycle. The next is Dec. 19 in Los Angeles, hosted by PBS and Politico. So far, seven candidates have qualified: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.

Hot type

  • Doctors with checkered pasts — including sexual misconduct, drug abuse and fraud — still have the federal government’s approval to administer immigration medical exams. A ProPublica investigation from Sophie Chou and Brenda Medina.
  • The Colin Kaepernick and the NFL story appears over. Or is it just beginning? The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill weighs in.
  • Big scoop by The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik: Netflix flew journalists who voted on awards to Los Angeles and New York on pricey trips. Hmm, is that why Netflix had twice the number of nominations as anyone else in the recent Critics Choice Awards?

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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