October 7, 2019

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Good Monday morning. Ronan Farrow’s new book is due out soon, but look for excerpts this week, starting with one today. Let’s look back to Sunday and a viral moment on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Meet the (increasingly impatient) Press

Week after week, we see politicians and pundits go on the Sunday morning news shows to put their spin on current events. It has become a familiar dance, with moderators asking questions and the guests pivoting and dodging those queries to further their agendas.

It often gets frustrating for the viewers, especially when those moderators, often bound by their own sense of decorum and deference, push back only so far to keep the program moving along in a respectful manner. Often, viewers are left wishing the moderator would lose their cool and call out the guest for not answering questions with direct answers. But that never happens.

Until Sunday.

Chuck Todd had enough, and unloaded on one of his guests during Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC. Todd asked Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) why he winced when he heard President Donald Trump might have tied aid to Ukraine to an investigation into Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Johnson accused Todd of bias and started on a tangent about the Mueller investigation. That’s when Todd lost it.

“I have no idea why a Fox News conspiracy propaganda stuff is popping up on here,” Todd said while Johnson answered back his talking points. Todd then shouted, “Senator Johnson, please! Can we please answer the question that I asked you, instead of trying to make Donald Trump feel better here that you’re not criticizing him? I’m just trying to ask a simple question of what made you wince?”

Todd also said that he knew “the way to avoid answering a question is to attack us in the press.”

It was rare — and frankly, refreshing — to see a morning show moderator call out a guest in this way, although you could almost see this coming. Just Thursday, Todd started his “Meet the Press Daily” show with a scathing assessment of Trump.

“Let’s be frank, a national nightmare is upon us,” Todd said then. “The basic rules of our democracy are under attack from the president. We begin tonight with a serious admission by the president that all but assures his impeachment in the House of Representatives. It’s a moment of truth for Republicans and they’ve been largely silent on what we have seen from the president.”

It will be interesting to see what happens now. Will Todd, who was praised for his Sunday performance, become more emboldened in the future to push back against guests and be more outspoken in his commentary? And will guests be more combative with Todd — that is, if they even agree to appear on “Meet the Press”?

Trump, by the way, didn’t think much of Todd’s interview. He tweeted:

“Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of ‘Meet the Press’ had a total meltdown in his interview with highly reaspected (sic) Senator @RonJohnsonWI. Seems that a not very bright Chuck just wasn’t getting the answers he was looking for in order to make me look as bad as possible. I did NOTHING wrong!

Here’s Todd’s full interview with Johnson.


The CNN vs. Fox News war heats up

News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch, center, and his sons, Lachlan, left, and James Murdoch, in 2014. (Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP Images, File)

Before I even begin this item, let’s be clear about something: CNN and Fox News have become fierce competitors, not just in the fight for viewers, but in political ideology. The attacks between the two cable giants have turned personal. Not all, but many on-air employees at both networks see the other as either clueless, corrupt or, at the very least, incredibly biased. So just know that before reading further.

Still, this was a stunning public attack.

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy didn’t take aim at Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson. He set his sights much higher, blasting Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch, son of News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch.

“A lot of what we saw last week is a lot of these talking points really fall apart when they entered the real world,” Darcy said, “whereas they still are allowed to thrive on Fox. You just played that clip where people were talking about coups, civil wars; it’s really disturbing stuff. I actually kind of wonder — Lachlan Murdoch, the head of Fox — how does he look at himself in the mirror every morning knowing that poison is his contribution to society? I honestly can’t understand how he does it.”

Former “Fox & Friends Weekend” co-host Juliet Huddy also appeared on “Reliable Sources” and said of Fox News, “They’re doing something that we did when were little kids, which is lying by omission. They leave out the context. They leave out facts. They spin it so that it gives just enough information, but not all of the info.”


More whistleblower updates

ABC’s “This Week” had the biggest scoop of the weekend when moderator George Stephanopoulos reported that Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the whistleblower on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, is now representing a second whistleblower. This second person, described as an intelligence official, supposedly has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations in the original whistleblower complaint.

Speaking of scoops

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday night that about 90 national security officials released an open letter calling on the government and the media to preserve the anonymity of the whistleblower. The letter says:

“Whatever one’s view of the matters discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint, all Americans should be united in demanding that all branches of our government and all outlets of our media protect this whistleblower and his or her identity. Simply put, he or she has done what our law demands; now he or she deserves our protection.”

It was just a week ago that The New York Times came under scrutiny for reporting certain job details about the whistleblower. At the time, Times executive editor Dean Baquet said the paper published limited details about the whistleblower “because we wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their judgments about whether or not he is credible.”


Did you double-check that byline?

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Guess who wrote the following:

“Donald Trump should not have been on the phone with a foreign head of state encouraging another country to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden. Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea.”

Surprisingly, it was written by Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel in an op-ed for The Daily Caller.

Carlson and Patel go on to write that they don’t believe Trump’s actions are impeachable. But they also admit that that there “may be some truth” to the argument that Trump doesn’t act the way most presidents do, that his attacks against his opponents are not presidential, among other things.


Excerpt: The latest hot journalism book

Ronan Farrow in May. (Brad Barket/Invision/AP)

What a few weeks it has been for books. There was “She Said,” the book about Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement by New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Then there was a Brett Kavanaugh book by two other Times reporters. Next up, another heavily anticipated book.

Ronan Farrow’s latest — “Catch & Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” — is due for release Oct. 15, but the first excerpt is out this morning on The New Yorker website. Two more excerpts will be released this week.

Expect some explosive stuff in this book, including new information about Weinstein as well as former “Today” show host Matt Lauer. The book includes the first on-the-record interview with the woman who made the sexual misconduct allegation that led to Lauer’s firing at NBC in November 2017.

Hot type

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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…
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