The good, the bad and the ugliness at Fox News, plus a missing journalist’s birthday and the Post’s shooting coverage

Your Monday Poynter Report

August 12, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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Good Monday morning. I hope you are enjoying the new Poynter Report newsletter. I continue to look for feedback so please pass along your thoughts of what you like and don’t like, as well as your tips and suggestions, to Today, we start off by looking at Fox News — some good, some bad and a lot controversial.

What happens when Tucker Carlson returns?

Last week, the Fox News host stunned even some of his Fox News colleagues when he claimed white supremacy was a “hoax” and said it was a “conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power.” The fact that Carlson said it in the wake of a mass shooting in which the alleged shooter said he was targeting Mexicans made his comments all the more surprising.

Immediately, Carlson announced he was going on vacation, something that Fox News insisted had been planned well before his white supremacy remarks. But as CNN’s Oliver Darcy noted, Fox News has a history of anchors going “on vacation” immediately after controversies. Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly all took vacations after landing in hot water over one thing or another. In fact, O’Reilly never returned from his vacation, leaving the network after facing several sexual harassment allegations.

Carlson is a Fox News superstar. The cable news network is the most-watched in primetime and much of that has to do with strong — some might argue divisive — opinions offered by the primetime hosts. Maybe the need to stay popular and relevant and to keep pushing the limits led Carlson to comments so outlandish that you have to ask if even he believed what he was saying.

Fox News has established a culture where this kind of talk is acceptable and, to be honest, expected. It’s unlikely that many of Carlson’s diehard viewers are turned off enough by what he said that they will tune out. My guess is those most upset by what Carlson said don’t even watch his show or Fox News, for that matter.


But what Fox News does care about is money, and when advertisers start pulling out (as is happening) that’s when the network notices.

Carlson is not going to lose his job over this. You watch: He will return from his vacation a week from today and not make any mention of the controversy. For a short while, you’ll see a more subdued and humbled Carlson. He will steer clear of anything that could get him in trouble. Before long, everything will be back to normal. It might even take two days.

The weekend’s best pushback

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It’s good to see when any network pushes back on a guest, but it’s also notable when Fox News does it to one of the president’s spokespersons. So give credit to Fox News’ Bill Hemmer for not letting Kellyanne Conway off the hook too easily for her defense of President Donald Trump using Twitter to further a conspiracy theory that linked former President Bill Clinton to the apparent suicide of alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The exchange took place on “Fox News Sunday.”

After Conway defended the president’s retweet, Hemmer pressed on by saying it was “clear what (Trump) was trying to say.”


“I think the president just wants everything to be investigated,” Conway said. “But you do hear different people asking questions and they want to know who else was involved in Epstein’s crimes or even just, um, activities.”

Hemmer could have pushed back even more with a specific question of whether Trump was actually accusing Clinton of anything illegal. But he likely knew that Conway wasn’t going to budge at that point. And this is still Fox News, so the heat wasn’t going to be turned up too high beneath Conway’s seat.

‘I have a moral responsibility’ to avoid it

Univision anchor Enrique Acevedo has appeared in the past on Fox News. He has been a guest on shows hosted by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. But during an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, Acevedo said he will no longer appear on the network. His decision was sparked by Carlson’s recent comments that white supremacy is a hoax.

“Not only as a journalist, but as a human being … I have a moral responsibility to make it clear this rhetoric is now being replaced by violence and bullets,” Acevedo said. “It’s not responsible for someone like me to go and expose myself to what’s happening at Fox.”

Chris Wallace says Fox News has his back

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, gestures during an interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

One final Fox News note today: Last month, Chris Wallace became the first Fox News personality to receive a News & Documentary Emmy nomination for his July 2018 interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Last week, Variety’s Brian Steinberg wrote a terrific profile of Wallace. In the Steinberg piece, Wallace acknowledges the difference between news and opinion at Fox News. Yet Wallace rarely, if ever, swerves outside his lane to call out the opinion side of Fox News.

He told Steinberg, “For all the talk about Fox News, they have had my back from the moment I started in 2003, and they have never second-guessed anything about a guest I’ve booked or a question I’ve asked. In the last couple of weeks, with the president’s tweets, I have been pretty direct with (Mick) Mulvaney and Stephen Miller. All of it gets complete support from the (executives’) second floor of Fox News in New York. I think there’s an understanding that there is a news side and an opinion side, and they want both to flourish.”

NPR host chastises the media over El Paso

The story that got lots of buzz among media folks over the weekend was NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro’s piece in The Atlantic about how the media erased Latinos from coverage of the recent El Paso shootings. In her opening paragraph, Garcia-Navarro wrote that the “media failed Latinos in America during what was perhaps our darkest hour in my lifetime.”

Later, Garcia-Navarro wrote:

“Lasting change will require a sustained commitment by newsroom leaders to recruit, train, value, and empower Latino journalists. This is no easy feat in a struggling industry beset by dwindling advertising revenue, layoffs, and hostility from elected officials who attack our collective integrity and impartiality.

“But none of these challenges can justify accepting the muted voice and reach of Latinos in newsrooms in America. It’s incumbent upon senior editors to reflect deeply about how they failed in covering this monumental story. That reckoning should be followed by an ambitious, detailed plan to be better equipped if — God forbid — we are called upon to cover a story like this again.”

A 38th birthday somewhere in Syria

Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of Austin Tice, who is missing in Syria, speak during a press conference in Beirut, Lebanon on Dec. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Sunday was the 38th birthday of Austin Tice, the freelance journalist who was working for the McClatchy chain when he was detained seven years ago in Syria. To commemorate his birthday, Tice’s parents, Debra and Marc Tice, wrote an op-ed that appeared on 30 McClatchy news sites, as well as other media outlets such as USA Today, CNN, the Chicago Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition, The New York Times and Washington Post published editorials about Tice on Sunday.

McClatchy has partnered with the National Press Club Journalism Institute, Reporters Without Borders and other media outlets to call attention to the campaign, #AskAboutAustin. Readers are asked to contact their representatives and urge Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to keep Austin’s case an urgent priority and sign a petition calling for his release.

‘Quite frankly it is embarrassing’

Jennifer Lucas and Byron Allen in 2017. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Remember Byron Allen? He started off his career as a comedian, appearing on Johnny Carson’s version of the “The Tonight Show.” He then turned that into a successful career in front of the camera, hosting shows such as “Real People,” “Comics Unleashed” and “Kickin’ It With Byron Allen.”

These days, no one is laughing at Allen. He has become a major player behind the camera. Last year, he bought The Weather Channel to add to his stable of cable and local TV networks. He also has announced plans to invest in regional sports networks that Sinclair is buying from Disney.

In a terrific Q&A with TV News Check’s Harry A. Jessell, Allen talked about the lack of minority ownership in TV.

“It is really sad how little minority ownership there is and quite frankly it is embarrassing,” Allen said. “There is an opportunity for the FCC and the DOJ to grow diversity in that ownership. I believe FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is sincere in his desire to help. Hopefully, one of the things that he and the DOJ will consider is to bring back the minority tax certificate to incentivize folks to sell their TV stations to minorities by giving them a tax break. That is one way of taking it from three or four people on one hand to more.”

Washington Post: 1,196 are ‘The Lives Lost’

Cover of Sunday’s special section in The Washington Post remembering the victims of mass shootings. (Photo courtesy of The Washington Post.)

The Washington Post on Sunday published a special 12-page print edition on mass shootings in America. It detailed every mass shooting event since 1966 and listed the names of the 1,196 victims.

In a statement, Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said, “This is a moment to reflect on the horrific human toll of mass shootings in our country and to remember the individuals whose lives were cut short. This special section is dedicated to them and to their families and friends. Our purpose is to ensure that none of us forgets what all of us, as a nation, have lost.”

Hot type

Usually in this space, I give a brief synopsis of three or four things you should read or watch. Today, I’m giving you just one because I want to highlight just how superb this story is. The Los Angeles Times’ Barbara Demick writes about identical twins: one who grew up in China and the other in the United States. I don’t want to say more than this, but I promise if you take the time to read it, you won’t regret it. In the eight months I’ve been doing this newsletter, I can’t remember a story I wanted to recommend more than this one.

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

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