Did CNN’s Van Jones work with the White House on police reform?

Your Tuesday Poynter Report

June 30, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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There’s nothing wrong with CNN contributor Van Jones helping the Trump administration with police reform. There’s also nothing wrong with Jones going on TV and saying positive things about that police reform.

However, there is a problem if Jones doesn’t tell the audience that he helped with Trump’s executive order before talking about how positive it is.

But that’s exactly what happened, according to a story from The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove. Or did none of that happen? Jones has responded, saying Grove’s story is “based on false, sensational charges.”

Let’s start here: Grove reported that Jones secretly worked with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to help frame the president’s reform plan following George Floyd’s death while in police custody and national protests about police brutality. Then, after Trump announced his project, Jones went on CNN’s “Inside Politics with John King” and “Anderson Cooper 360” and praised it.

Jones told Cooper, “I think it’s pushing in the right direction. What you got today is, I think, a sign that we are winning. … Donald Trump has put himself on record saying we need to reform the police department. … We are winning! Donald Trump had no plan a month ago to work on this issue at all. The fact that we are now in the direction of moving forward, I think, is good.”

Jones never disclosed he was involved.

IF ALL THIS IS TRUE, this is Journalism 101. Jones absolutely had an obligation to tell the audience about his role.

Also of note, Grove wrote, “By most accounts, Kushner and Jones became fast friends; Jones has been an occasional dinner guest of Jared and Ivanka Trump at their mansion in Washington’s posh Kalorama neighborhood, and Kushner introduced Jones to Kim Kardashian West, a longtime pal — along with her husband Kanye — of Ivanka’s.”

BUT …

Jones is saying he had nothing to do with Trump’s executive order. In a five-tweet thread, Jones said that since the pandemic has started, he hasn’t even been to Washington, D.C., let alone the White House. In addition, Jones tweeted, “I have never been included in any meetings about police reform (not by phone, zoom, nada). I didn’t know what was in the EO until the day it was released.”

Jones said whenever he has spoken to the White House about a topic that is discussed on air, he has revealed his involvement. But, in this case, he claimed he wasn’t involved in any discussions.

Jones tweeted, “The accusation that I attended White House meetings on police reform but failed to disclose them is doubly false, and it should be corrected.”

Grove, however, quoted a source as saying Jones, human rights attorney Jessica Jackson and a group called the Reform Alliance “had been working with a lot of the families of people who had been killed by police officers, and we worked very closely with them on the EO.”

The source told Grove, “On the EO, I would say he and Jessica were very helpful.”

Did Jones work on the EO? We don’t know. But he most definitely said good things about it even though it had many critics, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and Rev. Al Sharpton, who told The Daily Beast, “I did not think the executive order was worth the paper it was written on.”

Sharpton added, “Van’s experiment with Trump is a case of him having more faith than I have, but I’m not going to attack him for doing it.”

Then again, Jones said he shouldn’t be attacked at all because he had nothing to do with it.

Getting the story straight

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Monday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked Monday on “Fox & Friends” about President Trump retweeting a video of a Trump supporter at The Villages in Florida yelling “white power!” After several hours Sunday, Trump removed the retweet.

McEnany repeated the White House official word from Sunday, which was that Trump did not initially hear the man yell “white power” in the video even though the man said it twice in the first 10 seconds. During her appearance on “Fox & Friends,” McEnany said, “But (Trump) made very clear to me that he stands with the people of The Villages, our great seniors, men and women in the Villages who support this president. He stands for them and his point in tweeting out that video was to stand with his supporters who are oftentimes demonized.”

While it’s the press secretary’s role, at times, to defend the president, McEnany’s comment about this on “Fox & Friends” was troubling. She either was completely tone-deaf as to what she was saying or, in an effort to not offend anyone at The Villages, she failed to condemn (and essentially condoned) a Trump supporter who would use the phrase “white power.” One would hope that someone who uses such a phrase actually would be demonized.

The reality might be Trump didn’t even watch the video before retweeting it — and that, too, is worrisome. Perhaps instead of dodging and ducking and trying to spin the story, McEnany and the White House should have just said, “The president made a mistake retweeting that and he apologizes for it.”

More McEnany

A big topic during McEnany’s White House press briefing on Monday was whether President Trump had been briefed on U.S. intelligence that said Russia placed bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Trump tweeted Sunday night that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible” and therefore did not tell him or Vice President Mike Pence. Then McEnany said Monday there was “no consensus” about those reports and that there were “dissenting opinions” about them.

It was all rather confusing as to whether or not Trump was briefed — or should have been briefed. And McEnany was asked to, again, clarify. After McEnany said that the question had already been “asked and answered,” she said the president is briefed on “verified intelligence.”

Then she took aim at The New York Times for reporting Trump was briefed.

“And,” she continued, “I really think it’s time for The New York Times to step back and ask themselves why they’ve been wrong — so wrong, so often.”

Then, reading from a notebook (which shows she came prepared to critique the media), McEnany went through a list of items when she said the Times was incorrect involving the White House and Russia.

She concluded by saying, “I think it’s time that The New York Times and The Washington Post hand back their Pulitzers.”

With that, she walked off while ignoring the question of why Trump hasn’t condemned “white power.”

It was, as we’ve seen often from her, a petty and childish display by a White House press secretary who appears more interested in taking shots at well-respected news organizations than doing her job — which is to brief the press.

I wrote earlier this year that McEnany seems overmatched in her role. The Columbia Journalism Review’s Bill Grueskin recently wrote about McEnany’s media criticism, and that was before her petulant act on Monday.

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Reddit’s rules

“The_Donald” has been banned by Reddit, the social networking and message board site. In fact, Reddit is banning about 2,000 subreddits including “The_Donald” — an online community of nearly 800,000 dedicated to supporting President Trump.

The reason for the ban? Steve Huffman, Reddit’s chief executive, said, “Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people. ‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that.”

CNN’s Kaya Yurieff writes that “The_Donald” users often share racist, misogynistic, homophobic and conspiracy content. That includes spreading the infamous PizzaGate conspiracy, which falsely accused Hillary Clinton and others of running a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C.

Huffman said Reddit tried to work with “The_Donald” over the years to avoid banning them altogether, but “The_Donald” kept breaking the rules.

Meanwhile, the streaming website Twitch temporarily suspended Trump’s account on Monday, also citing hateful content. The New York Times’ Kellen Browning wrote, “One stream was of a rebroadcasted 2015 campaign event in which Mr. Trump made comments about Mexico sending drugs, crime and rapists over the border. The other was of his recent rally in Tulsa, Okla., where he talked about a ‘very tough hombre’ breaking into a woman’s house at 1 a.m.”

More bans

In a day of bans, YouTube got into the act, as well. It banned several well-known far-right figures, including white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and internet personality Stefan Molyneux.

In a statement, YouTube said, “We have strict policies prohibiting hate speech on YouTube, and terminate any channel that repeatedly or egregiously violates those policies. After updating our guidelines to better address supremacist content, we saw a 5x spike in video removals and have terminated over 25,000 channels for violating our hate speech policies.”

No more bites at the Apple

(John Nacion/STAR MAX)

The New York Times has pulled out of its partnership with Apple News. Times articles will no longer appear on the curated Apple News feed.

The New York Times’ Kellen Browning and Jack Nicas reported that, in a memo to Times’ employees, Times chief operating officer Meredith Kopit Levien wrote, “Core to a healthy model between The Times and the platforms is a direct path for sending those readers back into our environments, where we control the presentation of our report, the relationships with our readers and the nature of our business rules. Our relationship with Apple News does not fit within these parameters.”

Browning and Nicas note that the Times is one of the first media organizations to pull out of Apple News and that “Apple had given it little in the way of direct relationships with readers and little control over the business. It said it hoped to instead drive readers directly to its own website and mobile app so that it could ‘fund quality journalism.’”

In a statement, Apple said, “We are committed to providing the more than 125 million people who use Apple News with the most trusted information and will continue to do so through our collaboration with thousands of publishers.”

In an analysis for Nieman Lab, Ken Doctor wrote, “On its own, that may seem like just one more move in the chess game between major news companies and the platforms. But it could also be an indication of a more geologic movement. Will the rest of 2020 bring tectonic shifts in platforms’ power over news — or just a few more small tremors?”

Levien told Doctor, “It’s time to re-examine all of our relationships with the big platforms.”

Media tidbits

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who is scheduled to appear on an MSNBC special tonight. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

  • Chris Hayes will host a virtual town hall special about race tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. “All in America: The Front Lines of Change” will feature a panel of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
  • It has been known for a while that Will Cain was leaving ESPN for Fox News. Now we know what his new gig will be. Cain has been named co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend.” Cain, who wrapped up his last day at ESPN last week, will join co-hosts Jedediah Bila and Pete Hegseth starting Aug. 15.
  • New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand reports that former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson will join ESPN morning radio, perhaps later this summer. But it isn’t known yet if Johnson will join the current radio duo of Trey Wingo and Mike Golic or if he will be a part of another show. It seems unlikely that both Golic and Wingo are going to stay. Marchand also continues to write that Mike Greenberg, who hosts the ESPN TV show “Get Up,” could end up returning to radio with an early afternoon slot.
  • Fox Sports and the U.S. Golf Association have ended their 12-year, $1.2 billion TV agreement with seven years left on the deal. That means NBC will again take over the men’s U.S. Open. This year’s event, typically held in June, has been pushed back to September because of the coronavirus. Many golf fans will be happy with this news because many felt Fox Sports did a subpar job with golf. That was true the first year, but the network seemed to gather momentum and had become quite competent at covering the few events it produced each year.

Hot type

Correction: Attribution of a quote in the item about The New York Times and Apple News has been edited to show that it was said by Apple, not The New York Times.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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