January 13, 2020

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A cautionary tale of two tweets

It’s not unusual for the President of the United States — any POTUS, that is — to be a topic of conversation on the Sunday morning news shows. What is unusual is the president actually dictating questions.

Yet a pair of tweets by President Donald Trump on Sunday morning seemingly led directly to questions on a couple of shows.

First, Trump tweeted to ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos before Stephanopoulos interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump tweeted, “George @GStephanopoulos, ask Crazy Nancy why she allowed Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to totally make up my conversation with the Ukrainian President & read his false words to Congress and the world, as though I said it? He got caught! Ask why hearing was most unfair & biased in history?”

Stephanopoulos read the tweet on air, and Pelosi said, “I don’t like to spend too much time on his crazy tweets because everything he says is a projection. When he calls somebody crazy, he knows that he is.”

Meanwhile, during an appearance on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” former Secretary of State John Kerry called out moderator Margaret Brennan over a question she asked about the United States’ 2015 deal with Iran, something Trump tweeted about before Kerry’s appearance on “Face the Nation.”

Kerry said to Brennan, “First of all, Margaret, you are an expert at this. You were there. You know that the president’s tweet is a lie. And the president tweeted this morning, because I am coming on the show and he knew you’d ask me the question or he’d push you in a place where you did ask the question. You and the media, I think, need to call a lie a lie.”

So what do we make of this — questions that seem to be hastily typed by Trump’s fingers on Twitter that then come of the mouths of Sunday morning hosts?

First, there’s Brennan’s question to Kerry about the 2015 deal with Iran. That question seems like fair game and a legitimately newsworthy question. Kerry should be asked about the details of the deal with Iran because he was Secretary of State at the time.

But Stephanopoulos reading Trump’s quote to Pelosi felt like something else entirely. Stephanopoulos fell for exactly what Trump wanted, which was to bring the legitimacy of impeachment into question. In this case, Stephanopoulos became a willing accomplice by, for all intents and purposes, allowing Trump to ask a question of Pelosi — a question that wasn’t so much a question, but Trump’s way of making a political statement about impeachment. Because of the juvenile, name-calling nature of of Trump’s tweet, it also felt like a way for Stephanopoulos to, perhaps, get a viral sound bite out of Pelosi.

Questioning Pelosi about impeachment and about the president is a worthwhile topic. I’m just not sure about the optics of using Trump’s tweet to do it, even though Pelosi hardly seemed bothered by it.

Now this is how you push back

National security adviser Robert O’Brien. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Trump White House has consistently said that the reason the United States attacked Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani is because America was facing an “imminent” threat from Iran. It’s a topic that came up on several of the Sunday morning shows. National security adviser Robert O’Brien told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the United States had “exquisite intelligence” and, as far as imminent, said, “I think imminent means soon, quickly.”

But in terms of the exact threat, credit Fox News’ Chris Wallace for grilling O’Brien for Trump apparently giving more information to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham than he did Congress. In a one-on-one interview Friday, Trump told Ingraham that four embassies were under imminent threat.

So on Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked O’Brien, “Why is (Trump) saying it on television, but top officials didn’t tell members of Congress?”

O’Brien said the president couldn’t get into details about intel for fear of losing the source of that intel. But Wallace kept at it, saying, “It does seem to be a contradiction. He is telling Laura Ingraham, our esteemed colleague, but in a 75-minute classified briefing, your top national security people never mentioned this to members of Congress. Why not?”

O’Brien pleaded ignorance because he wasn’t at the Congressional briefing, nor at Trump’s interview with Ingraham. But give Wallace credit for pushing O’Brien on this topic.

Another White House book?

Bob Woodward. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Another interesting tidbit from Trump’s interview with Ingraham: The president said that legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward is working on another book about the Trump White House — and this time, Trump is talking to Woodward.

Trump told Ingraham, “I was interviewed by a very, very good writer, reporter. I can say Bob Woodward. He said he’s doing something and this time I said, ‘Maybe I’ll sit down.’”

You might recall Woodward published a book in 2018 about the Trump White House called “Fear.” After the book came out, Trump criticized it, saying that Woodward made up quotes, among a host of other criticisms. Later, a recording of a conversation between Trump and Woodward revealed that Woodward tried to reach Trump about being quoted in “Fear,” but that Trump never got the messages and regretted not being able to talk to Woodward.

Axios later reported that Woodward declined to comment.

‘Outside the Lines’ continues to evolve

ESPN’s new version of the news magazine and investigative show “Outside the Lines” debuts today inside the noon (Eastern) edition of “SportsCenter.” The hourlong Saturday “OTL” show debuts Jan. 18. Jeremy Schaap will host the Saturday version, while Ryan Smith will host the daily reports.

This all replaces what had been a weekday half-hour version of “OTL.”

This week’s “OTL” topics will include a three-part series of social media’s impact on sports, an interview with new Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin and a piece on MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

Michael Vick’s story still fascinates

Do you realize it has been nearly 13 years since former NFL star Michael Vick pleaded guilty to being involved with a dog-fighting ring? Yet the story continues to be of great interest. ESPN’s famed “30 for 30” series will present “Vick” — a two-part documentary — on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6. Award-winning documentarian Stanley Nelson will direct the film that looks at the Vick story from his rise to fame to his shocking fall to what ESPN calls his polarizing return.

Romancing Romo

CBS broadcaster Tony Romo. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reported Sunday night that ESPN is going after CBS’s top NFL game analyst Tony Romo in hopes of luring him to “Monday Night Football” with the highest-paid contract in sports broadcasting history. Romo is a free agent after this season and McCarthy reports that ESPN is willing to pay him between $10 million and $14 million. It would be money well spent. “Monday Night Football” could use a jolt and Romo is already being hailed by smart media types as the best NFL television analyst of all time. I’d still go with John Madden as the biggest game-changer in modern TV history, but Romo is coming up fast.

If I had to guess, Romo will remain at CBS.

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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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