How Sunday blew up at the intersection of Trump, The Villages and Twitter

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June 29, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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The Villages — a retirement community in central Florida — was back in the news Sunday.

First off, a quick refresher on The Villages. It’s not some sleepy little old-timers park with a few buildings, a swimming pool and a rec room. It’s a five-mile city with an estimated 2020 population of more than 77,000. In fact, if you want some cool numbers about The Villages (like how many golf balls per year are lost there, how many miles of golf cart paths it has or how many softball teams it has), check out this list.

And it’s heavy with Trump supporters, as the Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Contorno wrote last August.

Back to Sunday. President Donald Trump retweeted a tweet with pro- and anti-Trump protesters yelling at one another. (Warning: The tweet has R-rated language.) In the first few moments of the video, which is believed to have happened two weeks ago, a man driving a golf cart with signs that said, “Trump 2020” and “America First” can be heard shouting, “White power! White power!”

Along with the retweet, Trump wrote, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!”

Then all heck broke loose. Social media, for obvious reasons, went crazy over the fact that the president of the United States would retweet a video in which one of his supporters was yelling “white power.” A few hours later, the retweet was deleted.

The White House deputy press secretary, Judd Deere, told the Associated Press, “President Trump is a big fan of The Villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters.”

Didn’t hear it? It was said twice in the first 10 seconds. How could he have missed it? In addition, nowhere in the White House statement was there a denouncement of those white supremacist remarks.

That prompted Forbes’ Seth Cohen to write, “White nationalism is no longer in the shadows of America’s towns and villages — it is uncomfortably out in the open for all the world to see.” Cohen went on to compare Trump’s retweet to Trump’s “fine people on both sides” remark after the 2017 white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper on Sunday, Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott called the video that Trump retweeted “indefensible.”

“There’s no question — he should not have retweeted and he should just take it down,” Scott said.

Also on Tapper’s show, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said he hadn’t seen the video, but that “obviously neither the president, his administration nor I would do anything to be supportive of white supremacy or anything that would support discrimination of any kind.”

However, Cohen wrote, “Many far-right activists see the president’s language as ‘dog whistles,’ or signals that, despite his own vows that he is not racist, Trump is empathetic to their views. Regardless of what Trump truly believes, one fact is certain: Since Trump’s election in 2016, the nation has seen a rise in white nationalism. A recent Anti-Defamation League study showed a nearly 123% increase in white nationalist propaganda in a single year, surging from 1,214 incidents in 2018 to 2,713 in 2019. This is the highest level of white supremacist activity that the organization has ever recorded, the ADL said.”

This will not be the last story you see about The Villages before the election.

The Post’s big story

Trump’s campaign is “scrambling” to get his reelection bid back on track, according to a big Sunday story by Ashley Parker, Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey in The Washington Post.

They write, “Some Trump advisers and allies are privately pushing for sweeping changes to the campaign, including the idea of a major staff shake-up and trying to convince the president to be more disciplined in his message and behavior.”

It would seem Sunday’s retweet of white supremacy — as well as his use of the phrase “kung flu” to describe the coronavirus — would go against that message.

The Post writes, “Trump’s advisers and allies have grown frustrated with some of the president’s incendiary and divisive behavior and comments in recent weeks and are dismayed by the polls, including some of their own internal surveys that also show him losing to Biden.”

Pence won’t say it

Vice President Mike Pence during a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma earlier this month. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

On three different occasions Sunday, John Dickerson, who was filling in superbly for Margaret Brennan as moderator on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” asked Vice President Mike Pence about Pence’s refusal to use the words, “Black Lives Matter.”

And all three times, Pence wouldn’t say it.

That was the most interesting, although hardly the only controversial moment, during the VP’s interview with “Face the Nation.”

Dickerson first asked Pence why he won’t say “Black Lives Matter,” and Pence went on a rambling answer, invoking the names of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Congressman John Lewis and the progress that has been made, in his opinion, in race relations. But he added, “I see in the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement is a political agenda of the radical left that would defund the police, that would tear down monuments … and support calls for the kind of violence that has best the very communities that they say that they’re advocating for.”

Dickerson then said, “So you won’t say Black Lives Matter?”

Pence said, “John, I really believe that all lives matter.”

On the edit room floor

There was one other controversy involving “Face the Nation’s” interview with Pence. Dickerson asked Pence about coronavirus testing — and the Trump administration’s assertion that cases are rising simply because there is more testing.

Again, as is his custom, Pence went on a long preamble to his answer and then said, “To your point, John, it’s clear that testing isn’t the only reason that we’re seeing more cases, but it’s a significant reason.”

Except, “Face the Nation” edited out that part of the answer. The show later put out a clarification to acknowledge that’s what Pence said. That wishy-washy answer by Pence probably didn’t need to be included and I see no issue with “Face the Nation” cutting it out. If “Face the Nation” or any program were to run Pence’s filibusters in full, the interviews would only have a few questions. If Pence thinks he can duck direct questions by not giving succinct answers, he shouldn’t complain when his long answers have to be edited. In this particular case, nothing that was cut distorted what he was saying.

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Biggest Sunday morning moment

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The biggest moment on the Sunday morning news shows was Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar telling “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd that the “window is closing” to stop the COVID-19 spread in the United States.

Azar told Todd, “We have to act and people as individuals have to act responsibly. We need to social distance. We need to wear our face coverings.”

Todd asked Azar if President Trump not wearing a face mask in public or following guidelines sends a bad message to the American people.

Azar said, “Well, Chuck, I’m not going to talk about politics. But we’ve seen mass gatherings over the last several weeks with people rightly expressing First Amendment and political views, and this is appropriate. But my message is one of public health, which is, if you’re going to participate in any type of large gathering, I encourage you, consider your individual circumstance, consider the circumstance of those you live with and take appropriate precautions that are appropriate to yourself and your community.”

Pittsburgh problems

Things have turned even nastier at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Post-Gazette reporter Michael Fuoco, who is the president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, called on Post-Gazette executive editor Keith Burris and managing editor Karen Kane to resign Sunday — just hours after Burris published an op-ed that started off by talking about racial equality and justice and the future of race in America and quickly devolved into a whiny and selfish commentary about how he has been treated in recent weeks.

Burris wrote, “Through most of my life in news­pa­per­ing, most of the bul­lies came from the far right. To­day, in Amer­ica, they come from the far left, though the fas­cist im­pulse is still from the far right in most of the world. But here, to­day, it is the ‘woke’ who speak openly of si­lenc­ing po­ten­tial apos­tates.”

Burris then explained some of the nasty emails and phone calls he has received since he pulled a Black journalist off the paper’s protest coverage because she sent a tweet mocking a Kenny Chesney concert. Saying the reporter had compromised her objectivity with the tweet, Burris then took other reporters off the story because they retweeted the original tweet. Meanwhile, much of the Post-Gazette staff has publicly criticized Burris.

On Sunday, Fuoco tweeted, “Curious about what systemic racism looks like? Just read, if you dare, Keith Burris’ putrid word salad defending the practice at the @pittsburghpg by incredibly painting himself as a victim. Methinks he doth protest too much. And methinks he needs to resign along with Karen Kane.”

Many P-G journalists retweeted and/or liked Fuoco’s tweet. Another went a step further. Matt Moret, a P-G digital editor, tweeted he was taking a buyout and added, “I love the PG, I love Pittsburgh, but I’m leaving both because Keith Burris and Karen Kane can’t find the strength to even BS an apology.” He added, “I cannot emphasize enough that this began with us demanding an apology. Just say you made a mistake, fix it, move on. That was too much to ask, apparently. I hate that this feels like them beating me down, but I’m taking comfort in leaving on my own terms.”

Replacing Reid

Could “PBS NewsHour’s” Yamiche Alcindor be a future MSNBC host? (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP)

If Joy Reid takes over the weekday 7 p.m. Eastern time slot on MSNBC as expected, who will take over her weekend morning show? New York magazine and HuffPost contributor Yashar Ali said the network has discussed names such as Yamiche Alcindor, Zerlina Maxwell, Maya Wiley, Soledad O’Brien, Jonathan Capehart and Tiffany Cross. Ali quickly pointed out that doesn’t mean all those names are actually interested in the job, only that MSNBC has had internal discussions about them. Of that list, Alcindor would be my pick.

A grim reminder

Sunday was a somber anniversary. It was two years ago that five employees of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, were killed by a mass shooter. On Sunday, the editor board of the Capital Gazette wrote about how the shooting changed them, while thanking readers for continuing to support the paper. They also wrote specifically about the five who were lost: Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, John McNamara and Gerald Fischman.

The board wrote, “Grief becomes less bitter with time. One day, there will be no one left at The Capital who knew our five friends as individuals rather than part of our history. One day, some editor may decide it’s time for their photos to come off the printed Opinion page. But not today.”

A big step

Certainly, primetime cable news hosts have become bolder in offering their opinions. Whether it’s Fox News’ big three of Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham or CNN’s Don Lemon or Chris Cuomo or MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, cable news primetime hosts have become TV’s version of newspaper columnists.

And, yet, it was still a bit surprising to see MSNBC’s Chris Hayes go as far as he did last Friday night, calling for President Trump to resign, mostly because of how Trump has mishandled the response to the coronavirus.

Hayes said, “We are in the midst of one of the worst governing failures in American history. When all is said and done, it may end up being the worst since the Civil War.”

Hayes said Trump has been a “terrible” president since his inauguration and then pointed out issues such as immigration, his response to Hurricane Maria and what Hayes called Trump’s “disgusting, despicable bigotry.”

Hayes went on to say, “Donald Trump does not learn. He is not going to get good at this. He is not going to change. He has failed definitively. And it is an urgent matter of public health, of public safety at this moment for the president, Donald Trump to resign.

Plagiarism at BuzzFeed News

BuzzFeed News fired senior reporter Ryan Broderick after it claimed a number of his stories had either been plagiarized or didn’t correctly attribute other sources. In a note to readers, BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Mark Schoofs noted 11 stories that were problematic. Schoofs wrote, “We regret that in these instances those standards were not met. We are continuing to look into the matter and will maintain this list with any other relevant articles that we find.

Hot type

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

Clarification: This story has been edited to clarify that Keith Burris wrote an op-ed, not an editorial.

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