December 11, 2020

Here’s a story of Rush Limbaugh being Rush Limbaugh. That isn’t a compliment.

Limbaugh made all kinds of noise on his nationally-syndicated radio show this week about part of the country maybe wanting to secede from the union. Then after getting clobbered online, he backtracked Thursday on his show, essentially saying that’s not what he was advocating, but it’s what he had heard others say.

Again, this is classic Limbaugh: saying something provocative, something controversial, and then later claiming that’s not actually what he was saying.

It all started Wednesday on his show when he said, “I actually think — and I’ve referenced this, I’ve alluded to this a couple of times because I’ve seen others allude to this — I actually think that we’re trending toward secession.”

He later added that he has seen others write about the divisiveness in the U.S. and that those people are suggesting there cannot be a “peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs. We can’t be in this dire (of) a conflict without something giving somewhere along the way.”

As for himself, Limbaugh said, “I myself haven’t made up my mind. I still haven’t given up the idea that we are the majority and that all we have to do is find a way to unite and win.”

But, not surprisingly, the remark that got the attention was about secession because that is a word that should not just be thrown around. On Thursday’s show, Limbaugh said he was not advocating for secession.

“I simply referenced what I have seen other people say about how we are incompatible, as currently divided, and that secession is something that people are speculating about,” Limbaugh said. “I am not advocating it, have not advocated, never have advocated it, and probably wouldn’t. That’s not something — 32 years — that’s not the way I’ve decided to go about handling disagreements with people on the left.”

Again, this is what Limbaugh does. He asks questions in such a way that it makes it sound he’s promoting an idea, but then later can say that he was merely asking a question. Or, in this case, he amplified an idea of others, thus giving it credence, and then later said he was merely repeating something others were saying.

Limbaugh clearly knows how to do radio. There are people I know in the radio business who don’t necessarily agree with his politics but swear he is the best host in talk-radio history.

But for three decades, Limbaugh has built a successful career leading listeners to the edge of the cliff and then claiming innocence when they jump off of it.

To bring up secession — effectively, a civil war — in any context is reckless. Is it good radio? Limbaugh might think so. Is it dangerous? Without a doubt.

Homepage takeover is trying something different today. It’s having a homepage takeover dedicated to COVID-19 coverage. NBC News wants to hammer home the message delivered this week by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who said that the next few months will be “the most difficult in the public health of this nation.”

So when users go to NBC News’ homepage today, they will see an interactive graphic that shows the toll COVID-19 has taken on American lives. Then, as users scroll down, multiple pieces looking at the most important questions will show just how grim the situation is, the urgency of addressing the latest surge and how our behavior now can still impact the future.

The idea of a homepage takeover came from Jason Abbruzzese, senior editor for science and technology for NBC News.

In an email to Poynter, Abbruzzese said, “As the election was drawing to a close, NBC News Digital editors were already discussing a very different challenge: pivoting our coverage back to a pandemic that had exploded across the U.S. in recent weeks. But with months of coverage already behind us and audience data showing that readership seemed to be fatigued by COVID, the question we asked ourselves was: How do we communicate to our audience and the public the importance and urgency of a story entering its eleventh month in a way that feels fresh — and that sets reader expectations for the coming months? The answer we came to is two-fold: 1. Use the power of our homepage to confront readers with the hard truths of the pandemic while also communicating to them that our paths are not set. 2. Think deeply about what the readers most want to know, and then produce articles that provide that information.”

Waiting for summer

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir on Thursday. (Courtesy: MSNBC)

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Thursday, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir had this revealing quote:

“Once we get 70 or 80% of the American people vaccinated or haven’t gotten the disease naturally, that we wanted vaccinated, then this will go away. … We’re confident by June any American who wants a vaccine will be able to get a vaccine.”

However, Giroir said “the vaccine will not provide immediate relief” so Americans have to “wear a mask, physically distance, avoid crowds because those numbers are going up.”

Read this quote

Speaking of the coronavirus, here was the most insightful piece that I read in the past couple of days: reporting from Seoul, the Los Angeles Times’ Victoria Kim with “Infected After 5 Minutes, From 20 Feet Away: South Korea Study Shows Coronavirus’ Spread Indoors.”

Linsey Mirr, a civil engineer at Virginia Tech University wasn’t involved in the study, but had this chilling quote: “Eating indoors at a restaurant is one of the riskiest things you can do in a pandemic. Even if there is distancing, as this shows and other studies show, the distancing is not enough.”

The whole story is a fascinating look at how COVID-19 can travel indoors. It’s a must-read.


Looking for an expert source? Find and connect with academics from top universities on the Coursera | Expert Network, a new, free tool for journalists. Discover a diverse set of subject matter experts who can speak to this week’s trending news stories at today.

Gannett to outsource jobs to India

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds wrote Thursday that “Gannett told its business side employees that 485 of their jobs will be outsourced to Hyderabad, India, early next year.”

Edmonds also wrote:

All of the jobs involve ‘business process,’ the company said in a frequently asked questions document — things like paying bills, invoicing customers, preparing monthly summary reports and reconciling the books.

Those being laid off in the U.S. will be notified by Jan. 15 but can stay on until April. Many will be involved during that time in ‘transitioning’ the work — that is, training their replacements.

The company said it does not have plans right now to do more outsourcing later in 2021 but did not close the door on that option.

Louisville Courier-Journal editor takes buyout

Rick Green, who has been with Gannett for 33 years and the editor of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, for the past two-and-a-half years, has decided to take a buyout and leave The Courier-Journal. Under Green, The Courier-Journal won a breaking news Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for its coverage of pardons by former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

Green told the Courier Journal’s Kristina Goetz, “No one will ever know how much I have enjoyed serving as editor of The Courier Journal. Without any exaggeration, it has been the highlight of a 33-plus year career with Gannett, and I am so grateful for a talented team that has worked tirelessly to meet the appropriately high expectations of readers across Kentucky. I am so proud of their commitment, their passion and their pursuit of meaningful stories. … I love Louisville and the commonwealth. It has become home, and I look forward to new opportunities and even bigger adventures.”

During his career, Green has been a reporter and editor at the Chillicothe Gazette in southern Ohio, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California, The Des Moines Register, as well as being the editor of the North Jersey Media Group, which runs among other dailies and weeklies. Green became the editor of The Courier-Journal in May 2018.

A testy exchange

Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner took umbrage at a comment made by a guest on her “Outnumbered” show Thursday and it led to a testy exchange. The comment was made by Marie Harf, who usually is invited on Fox News to give a liberal point of view.

Harf said, “We’re 43 minutes into this show and we haven’t mentioned that 3,000 Americans died yesterday. More than on 9/11.”

Harf kept talking and, to her credit, Faulkner let Harf continue to make her point. But when she was done, Faulkner unloaded.

“I feel like, Marie, you took a shot at us there,” Faulkner said. “But if you don’t think that our hearts are big enough to mourn for the people who we have lost during the pandemic, what exactly are you trying to say? That is offensive and is not true.”

Faulkner went on to say, “Please, keep your judgment someplace where you know you can fact check it because you can’t see my heart. And trust me when I tell you it hurts all of us to lose those Americans and people around the world.”

The two then continued to snap at one another, as you can see in this clip of the exchange.

Media tidbits

  • Thanks to CNN’s Brian Stelter, check out this photo of CNN’s Kate Bolduan wearing a sweater — on air — that says “Facts First.”
  • Ellen DeGeneres said Thursday that she has tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement on social media, she said in part, “Fortunately, I’m feeling fine right now.” She added, “I’ll see you all again after the holidays. Please stay healthy and safe.”
  • On his excellent SiriusXM show on Thursday, here’s what ABC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams said about the case filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that hopes to stop the election results from Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin: “Let me be clear, the Supreme Court is not going to take the Texas case. Trump is not going to win the Texas case. It’s an absurd lawsuit. … It’s not happening.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips weighs in with “Why the Texas Lawsuit to Overturn the 2020 Election May Be the Most Outlandish Effort Yet.”
  • ESPN and the Southeastern Conference have reached a new 10-year agreement beginning in 2024-25. The most significant part of the deal is ESPN being able to show the top college football game in the conference each week — games that typically involve national powerhouses such as Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Auburn and LSU. Most weeks, the Saturday afternoon SEC game is the most-watched college football game. For nearly the past two decades, CBS had the first choice of that game, but CBS announced earlier this year that it would not bid on a new deal. ESPN’s deal doesn’t officially kick in until 2024, but ESPN and the SEC could work up something to buy out the final year or two of CBS’s current deal with the SEC. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand has reported ESPN is paying the SEC $300 million a year in the new deal.
  • Tonight’s “Washington Week” (8 p.m. Eastern on most PBS Stations) features host Robert Costa and a panel that includes Molly Ball (Time Magazine), Alexi McCammond (Axios) and Philip Rucker (The Washington Post). Planned topics are the coronavirus, including vaccine news, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition and President Donald Trump’s continuing baseless efforts to overturn the election.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci will join “The Beat with Ari Melber” tonight at 6 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

Hot type

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

Correction: The item about The Los Angeles Times story about the spread of coronavirus indoors was updated to indicate a quote attributed to Linsey Marr, a professor from Virginia Tech. An earlier version of this newsletter attributed the quote to someone else. We apologize for the error.

More resources for journalists

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
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

More News

Back to News