By:
August 13, 2020

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Typically, when Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro starts rambling on about anything, it’s not really worth repeating or dissecting. Whether it’s just an act or not, her comments are often so outlandish that treating them as legitimate political commentary is foolish and, perhaps, even irresponsible.

Her TV personality is so wacky that “Saturday Night Live’s” Cecily Strong has turned it into a killer bit on “Weekend Update” segments.

But when Pirro goes on a program like Fox News’ “The Five” — a very popular show that often has 3 to 4 million viewers — and says what she said on Wednesday, it needs to be called out.

While discussing Kamala Harris being added to the Democratic ticket by Joe Biden, Pirro seemed to suggest … well, I don’t know what.

She actually said the following: “For some reason, I just have this feeling that Joe Biden isn’t going to be on the ticket. I have a sense that something is going to happen before the election and he’s not even going to be on the ticket. So don’t even ask me if he’s going to make it four years.”

The comment, which appeared to question Biden’s health, even seemed to throw her Fox News colleagues for a loop.

Jesse Watters, who was moderating the discussion, felt the need to say, “We certainly don’t hope that anything happens to Vice President Joe Biden anytime soon.”

Bret Baier followed and, after expressing his respect for Pirro, reminded her that Biden is assuredly the Democratic nominee, perhaps thinking Pirro was saying Biden wouldn’t get the nomination. Yet, it did feel as if Pirro was suggesting something about Biden’s health might keep him from making it to November. Even Pirro might have realized she stepped into trouble, especially when she tried to backpedal and made even less sense.

She interrupted Watters to clarify what she meant.

“I wish him all good health,” Pirro said. “That’s not what I’m talking about. He’s got the numbers. But things are so crazy right now. I don’t know what’s happening in the Democrat party and that’s all I’m saying. I mean, I hope he lives forever. That’s not my point. And I know he’s got the numbers.”

So what exactly is “so crazy” and what is “happening in the Democrat party” that would suggest that Biden, less than three months before the election, would not end up being on the ballot?

Look, clearly you’re going to get a right-leaning view from many on Fox News, and that’s fine. Just like you’re going to get a left-leaning view from some on MSNBC and CNN. And, yes, Pirro’s job, like many political commentators on such shows, is to spark debate with provocative commentary.

But to suggest that a candidate is not going to be on the ticket and say it without any facts or explanation of why is incredibly irresponsible.

Pirro says outlandish things, but this was another level. How is Fox News OK with this?

What else did “The Five” say?

There was a more interesting and certainly more responsible conversation on “The Five” about the selection of Harris as Biden’s VP and her initial speech with Biden on Wednesday.

Dana Perino said, “If you’re the Biden campaign, you’re pretty happy with how that went.”

Perino added that it’s possible many Americans really aren’t that familiar with Harris, perhaps because they didn’t pay much attention to the early stages of the Democratic presidential campaign. Perino said, “She has an opportunity here to have a second chance at making a first impression.”

Geraldo Rivera added, “They say nobody votes for a vice president, except this time they may be.”

Rivera called Harris a “sensational pick” and a “win for the Democrats” and described Harris as an “effective, formidable weapon.”

“I strongly advise President Trump not to go after Kamala Harris,” Rivera said. “Go after Joe Biden. … This spells trouble for the Republicans and I think she has strengthened Biden’s hand.”

Greg Gutfeld criticized Harris, which is fine, but then he drove off the road when his commentary devolved into actually defending President Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” comments about Charlottesville. It wasn’t at all surprising, but it was pretty much useless.

Predictable, but disappointing, too

As far as primetime, Fox News is already in fifth gear when it comes to slamming Harris — including Tucker Carlson’s petty and clearly purposeful mispronunciation of Harris’ first name.

Of course, none of this is surprising, but this is, as pointed out by CNN’s Oliver Darcy: Fox News’ Martha MacCallum said that Biden saying months ago that he was likely to select a Black woman diminishes this week’s announcement: “I think, in a way, as a woman, it takes away from some of the selection in some ways.”

And MacCallum is one of those on-air personalities that Fox News likes to tout as being a fair journalist.

On the other hand …

Kamala Harris speaks after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden introduced her as his running mate on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Chris Wallace, who truly is one of Fox News’ fair journalists, weighed in on Harris’ selection during an appearance on Wednesday’s “America’s Newsroom.”

“She is not far to the left despite what Republicans are going to try to say, “ Wallace said. “I think she is a reasonably safe choice. She was the obvious front-runner. She was the obvious choice. She adds some excitement to the ticket. She’s a statement to African Americans and especially to African American women, who are the real solid core of the Democratic Party, that the party does not take them for granted. And so, I think she is a pretty safe choice.”

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Equal treatment

In the continuing discussion of how the media will cover the selection of Harris as the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Valerie Jarrett, the former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, gave her thoughts on Wednesday’s “CBS This Morning.”

“I think the question … is this: Are you using language to describe Sen. Kamala Harris that you would not use to describe a man?” Jarrett said. “When those words are directed towards women, they’re pejorative and that has to stop. We do not need a double standard.”

Jarrett also addressed the narrative that Harris is “ambitious.”

“I think ambition is a good thing,” Jarrett said. “What vice president hasn’t been ambitious? What candidate running for higher office hasn’t been ambitious?”

Disappointing descriptions

During CNN’s coverage of Biden introducing Harris as his running mate on Wednesday, CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson was so over-the-top in her praise of Harris that it bordered on out-and-out cheerleading. And this from someone whose title is “senior political REPORTER.”

But, perhaps most disappointing was Henderson trying to defuse Trump’s possible attack of Harris by painting her as — Henderson’s words —  a “Black radical who wants to destroy the kind of white American way of life and overrun the suburbs with criminals.”

Henderson said that’s going to be hard for Trump to do if you saw Harris on Wednesday with her “winsome appearance” and her “sensible blue suit and pearls and sensible heels.”

Ugh.

I’ll let others decide the racial aspects of those comments, but I’ll address the other part: This is exactly the kind of reporting that is unnecessary and is something that would never be said about a man. Anyone talking about Biden’s shoes?

Henderson could have — and should have — made her point without going into Harris’ outfit.

A National Review story that should have been reviewed

This is sloppy work right here: The National Review on Wednesday published an article in which author David Harsanyi wrongly claimed that Kamala Harris’ former press secretary works as Twitter’s “top censor,” deciding which posts are false and should be labeled as such, and restricting the Twitter use of those who post false tweets. The claim was made in the story and the headline. Harsanyi’s claim was based on a tweet by Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist. Harsanyi then goes on to say how the optics are “remarkably terrible for Twitter.”

No, what’s remarkably terrible is that Harsanyi and Davis’ claim is false. Harris’ former press secretary, Nick Pacilio, is NOT Twitter’s censor. He’s a spokesperson for Twitter, and has nothing to do with what is or is not “censored.”

A Twitter spokesperson tweeted at Harsanyi, “Hi David, if you reached out, we could have corrected the errors in this piece. Nick is a spokesperson and has zero to do with, or input on, enforcement decisions. He conveys those decisions to the press. Comms is not part of the review process at Twitter. Thanks for correcting.”

Eventually, the headline was changed to “Kamala Harris’s Former Press Secretary Is The Face of Twitter Censorship.” By that time, the damage had long been done. For example, Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer tweeted out the story to his 391,000 followers. Within hours, the tweet had more than 15,000 retweets, comments and likes.

In a rather weak correction that ran with the story, Harsanyi wrote, “Twitter says Pacilio isn’t involved in the removal decisions himself. I have updated the post to reflect his role — though Pacilio’s definitive tweets give users no clue as to how the process plays out or who makes these decisions. I don’t think the optics are any better for Twitter, but I should have been more careful.”

The optics, ultimately, turned out to be really bad for Harsanyi and The National Review. As far as Fleischer’s retweet, Lara Cohen, Twitter’s global partnership solutions lead, tweeted, “Hey Ari! Nick is actually on our comms team — much like your former job. He does not make policy decisions. I would expect communications professionals to check stories like this before sharing them so broadly.”

CNN convention plans

CNN’s coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Courtesy: CNN)

CNN has announced its coverage plans for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. (If you missed it, my Wednesday newsletter had the other networks’ plans.)

CNN will have special convention coverage from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. each day of both the DNC (Aug. 17-20) and RNC (Aug. 24-27). The special coverage will be hosted by Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper, Dana Bash, and John King, with Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon joining the conversation from midnight to 2 a.m. CNN will have reporters at both locations of the conventions.

Commentators for the DNC will include Van Jones, Jennifer Granholm, Andrew Yang, and Scott Jennings. Commentators for the RNC will include Granholm, Rick Santorum, David Urban and Amanda Carpenter.

In addition, Daniel Dale will contribute real-time fact-checking and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will provide any updates regarding the coronavirus.

And the winner is …

The Sports Emmys came out this week. ESPN and Fox Sports each took home seven sports Emmys. You can see the list of winners here.

Some of the notable winners included:

TNT’s “Inside the NBA” (best weekly studio show); MLB Network’s “MLB Tonight (best daily studio show); TNT’s Ernie Johnson (studio host); NBC’s Mike Emrick (play-by-play announcer); Charles Barkley (studio analyst); Kirk Herbstreit (game analyst).

Media tidbits

Deion Sanders with the NFL Network in 2017. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

  • Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has left the NFL Network to join Barstool Sports. Regardless of what you think of Barstool — many don’t like it because they view it as a misogynistic frat-boy site — they have a big following and this is a major hire. In fact, USA Today’s Scott Gleeson called it Barstool’s “most high-profile hire to date.” Sanders will host his own podcast “21st and Prime.” Sanders had been with the NFL Network for 14 years, but New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand reported Sanders refused to take a pay cut to stay there.
  • “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt will host a primetime special tonight as America prepares for the start of the school year. “Coronavirus and the Classroom” will air at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC and NBC News NOW. NBC said the show “will feature NBC News correspondents, newsmakers and additional experts sharing practical guidance for kids, parents and teachers as they navigate the return to school during the pandemic.”
  • Tribune Publishing is closing some of its newsrooms, including the Daily News in New York City, the Orlando Sentinel and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. The Capital Gazette is the paper where a gunman shot and killed five staffers two years ago. The paper moved into a different building after the shooting. Poynter’s Kristen Hare wrote about the closing of the newsrooms.

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

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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