Twitter is silent on President Trump’s tweets about a baseless Joe Scarborough conspiracy theory

Your Tuesday Poynter Report

May 26, 2020
Category: Newsletters

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Good Tuesday morning. Catching up after a long Memorial Day weekend — which included controversy involving President Donald Trump and Twitter.

Twitter’s silence

Is Twitter paying attention or what?

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump continued to promote a baseless conspiracy theory that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough had something to do with the death of a former staffer in 2001. Trump retweeted an article from a conservative website that said there was evidence of foul play in the death of that staffer — 28-year-old Lori Klausutis. Trump tweeted: “A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair? What about the so-called investigator? Read story!”

That’s just one of several tweets Trump has sent recently implying that Scarborough had something to do with the death of Klausutis.

In a story for The Washington Post, Craig Pittman explains the details of the death and wrote, “In the case of the 2001 death in Florida, Trump is pushing a claim that was debunked from the outset by local officials. Despite drawing scrutiny and wild claims repeatedly over the years, there has never been any indication that local authorities planned to revisit the matter.”

Now, many conservatives are pleading with the president to knock it off.

Illinois Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger tweeted, “Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”

Fox News’ Brit Hume tweeted, “30K retweets for this discredited tale, based on a three-year old post from some wing-ding website. This is why even his critics should want DJT to play a lot of golf, because when he does, he’s not tweeting crap like this.”

Most everyone seems to know that Trump’s tweets about Scarborough are baseless and divisive, so why doesn’t Twitter do something about it?

As CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan notes, Twitter put out new rules for world leaders last year. O’Sullivan wrote, “Twitter said that those users would be able to tweet things that are in violation of Twitter’s normal rules but that Twitter would label those tweets — explaining that, although they were against the rules, they’d be left on the platform as they were newsworthy and should be used to hold those leaders to account.”

Seemed like a smart and fair idea. But so far, Twitter has been silent, even telling CNN that it had no comment.

Interesting scenario set forth by CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “Imagine how the President’s allies would behave if the tables were turned and Scarborough were using his powerful platform to suggest Trump committed murder. They’d be (rightfully) outraged and calling for his firing. So why the silence from them now? Why are the standards higher for a cable news host than the President of the United States?”

Powerful page

Sunday’s front page of The New York Times. (Courtesy: The New York Times)

In case you missed it, go back and check out the sobering front page of Sunday’s New York Times. Instead of stories and photos, the page simply listed names of those who have died from the coronavirus, as well as something about their lives. (This online graphic is especially well done.)

Times’ national editor Marc Lacey said in a statement: “I wanted something that people would look back on in 100 years to understand the toll of what we’re living through.”

As the number of deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus was approaching 100,000, the Times searched for a way to acknowledge that number. In a Times’ insider piece on how the project came together, Simone Landon, the assistant editor of the graphics desk, said dots on a page or stick figures didn’t convey the impact of the moment.

Researcher Alain Delaqueriere started compiling obits from newspapers across the country. A team of editors then read them and found a line or description that “depicted the uniqueness of each life lost.”

For example:

Helen Kafkis, 91, Chicago, known for her Greek chicken and stuffed peppers.

April Dunn, 33, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, advocate for disability rights.

Marty Derer, 56, New Jersey, loved to referee basketball games.

On and on and on — the names of those who died. But more than just names. As the Times wrote, “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

Powerful, powerful journalism.

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Going to church

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaking to reporters last Friday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

New White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is taking some criticism for a comment she made last week about reporters and church. Answering a question about what federal powers President Trump had to force governors to allow churches to open, McEnany said it was “interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.”

Immediately, Reuters’ White House reporter Jeff Mason told McEnany that he objected to her claims, saying, “I go to church. I’m dying to go back to church.”

Then, on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace roasted McEnany for questioning the religious beliefs of reporters. He said, “I spent six years in the White House briefing room covering Ronald Reagan. I have to say, I never — and in the years since, too, I never saw a White House press secretary act like that.”

It appears Wallace is no fan of McEnany’s. He added, “Kayleigh McEnany isn’t acting like she’s working for the public. She acts like she is what she used to be, which is a spokesperson for the Trump campaign.”

Bizarre tweet of the weekend

Fox News’ senior political analyst Brit Hume tweeted out a photo of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wearing a mask as he attended a veterans’ memorial for Memorial Day. Hume wrote, “This might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public. Biden today.”

So was Hume’s tweet meant to imply that Biden didn’t look good in a mask? And since when is fashion the most important part — or any part — about wearing a mask in public? Bizarre tweet from Hume, who is becoming more and more brazen with his political views on Twitter, especially when it comes to reopening the country.

The last dance to first Lance

Cyclist Lance Armstrong in 2010. (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski, File)

ESPN’s 10-part documentary about Michael Jordan, “The Last Dance,” was heaven-sent for fans desperate for anything with most sports being shut down. So now that it’s over, what’s next? ESPN showed part one of a two-part documentary on Lance Armstrong over the weekend.

I have to admit, it was interesting. Armstrong isn’t painted as a sympathetic figure. You see moments when you can’t help but think, “This guy was a jerk.” But, at the same time, it definitely doesn’t paint him as the villain he turned out to be. We’ll see what next Sunday’s part two has in store as it should get into the depths of his doping and denials. So far, it does feel more like an Armstrong redemption tour than a deep dive into what made him one of the most despised athletes ever.

Don’t expect USA Today columnist Christine Brennan to tune in. She wrote a column Monday that absolutely torches Armstrong as “the most despicable cheater in sports history.”

She wrote that enough is enough when it comes to docs on Armstrong: “It’s not like he has anything new to say. The jury is not out on what kind of person Armstrong is. We don’t need two hours of television to help us. We lived through this. We know. Armstrong is the worst of us; a lying, cheating, vindictive scoundrel.”

By the way, after watching “The Last Dance” and the first part of “Lance,” ESPN has totally embraced documentaries with expletives. It hasn’t quite been a David Mamet play or Martin Scorcese movie, but it’s a long way away from a Disney movie.

Media tidbits

  • I didn’t watch much of “The Match 2” — Sunday’s charity golf match with pros Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and football greats Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. But it was a smash hit. The event, which raised $20 million for coronavirus charities, drew a massive audience of 5.8 million viewers — the most-watched golf event in cable TV history, according to TNT. The Ringer’s Kevin Clark wrote about the event and what sports can learn about it.
  • New York Times’ opinion writer Bari Weiss writes a glowing column about podcaster Joe Rogan (while dumping on the “mainstream media” and her own paper). And not everyone agrees with what she had to say, including Times’ colleague Taylor Lorenz, who blasted the Weiss’ piece.
  • These two sentences from The Athletic are simply priceless: “Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber sent a memo to all league and club personnel Friday threatening employees with disciplinary action, including termination of employment and fines up to $1 million, for leaking information. The memo, a copy of which was acquired by The Athletic on Friday afternoon, cites leaked information ‘impacting our negotiations with players, commercial partners and local authorities’ regarding a potential return from its COVID-19 suspension.”
  • This appears to be a big week for sports as several leagues are looking to nail down more concrete plans to return. We’re hearing from leagues and players so far, but not a lot from the networks. That’s unusual, considering how much money the networks have at stake and how badly the sports leagues need to work with networks. After all, the networks must figure out a way to juggle baseball, basketball and hockey as those sports, potentially, inch their way into pro and college football seasons.

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

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