August 24, 2020

Now it’s the Republicans’ turn.

Starting tonight, the Republicans will hold their national convention. The big question is:

Can they match what the Democrats did last week?

It won’t be easy.

Going second in the conventions is typically an advantage. You get to offset any message laid out in the first convention. You get to have the last word and, typically, the bump in the polls that comes with that. That’s why the party in control of the White House goes second. It’s like having a home-field advantage in sports.

Except this year, going second might not be such a good spot considering the Democrats set such a high bar with their convention last week. Even those who disagree with the Democrats’ politics and messaging have to admit the DNC, from a production standpoint, was nearly perfect.

There were no technical glitches — amazing when you consider the circumstances. Nearly the entire convention was produced and directed virtually and yet there were no hiccups. The Democrats’ message — which centered around the coronavirus and how terrible they believe Donald Trump is doing as president — was focused and consistent. The videos, the pacing, the music, everything was top notch. Clearly the Democrats were prepared for months for the possibility of a virtual convention. And that meticulous planning showed.

But what about the Republicans? They spent part of the summer still trying to pull off a live convention, making plans for Charlotte then Jacksonville and then Charlotte again. So, now will they be prepared to have a virtual convention? Will they even try to match the Democrats’ convention of slickly-produced videos with emotional storytelling, concentrated messaging and musical guests, to go along with an all-star lineup of speeches that featured former presidents?

Or will they go another direction?

During the panel discussion on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” NBC’s Kristen Welker said RNC organizers told her they want to have more live elements than the DNC and have an upbeat, forward-looking tone. But how can it be upbeat considering all that has gone on in the past six months with the coronavirus, the economy and racial issues?

“I think what you’re going to hear from President Trump and those who speak at the convention is really laying out how they see the future,” Welker said.

Will it just be a string of one speech after another? If so, that could get real old real fast. And, word is that President Trump could have a presence each of the four nights, another risky decision based on how Joe Biden’s speech and overall performance at the DNC surpassed expectations.

Appearing on Greta Van Susteren’s “Full Court Press” show, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said, “They pulled it off. I hope with our convention that we learned from some of the things they did. That we can do better. That we can reach more people.”

About Trump

President Trump smiles at the White House on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Don’t glaze over the above passage where it has been reported that Trump is expected to have a significant presence all four nights of the convention. That’s highly unusual. But it’s not surprising, according to former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Scaramucci said, “He thinks it’s all about him, him all the time. The classic narcissism is to annihilate everybody around you and then show everybody that you can do it all alone, you can do it by yourself. That’s why his campaign is having a hard time with him. That’s why the executive branch is having a hard time with him. That’s a classic move. ‘It’s all about me and watch me. I’m going to win this without your help.’”

Covering the conventions

Here’s a question: What will the networks do if, during one of his speeches this week, President Trump says something that isn’t true? What if he lies about mail-in voting? Or says something misleading about the coronavirus? What if one of the other speakers claims something that is blatantly untrue?

Should the networks carry the convention unfiltered? Should they pull away from the speech to fact-check in real time? Should they go back after the speech and point out what wasn’t true?

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Amanda Carpenter — CNN contributor and columnist at The Bulwark — said there will be two central themes the Republicans could focus on: the coronavirus (and possible treatments) and mail-in voting (and possible fraud).

“Both of these ideas are dangerous to our health and democracy and it should call for expertise,” Carpenter said.

In other words, fact-checkers and experts should be on hand. But networks likely will show the president’s speeches in full — and then fact-check after he’s done.

Making a difference

In this image from video, Brayden Harrington speaks during the Democratic National Convention. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

Perhaps the most inspirational moment from last week’s Democratic National Convention was a speech given by Brayden Harrington, the 13-year-old who was mentored by Joe Biden about his stutter. Harrington told NBC News’ Lester Holt that he has received an outpouring of support since his appearance at the DNC on Thursday.

“That just made me feel really nice about how I made that address and how that’s impacted a bunch of children’s lives,” Harrington said.

Harrington’s dad, Owen, said Brayden was “overwhelmed” before his appearance, but decided to push through in order to be a voice for other children.

Owen said, “I’m proud that he’s my son and I’m proud that he did what he did. I can’t think of any other word, other than pride.”

Spot-on quote of the weekend

This from Mayor Pete Buttigieg on his win in the Iowa Caucus:

“Hard to believe that was this year.”

It’s hard to believe anything happened this year before March.

Talking Fox News

CNN’s Brian Stelter. (John Nacion/STAR MAX)

Brian Stelter’s book about Fox News is due out Tuesday. The CNN media reporter talked to the Associated Press’ David Bauder about the book, titled, “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.” One of the things Stelter revealed was that not everyone at Fox News is OK with many of the things said on that network, especially during primetime.

“There is a real resistance inside Fox News,” Stelter told Bauder. “Nobody there would use that term. But there are many people there who are uncomfortable with Sean Hannity’s lies and Tucker Carlson’s xenophobia. It’s just that they are powerless, or feel powerless, and the primetime stars have all the power. There are Trump true believers at Fox, but there are many others who are concerned about the damage being done, and don’t feel that they can speak out publicly.”

Stelter was a guest on his own “Reliable Sources” show on Sunday. He was interviewed by CNN colleague Alisyn Camerota and reiterated that many Fox News staffers have issues with what is going on at the network and wanted to talk to him for his book.

Biden and Harris interview

Kudos to ABC News’ David Muir and Robin Roberts for their interview with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The interview, which aired Sunday night on ABC, was Biden and Harris’ first joint TV interview. Muir and Roberts didn’t hold back. They pressed the two on their disagreements during the Democratic presidential debates, Biden’s fitness for office and Harris’ voting record.

Harris also was asked about some of Biden’s comments on race, such as when Biden told radio presenter Charlamagne tha God, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.’”

“He has a deep sense of awareness and knowledge about racial disparity, inequities and systematic racism,” Harris told Roberts. “I know where his heart is.”

Biden also told Muir that he would absolutely serve eight years if elected, although what else would you expect him to say?

All in all, a solid interview by Muir and Roberts with plenty of fastballs.

A mad Mark Meadows

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows didn’t like being asked about QAnon by Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” QAnon is a topic now because President Trump was asked about the right-wing conspiracy theory at a press conference last week and said, “I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand that they like me very much, which I appreciate.”


Anyway, when Wallace asked Meadows about it, Meadows said, “We don’t even know what it is.”

And he was bothered that the president is even being asked about it.

“I find it appalling that the media when we have all of the important things going on, a list of top 20s, that the first question at a press briefing would be about QAnon, which I had to actually Google to figure out what it is,” Meadows said. “It’s not an essential part of what the president is talking about. I don’t know anything about it — I don’t even know that it’s credible.”

Meadows then continued with, “If you want to talk about conspiracies, let’s get back to talking about how the FBI and others within the FBI spied on the Trump campaign. I’ll be glad to speak about that.”

When Wallace told Meadows that QAnon was a “hate group,” Meadows said, “If it’s a hate group, I can tell you that this president is not for hate. So, I can tell you that if it’s a hate group that is there, let’s look at domestic terrorism and look at antifa and a number of other areas, and quit spending time on something that 81% of Republicans don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

Pretty odd that Meadows would have such detailed information and an exact figure — 81% — about a group he claims to know nothing about. As Wallace then pointed out, perhaps QAnon wouldn’t come up if Trump’s statement would have been as strong as Meadows’.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Kasie DC” Sunday evening, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) told host Kasie Hunt, “I think it’s good that (Trump) is saying that he’s not paying attention to them. That’s a start. But I think he needs to disavow them.”

Put in the penalty box

Mike Milbury, one of NBC’s top hockey analysts, is sitting out the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs after saying something stupid — again. While working as an analyst on a playoff game last week, Milbury, a former NHL player, coach and general manager, was following up a comment by colleague Brian Boucher about how hockey teams might be thriving being around their teammates in the bubble, which was set up to protect them from the coronavirus.

Milbury said, “Not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”

The NHL soon put out a statement condemning Milbury’s remarks as “insensitive and insulting.”

Milbury apologized, saying, “It was not my intention to disrespect anyone. I was trying to be irreverent and took it a step too far. It was a regrettable mistake that I take seriously.”

Then he decided to step away for now, saying, “In light of the attention caused by my recent remark, I have decided to step away from my role at NBC Sports for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I do not want my presence to interfere with the athletes as they try to win the greatest trophy in sports.”

This is not the first time Milbury has made misogynistic comments on air. He once said a coach should have “taken off his skirt” to get involved in an in-game skirmish. Another time, he referred to two teammates as “Thelma and Louise.” He also, during these playoffs, made fun of attendance at women’s hockey games.

Writing for The Athletic, Katie Strang wrote, “This was not an errant slip or an inelegant turn of phrase. This is also not the result of someone being green or unpolished. Rather, it’s another example of casual misogyny that is not isolated, but instead a pattern of behavior.”

Milbury reminds one of Don Cherry, the longtime “Hockey Night in Canada” commentator who, after years of insensitive and inappropriate remarks, was eventually fired after referring to immigrants as “you people.” You now look back and wonder how Cherry survived as long as he did. Same with Milbury. At this point, nothing that comes out of his mouth is surprising and you wonder what it will take for NBC to get rid of him. Plus, I don’t even think he’s that good at hockey analysis.

This is the second NBC hockey analyst to get into hot water over inappropriate comments about women. Jeremy Roenick was let go after going on a podcast and making a joke about he and his wife sleeping with a female colleague. That colleague, Kathryn Tappen, said she remained friends with Roenick, but found his comments “unacceptable.” Roenick apologized but is suing NBC for wrongful termination. He claims he was discriminated against because he is a straight male.

Hot type

Radio host and producer Terry Gross receives the 2015 National Humanities Medal from Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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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…
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