By:
January 28, 2021

Marjorie Taylor Greene — the Republican representative from Georgia who has embraced wild conspiracy theories, sympathized with QAnon, and has expressed xenophobic, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiments — is all over the news at the moment.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, posted a video of Greene harassing a student who survived the Parkland shooting. It’s believed the video is from 2019. Parkland survivors have called for Greene to be removed from Congress because of Facebook comments she made supporting a conspiracy theory about Parkland. That baseless theory suggests the shooting was a “false flag” to push for tougher gun laws.

This came after CNN’s Em Steck and Andrew Kaczynski reported that a review of Greene’s Facebook page shows she “repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress.”

Kudos to Steck and Kaczynski for good old-fashioned reporting. It was likely tedious and time-consuming, but the payoff was important: It further exposed the disturbing views of an American lawmaker.

So, with that, there have been a slew of pieces about Greene as other comments and videos have come to light — followed by Greene’s defiant responses to her past.

CNN’s Chris Cillizza asks “At what point is enough enough?”

Republicans might have held their breath as Greene ran for office. But then, as The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote, “… she won, and Republicans tried to put a good face on it — even falsely claiming she had disavowed QAnon and suggesting the country should move on. That posture is looking increasingly untenable.”

Blake added, “Now that Greene is in Congress, the situation has spun further out of control for the GOP, with a steady stream of revelations about her extreme views and advocacy for fringe causes and baseless claims. That stream combined with Greene’s puzzling defense of herself should make Republicans wonder how long they can put up with this.

In a piece titled, “Republicans Face a Marjorie Taylor Greene Crisis of Their Own Making,” Mother Jones’ Inae Oh wrote, “It’s increasingly clear that Republicans have no intention of convicting Donald Trump in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, and most of the party appears perfectly willing to maintain alliances with the worst fringes of Trumpism. If that’s the route they take, and this certainly seems to be the case, one need look no further than Greene to foretell the future of the Republican Party.”

It could be the Republican Party that ends up paying the bills for Greene’s reckless behavior because it’s unlikely she will be removed from office. As Cillizza wrote, the Republican party needs to be careful about embracing Greene.

“Because in so doing,” he wrote, “they are condoning these sorts of views as somehow part of the broad spectrum of thought within the GOP.

And that is a very dangerous thing to do — if McCarthy and the rest of Republican leadership wants to have an actual national party going forward. Because a party that allows views like Greene’s to have a seat at the table isn’t one that should be taken seriously.”

Calling out the Proud Boys

I want to take a moment to point you to some notable stories involving the Proud Boys, the extremist group that appears to have played a key role in storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.

First, check out this impressive Wall Street Journal video investigation: “Proud Boys Were Key Instigators in Capitol Riot.” This is top-notch work that details some of the key figures involved in the insurrection. Superb journalism. I can’t recommend it enough.

In addition, The New York Times’ Alan Feuer and Frances Robles have “Proud Boys Under Growing Scrutiny in Capitol Riot Investigation.”

And, finally, Reuters’ Aram Roston with “Proud Boys Leader was ‘Prolific’ Informer for Law Enforcement.”

Tinkering at the Times

The fallout over The New York Times’ “Caliphate” audio series continues.

To quickly recap: The Times had to acknowledge that its podcast about the Islamic State partly relied on a source who is now believed to have been a fabricator. Then the Times took heat for how it handled the issues, as NPR’s David Folkenflik recaps here.

So the latest is that metro editor Cliff Levy will temporarily advise the audio department, which also includes the extremely popular “The Daily” podcast. The audio department is run by assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick and executive producer Lisa Tobin.

The New York Times’ Katie Robertson reports that, in a note to staff, Times executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joseph Kahn said, “Cliff will spend the coming weeks getting to know the rhythms of ‘The Daily’ and the broader audio team and will then help Sam, Lisa and the masthead more fully integrate the audio department’s day-to-day operation into the broader newsroom. Among his focuses will be developing new procedures to vet ambitious audio series.”

After his work with the audio team, Levy will return to the masthead and take on a broader role at the Times. A search is already underway for a new metro editor.

Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple tweeted, “True story here. Yes, there have been hiccups in how @nytimes has handled the demise of ‘Caliphate.’ But broadly speaking, it has been a thorough and honest effort to correct the record. It’s important not to lose sight of that.”

And CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted, “NYT continuing to show more contrition and correction for one podcast than the entirety of MAGA media for pushing the Big Lie about the election for two months, a Big Lie that literally incited a terrorist attack that got people killed.”

Posting the job

Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron, who announced Tuesday that he will be retiring next month. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

What’s next for The Washington Post now that legendary executive editor Marty Baron announced he will retire at the end of February? Who will take over the newsroom of one of the biggest and most influential newspapers in the world?

Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo writes, “(Publisher Fred) Ryan has told people  that there won’t be pressure to lock things down by Feb. 28, and that he’s looking for someone who could lead the newsroom for at least a decade.”

Pompeo writes the name “circulating more than any other” is Kevin Merida — a former Post reporter and editor for more than two decades who is now a senior vice president at ESPN and editor-in-chief of The Undefeated.

Reasons Merida might not end up at the Post: He’s 64 and very well thought of at ESPN. But a Post source told Pompeo, “He’s almost everyone’s favorite candidate. Just from the comfort of the newsroom, he’s by far the best choice.”

Oh, the irony

The Biden COVID-19 response team held its first briefing Wednesday morning. This is critical information. We’re talking about a pandemic that continues to rage after already having killed more than 400,000 people in the United States.

The briefing was major news. CNN aired it. MSNBC aired it. Fox News did not.

That’s journalism malpractice. If you call yourself a legitimate news network — heck, the word “news” is in your name — why would you not cover such a critical news conference?

And how about this irony. At the exact same time the Biden COVID-19 team was giving its press conference, Fox News host Harris Faulkner, after giving a brief highlight of the presser, was taking a moment to criticize Biden for dismissing a question a day earlier from Fox News’ Peter Doocy about what his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin was about. Faulkner was complaining about Biden’s lack of transparency … while his team was being transparent about COVID-19. If you are concerned about what Biden is doing, don’t you air the press conference that reveals what he is doing?

Comparison of the day

One year ago this week, NBC News put together a map tracking COVID-19 cases worldwide. Here’s what it looked like:

(Courtesy: NBC News)

Here’s what the map looks like now:

(Courtesy: NBC News)

Interesting quote of the day

In a rare occurrence this week, no player was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, a little more than 400 overall, voted for the Hall of Fame and no player received the required 75% needed for induction. The controversy this year centered on two alleged steroid users, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, as well as Curt Schilling, whose controversial political and social comments over the years could have led some to not vote for him. The problem, partly, is that the Hall of Fame and baseball does not have specific and detailed explanations of how voters should view steroids and moral character when casting their votes.

During an appearance on ESPN’s “Around the Horn” on Wednesday, Washington Post columnist Kevin Blackistone said, “I don’t vote for any awards because I grew up with the idea that journalists should cover the news and not make the news. And in this case, journalists are making the news because the Hall of Fame, the people who run baseball, have convoluted the entire situation.”

Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel tweeted, “Sportswriters shouldn’t vote for any awards, honors or teams in any sport, let alone Hall of Fames. It’s pretty simple.”

Sad news

Sekou Smith, a longtime NBA reporter and TV analyst, died this week from COVID-19. He was 48.

He covered the Indiana Pacers for The Indianapolis Star and the Atlanta Hawks for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before joining Turner Sports in 2009. He also was an analyst for NBA TV, a writer for NBA.com and he hosted his own NBA podcast.

Tim Bontemps wrote about Smith for ESPN.com and Shaun Powell wrote about him for NBA.com.

Check out Poynter

I want to direct you to some exemplary work from some of my Poynter colleagues.

First off, if you’re in journalism and you want to take your newsroom’s social media video to the next level, check out Ahsante Bean and The VidSpark Playbook for Social Video Strategy.

And there’s Barbara Allen with “Three Months Later, a Student Journalist Finds Out He’s Allowed to Gather News Again.”

Hot type

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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