August 26, 2021

This might be the biggest interview “get” of the year for TV news.

The U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt while defending the U.S. House Chamber during the Jan. 6 insurrection will sit down with NBC News’ Lester Holt for an exclusive interview. The interview will air this evening on the “NBC Nightly News” (6:30 p.m. Eastern).

NBC News said, “Speaking out and revealing his identity publicly for the first time, the officer will share his perspective on the events of that day, including the aftermath of the deadly insurrection and the threats he has received.”

Earlier this week, the Capitol Police department said the officer would not face any disciplinary action. In a statement, it said, “USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within Department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury.”

Babbitt was in a crowd that was trying to force its way through a doorway into the Speaker’s Lobby in the Capitol on Jan. 6. The doorway was guarded by police and barricaded by chairs. Babbitt was shot and later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. An attorney for Babbitt’s family has told CNN that he intends to file a civil rights lawsuit that will claim police used excessive force.

This should be a fascinating interview. We should hear what the officer saw, what he heard and, mostly, what he felt.

But you might be asking: Why would the officer grant such an interview and reveal his identity? Babbitt has become a hero for the pro-Trump crowd and you would think the officer would be concerned for his own safety.

CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger wrote, “Since her death, Babbitt has become a martyr on the far right. Online crowdfunding pages for her family have raised thousands of dollars. Former President Donald Trump earlier this month released a statement saying he spoke to Babbitt’s mother and claimed she was ‘murdered at the hands of someone who should never have pulled the trigger of his gun.’”

But NPR TV critic Eric Deggans made a strong point when he tweeted, “In these situations, you always wonder if the person is coming forward to prevent someone else from revealing their identity under less controlled conditions.”

Serious allegations

The former top producer at ABC’s “Good Morning America” is being accused of sexually assaulting an ABC News staffer and fostering a toxic work environment.

In a suit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Michael Corn — formerly of “Good Morning America” and now the president of news for Nexstar’s NewsNation — is alleged to have sexually assaulted Kirstyn Crawford, a producer on “GMA”,  during a 2015 business trip. The suit also alleges Corn sexually assaulted ABC News producer Jill McClain about a decade ago when both worked at “World News Tonight.”

Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC, also is named in the suit. The suit claims Disney received several complaints about Corn’s behavior towards multiple women but did not take any disciplinary action.

In a statement, an ABC News spokesperson said. “We are committed to upholding a safe and supportive work environment and have a process in place that thoroughly reviews and addresses complaints that are made. ABC News disputes the claims made against it and will address this matter in court.”

In a statement through his attorney, Corn told Variety’s Brian Steinberg, “I vehemently deny any allegations that I engaged in improper sexual contact with another woman.”

Check out Steinberg’s story for more on the suit.

What is a mess?

“Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards. (Photo: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

Replacing the late Alex Trebek as host of “Jeopardy!” was never going to be easy, but could Sony have loused up this thing any more than it has? Executive producer Mike Richards, who had his fingerprints all over the selection process, ended up as the choice to host the regular daily syndicated program. That already had a fishy smell to it. Then, thanks to excellent reporting by The Ringer’s Claire McNear, we learned that Richards’ past was even more checkered than we originally thought when she discovered a bunch of inappropriate things he said on a podcast.

Richards is now out as host, but remains executive producer. And, if we’re describing that in the form of a question, it would be: “What is — Are you serious?” The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum, Nicole Sperling and Julia Jacobs described it as a “show of defiance that has baffled Hollywood.”

The Times reports that Sony’s top TV executive, Ravi Ahuja, made it clear to staffers in a company call that he is standing behind Richards, who is also executive producer for “Wheel of Fortune.” There were rumors that Richards and Sony were negotiating an exit for Richards, but the Times reports that is not the case, that Sony is committed to keeping him. It also reported Richards is undergoing sensitivity training.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out Julia Jacobs’ terrific Q&A in The New York Times with McNear, who blew the doors off this story for The Ringer. McNear wrote a book about “Jeopardy!” a year ago. As the Times eloquently put it: McNear wrote the history of “Jeopardy!” and then she changed its history.

McNear told Jacobs, “I think there is a great amount of sadness and fear among ‘Jeopardy!’ fans and among the ‘Jeopardy!’ staff that this whole episode with Mike Richards has damaged this universal appeal that it’s had for all these decades, that it was this totally neutral space that was not partisan. It was never flashy; it was never trying to get in the headlines or be the thing that you debated over dinner. And now it very much is, and it’s possible that when they do bring in a permanent host, people will talk about it a bunch at the beginning, and then it will just kind of settle back down to being the same old ‘Jeopardy!’ But it’s possible that it’s lost that sheen of being unimpeachable.”

Checking the facts

Last weekend, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy had a seven-minute interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. In those seven minutes, he lied at least five times, according to CNN’s Daniel Dale. And they weren’t little lies. They were false claims about inflation numbers, Afghan prisoners and voter ID laws.

If Bartiromo isn’t going to fact-check such false claims in real time then perhaps McCarthy should not be invited on to run wild.

Interesting tweet of the day

From The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona: “Three-fifths of the panel on Fox News’ Outnumbered today — which will spend most of the hour talking about Afghanistan — is literally Trump and Bush administration flacks. Fair & Balanced, indeed!”

The panel included Donald Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; Morgan Ortagus, the former spokesperson for the United States Department of State under Trump; and George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Nichols taken off ESPN’s NBA coverage

ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols watches on the court after Game 6 of this year’s NBA Finals. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

You knew it was going to be awkward for ESPN’s Rachel Nichols to continue on the network’s NBA coverage, but I’ll be honest, I was a little surprised by this: ESPN confirmed Wednesday that Nichols has been pulled from all NBA coverage and it will cancel her daily NBA show, “The Jump.” Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand was first with the news.

During a 2020 phone call, Nichols, who is white, was caught on tape complaining that colleague Maria Taylor, who is Black, was given the role as host of “NBA Countdown.” Nichols suggested Taylor got the job because ESPN felt pressure for its “crappy longtime record on diversity.”

News of the call was broken this summer by The New York Times just as Taylor was in contract negotiations with ESPN. Taylor ultimately decided to sign with NBC Sports after hosting ABC/ESPN’s coverage of the NBA Finals. Nichols, meanwhile, continued hosting “The Jump.” In fact, she had been doing the show for more than a year while those inside ESPN were already aware of her comments about Taylor. That’s why I assumed that ESPN figured it had weathered the controversy and would have Nichols carry on in the role she has held for years.

Then came Wednesday’s news.

In a statement, David Roberts, senior vice president for NBA production at ESPN, said, “We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned. Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content.”

Now what for Nichols? ESPN said it will honor what’s left on her contract, believed to be more than a year, but there already are reports she likely won’t appear again on the network.

After the news broke, Nichols tweeted, “Got to create a whole show and spend five years hanging out with some of my favorite people talking about one (of) my favorite things. An eternal thank you to our amazing producers & crew — The Jump was never built to last forever but it sure was fun. More to come…”

Meanwhile, look for another NBA show to take the place of “The Jump.”

Outside the box … in the afternoon

For this item, I turned it over to my Poynter colleague Kristen Hare.

I have written a lot of unbelievable headlines after nearly eight years of covering the media, but these days, my latest on a newsroom that revived its evening edition feels pretty radical. Actually, what Rob Curley and the staff of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, are attempting makes a ton of sense. They turned a beloved brand steeped in nostalgia into an eight-page e-edition that takes a current staffer about four hours a day to put together — all with fresh content.

“We were realists on this,” Curley told me. “It wasn’t about how are we going to make this a bigger pie, it was how are we going to hang on to the pie that we have when we know we’re going to continue to push subscription prices?”

The results? Their data shows a lot of wins, including that The Spokane Daily Chronicle is getting current subscribers to activate their e-editions.

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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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