By:
January 20, 2021

On June 16, 2015, he rode down a golden escalator and, ultimately, into history as the 45th, and certainly most unlikely, president of the United States. Today — 2,044 days later (of which 1,460 he spent as president) — Donald Trump leaves as the most controversial president in history.

Four years. Two impeachments. Families separated at the border. “Very fine people on both sides.” A pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and smashed the economy. An insurrection at the Capitol.

Those are just the highlights. Or lowlights. (The New York Times put together a six-minute video of his presidency.)

And then there was Twitter — Trump’s favorite form of communication. That brings me to this:

Prepare to be stunned by the enormity of this work by The New York Times’ Kevin Quealy. (It also includes development and research by Kathleen A. Flynn, Josh Katz, Jasmine C. Lee, Jeremy B. Merrill, Toni Monkovic, and Rumsey Taylor.)

It’s an interactive list of every insult Donald Trump delivered on Twitter from 2015 until he was banned on Jan. 8. Think about that.

EVERY TRUMP INSULT.

It’s 48,000 words long.

Quealy tweeted, “Yes, in many ways this project is dumb and exhausting — there is already mail in my inbox — but I also think it’s the only thing I’ve ever published that might be read by historians in 100 years. There’s nothing like it!”

And there were lies. Lots and lots of lies. The Washington Post tracked all of Trump’s false or misleading claims. The final tally, at least going into today: 30,534. That’s an average of nearly 21 a day!

Campaign promises? PolitiFact’s Jon Greenberg has the final Trump-O-Meter with “Trump’s Term Ends with Half of His Campaign Promises Unachieved.”

And while we’re talking about Trump and lies and unfulfilled promises, what was it like to be CNN’s Daniel Dale? He looked back at his time covering Trump with this piece: “Reflections on Four Weird Years Fact Checking Every Word from Donald Trump.”

Dale wrote, “Lots of politicians lie as a means to an end — to wiggle out of a scandal or to inflate their policy accomplishments. Trump was willing to lie about everything, all the time, often for no obvious reason. This was lying as a way of life. And it took over much of my own life.”

He took over much of many lives.

One more perspective

Here’s what MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson had to say about her time covering Trump:

“I witnessed four years defined by chaos, partly because that’s how Donald Trump liked it, letting his gut be his guide. And defined by controversy, shorthand keywords by this point, Charlottesville, Russia, taxes, Zelensky, cages, COVID, and all of that was before Jan. 6, before the riot he incited at the Capitol, before his second impeachment, something I never thought I would see after covering his first. Historians and scholars will write about how these past four years will affect the trajectory of the next four and four after that and so on. And it’s the reporters, those of us in the press corps who covered it day in and day out who have been able to scribble down that first draft for ‘Nightly News’ or the ‘Today’ show or here on MSNBC with you. It’s a privilege and it has been a test like none other in an administration that’s attacked the free press. I’ve been yelled at publicly, yelled at privately in what’s been a long four years, but the work does not stop now.”

Trump’s farewell

Trump’s farewell speech was taped and released Tuesday. It was just shy of 20 minutes. He said he did what he came to Washington to do and “so much more.”

He said, “As I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There’s never been anything like it. The belief that a nation must serve its citizens will not dwindle but instead only grow stronger by the day.”

A few moments later, that was it. His presidency was essentially over. CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins and Jeff Zeleny reported that, in his final days as president, Trump has been in a “foul mood” and largely alone, doing little work.

They wrote, “While he was eagerly anticipating his military-style send-off from Joint Base Andrews on Inauguration morning — one of the few items that have cheered him up recently — there were already signs the crowd may be smaller than he’d hoped. And a slate of actual celebrities lined up for Biden’s inauguration disappointed a president who tried and often failed to secure A-list support for his own presidency.”

Today’s big day

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden are joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff during a COVID-19 memorial event at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Today is Inauguration Day. Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. We hardly know what to expect because it will be unlike any inauguration.

First off, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. COVID-19 will alter the normal festivities. The many thousands who might usually attend will not because of the coronavirus. And, of course, the insurrection at the Capitol two weeks ago has raised fears of repeat violence and ramped up security that has Washington looking like a fortress. In an unheard-of move, the outgoing president will not attend.

It will be different.

But, the headline on a column by The Washington Post’s David Von Drehle: “There is No Right or Wrong Way to Inaugurate a President. As Long As We Move Forward.”

Von Drehle recalled what Ronald Reagan said to Jimmy Carter after winning the 1980 election: “By your gracious cooperation in the transition process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people. … I thank you and your people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the bulwark of our Republic. The business of our nation goes forward.”

Von Drehle wrote, “Only the last of those words can be spoken this year; the rest would ring false even if Biden’s predecessor were present to hear them. Those are the most important words, however: The business of our nation goes forward. Nothing else matters.”

Today’s coverage

The list is too long to go through here, but all the major networks and cable news outlets, as well as several online newspapers and media organizations, will air today’s inauguration. Want to see the inauguration? Turn on your TV or open up your computer or phone.

Fox News taking its lumps

Fox News’ Sean Hannity. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Fox News continues to get beat up for its recklessness over the past several years, which was less like journalism in many cases and more like out-and-out cheerleading for President Trump. As I wrote in Tuesday’s newsletter, the decision to name respected-reporter-turned-Trump-sycophant Maria Bartiromo to one of the guest-hosting spots on its new evening opinion show is just the latest example.

Three columns in The Washington Post also scold Fox News. Opinion columnist Max Boot’s latest piece is titled “Trump Couldn’t Have Incited Sedition Without the Help of Fox News.” Boot believes cable providers should consider kicking Fox News, One America News Network and Newsmax off their systems if they aren’t going to show some responsibility. Boot pointed out that Twitter and Facebook banned those, including Trump, who posted irresponsible and dangerous things.

Boot wrote, “Anyone who cherishes our democracy should be grateful to the management of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites for their newfound sense of social responsibility. We should expect at least the same level of responsibility from broadcast media — and in particular from Fox News, which has the largest reach on the right.”

In his latest column, titled “Never Forget Fox News’s Promotion of the ‘Big Lie,’” the Post’s Erik Wemple wrote, “Suzanne Scott is the chief executive of Fox News Media; Jay Wallace is its executive editor; Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch run Fox Corp., its parent company. They form the most privileged cabal in all of American media, as they preside over the country’s most toxic news organization without having to answer for its abuses. How is that possible?”

Meanwhile, Post media writer Jeremy Barr also wrote about Fox News’ move from news to opinion in the 7 p.m. Eastern hour. One unnamed staffer at Fox News told Barr that the message of that decision was “they care about opinion more than news.”

Another Fox News staffer told Barr, “It is ludicrous and disheartening that we are rewarding (Bartiromo) with a prime-time spot, knowing full well she is among the most responsible for propagating the big election lie. Maybe they wanted that sizzling-hot opinion anger.”

Speaking of Bartiromo, she said this Tuesday morning on Fox Business:

“A new report says that some far-right protesters have discussed posing as members of the National Guard to infiltrate the inauguration — the way Democrats infiltrated two weeks ago and put on MAGA clothing.”

Wait, what? Did Bartiromo really cite a report that, without proof, said Democrats dressed up as MAGA supporters and infiltrated the mob that stormed the Capitol? I ask again: What in the world happened to Maria Bartiromo?

And check out this clip

This is an actual quote (and here’s the video to back it up) from “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt on Tuesday’s show:

“They’ll criticize President Trump but no one can argue, he is a worker. He doesn’t drink alcohol, he stays up late at night, he watches every show, he’s working — he got to work immediately.”

Watches every show?

That sounds like a line that would be written for a “Saturday Night Live” skit. Somehow, the ability to watch TV doesn’t seem like one of the things a presidential candidate would list on his or her resume. Maybe when we get to the next presidential debate in four years, a moderator will ask the candidates, “If elected, can you guarantee the American people you will watch enough TV?”

One more — but really notable — Fox News note

There is also significant news at Fox News that ties all of the above together. In what some staffers described as a “blood bath,” the company is laying off nearly 20 digital news staffers. The cuts include digital political editor Chris Stirewalt, who was an on-air presence during election week, offering up analysis and explanations of Fox News’ election projections. That included Fox News’ controversial, but ultimately correct call of Arizona for Joe Biden. The call came before most news outlets and drew the ire of Trump and many of his supporters.

Stirewalt might have been the on-air presence defending the Arizona call, but to be clear, the Fox News decision desk was actually run by contractor Arnon Mishkin. And the on-air call was up to Bill Sammon, Fox News’ senior vice president and managing editor in Washington. But that brings us to this: Sammon, 62, announced his retirement to staffers on Monday.

So is all this fallout over Arizona and the election?

The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison wrote, “It was Sammon’s role that raised eyebrows in the aftermath of the call, Fox staffers told The Post. But it was Stirewalt’s dismissal that caused more consternation in the building, they said. ‘A major overreaction to Trump and the audience freakout,’ said one staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.”

In a statement, Fox News said, “As we conclude the 2020 election cycle, Fox News Digital has realigned its business and reporting structure to meet the demands of this new era. We are confident these changes will ensure the platform continues to deliver breakthrough reporting and insightful analysis surrounding major issues, both stateside and abroad.”

Several Fox News staffers told The Daily Beast’s Diana Falzone and Lachlan Cartwright that the cuts were part of a “purge” to help Fox News go to more opinion-based programming.

One former staffer told The Daily Beast, “There is a concerted effort to get rid of real journalists. They laid capable people off who were actual journalists and not blind followers.”

In what might have summed all this up well, New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik tweeted, “People talk about Fox News influencing/indoctrinating its audience, which it does. But Fox is also terrified of its audience, which to some extent it lost control of, not just with the election but once Trump wrested it away as his base.”

Another move to digital in Pittsburgh

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Catching up on this news from last week: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is dropping its Friday print editions to, as it explains, become a more digitally focused news provider. The move will take place at the end of February. The Post-Gazette’s Joyce Gannon wrote that the Post-Gazette will continue to publish print editions on Sundays and Thursdays and will add more than 10 pages and new content to the Sunday editions. The paper will also have a Saturday print edition sold in retail outlets.

Kurt Franck, vice president of newspaper operations for Block Communications, the owners of the Post-Gazette, told Gannon, “We’ve seen over the past year increased demand for digital content. All of our digital delivery products will truly allow us to be a 24/7 news operation. You’re going to see more papers that will go digital in the next couple (of) years. We think e-delivery is better, and we make no apologies for doing this.”

Ed Blazina, acting president of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, told Gannon, “We think dropping another day of print is a bad idea. It would certainly cause readers to question the commitment the company has to covering the news in this region.”

Making moves

Some job updates were announced this week. They involve names often seen in this newsletter.

At ABC News, Cecilia Vega has been named chief White House correspondent, Mary Bruce will become senior White House correspondent, Rachel Scott will become Congressional correspondent,  and MaryAlice Parks will be weekend White House correspondent. Jonathan Karl will be chief Washington correspondent and co-anchor of “This Week.” Karl also is working on a sequel to his book “Front Row at the Trump Show.”

The Washington Post also made staff announcements. Ashley Parker, whose distinguished reporting on the Trump administration has been among the best in the business, will become the Post’s new White House bureau chief. Joining the Post’s White House team: Annie Linskey, Sean Sullivan, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Matt Viser, who has been one of the Post’s lead reporters on Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, two notable White House correspondents, who seemed to break big stories almost daily, are leaving that beat. Philip Rucker, who was the Washington bureau chief, will become senior Washington correspondent. Josh Dawsey will join the national political investigations team.

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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