By:
June 8, 2021

Over the weekend, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said he would vote against a sweeping voting rights bill and that he is against getting rid of the filibuster. His op-ed in his home state Charleston Gazette-Mail explained that he was opposed to the “For the People Act” because, in part, it is not bipartisan.

It is a devastating blow to Democrats, who needed Manchin’s support and have seen voting rights as a major priority of the Biden administration. Reaction to Manchin’s decision was swift and powerful.

The headline on Chris Cillizza’s column for CNN was “Joe Manchin just *totally* screwed Democrats.”

Cillizza wrote, “Manchin’s both-sides-are-to-blame argument hands Republicans a perfect talking point to use against Democrats. Even your own party didn’t sign on because it was a ‘partisan’ bill — and other similar arguments.”

Cillizza added, “The worst part of all of this for Democrats? Manchin is effectively un-punishable. His state is overwhelmingly Republican and even the senator’s biggest detractors admit that no other Democrat could hold the seat for their side.”

In a column for The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin wrote, “Manchin’s bland platitudes suggest he prefers stalemate to taking hard votes. The status quo leaves him with latitude to make holier-than-thou pronouncements to decry both sides.”

She added, “The time for Manchin’s excuse-mongering is over. It is time to demonstrate his bipartisan notions are more than fantasy. And if he cannot, he needs to choose his legacy: He either ushers in democracy’s demise or refuses to allow Republicans to dismantle democracy before our eyes. That’s certainly the only thing for which he’ll be remembered.”

During an appearance on CNN, New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman compared Manchin to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Bowman told John Berman on “New Day,” “Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell during Obama’s presidency said he would do everything in his power to stop (Obama). He’s also repeated that now during the Biden presidency by saying he would do everything in his power to stop President Biden, and now Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people, the work that the people sent us here to do. Manchin is not pushing us closer to bipartisanship. He is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they’ve been since the beginning of Biden’s presidency.”

In fact, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, on his “War Room” podcast, said, “I actually believe there should be a major effort led by guys like (Florida Sen.) Rick Scott to bring Joe Manchin into the Republican Party right now. Bring him into the Republican Party, make sure that he’s a welcome member of the Republican Party.”

More conservative voices, of course, praised Manchin.

During an appearance on Fox News, former President Donald Trump said, “Well, it’s a very important thing. He’s doing the right thing and it’s a very important thing. Otherwise you’re going to be packing the court. You’re going to be doing all sorts of very, very bad things that were unthinkable and were never even brought up during the election. Nobody brought this stuff up.”

The headline on Justin Haskins’ column for The HIll was “By rejecting Democrats’ election overhaul bill, Joe Manchin may have saved America.”

Meanwhile, The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill had the strongest criticism of all with this tweet:

“This is so on brand for this country. Record number of black voters show up to save this democracy, only for white supremacy to be upheld by a cowardly, power-hungry white dude. @Sen_JoeManchin is a clown.”

MSNBC president Rashida Jones: ‘I was constantly underestimated’

The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove has a good profile of MSNBC president Rashida Jones, who told Grove, “When I was in school, I was always the only Black person in my class, and I was constantly underestimated. I constantly made honor roll. I was constantly the best writer with the best handwriting, the best at math. And I think people just assumed certain things — not only because of who I was and where I lived, and they didn’t know us — and constantly proving people wrong, by actions, not by words, is just something I’ve always kept in mind, and I’ve always operated that way.”

Jones, who took over the network in February, talked about her vision for MSNBC.

She told Grove, “The strategy is really doubling down on differentiating between our hard-news programming and our perspectives programming.”

Jones continued: “We very much want to be the place where people go for hard news when news is happening. … CNN has the reputation for being the place to go for hard news, and it’s something we’re continuously chipping away at. I think what you’re seeing is that we punch above our weight.”

From real life to the big screen

Actor Carey Mulligan. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

In 2018, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on sexual predators in the film industry — most notably, producer Harvey Weinstein. They published a fascinating book, “She Said,” which took readers behind the scenes into their dogged reporting.

Now Universal Pictures is interested in a movie based on the book, according to Deadline’s Justin Kroll. And, according to Kroll, Universal already has two lead actors in mind to play Kantor and Twohey: Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan.

Kroll writes, “The film is set to begin production this summer and will be directed by ‘Unorthodox’ director Maria Schrader from a script by Oscar-winner Rebecca Lenkiewicz.”

Pulitzer Prize week

Speaking of the Pulitzers, this is Pulitzer Prize week. The most prestigious awards in journalism are scheduled to be announced on Friday. Roy J. Harris Jr. has a preview for Poynter and points out that the past year has been dominated by three themes: “A global pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands here and otherwise uprooted normal life. President Donald Trump embroiled in nearly nonstop controversy, ending with a failed bid for a second term. And raging debate over the death of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, often focused on the possibility that a Minneapolis cop could be convicted of murdering George Floyd.”

Harris’ annual preview has become a tradition at Poynter, and as always, he has good educated guesses on the stories that could impress judges.

A union at The Atlantic

Poynter’s Angela Fu reports that staff at The Atlantic announced they are unionizing with the NewsGuild of New York and that management has already agreed to recognize their union.

In a statement, The Atlantic union said, “Over the course of a year marked by uncertainty and isolation, the employees of The Atlantic have come together in solidarity to imagine our shared future. We have faith in our leadership, but in a time of upheaval in our industry and nation, we also wish to ensure that all of the staffers who contribute to The Atlantic’s successes are justly rewarded for their labor and free to speak their mind on matters of concern.”

In a letter to staff, The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg wrote, “We all love The Atlantic, and we all take seriously our responsibility to be careful stewards of this great institution. I couldn’t agree more with an idea expressed in the statement from union organizers that we just received: The indispensable mission of The Atlantic is to illuminate ‘the complexity of the modern world with clarity and modesty’ and to provide readers ‘with a forum for civil disagreement in an era of acrimony.’”

Full house

After 15 months of the pandemic and social distancing, The White House press room was back to full capacity on Monday for the first time. Here’s what it looked like, thanks to this tweet from C-SPAN communications director Howard Mortman.

A new podcast

Los Angeles Sparks forward and ESPN’s Chiney Ogwumike. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Chiney Ogwumike — a star in the WNBA who also appears on ESPN and co-hosts a radio show — is launching her own podcast called “Chiney.” It will debut today.

ESPN said that, on the podcast, Ogwumike will “discuss current events in the sports world, primarily through the lens of an active professional athlete.” Ogwumike will start most episodes with a short monologue to introduce a main topic and most of the episodes will include a guest. Video of episodes also will be available on the ESPN YouTube Channel.”

Ogwumike’s work on the podcast means she will no longer work on the ESPN podcast “First Take, Her Take” with Kimberly A. Martin and Charly Arnolt. Her spot there will be taken over by “SportsCenter” anchor Elle Duncan.

More from ESPN

The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has been all over the news that MMA insider Ariel Helwani is not returning to ESPN. Now Marchand has more. He reports that ESPN offered Helwani a contract to return, but at a pay cut. This sounds an awful lot like the Kenny Mayne situation when ESPN offered to bring the “SportsCenter” anchor back, but at a 61% pay cut.

Don’t feel too bad for Helwani. He is well respected in the business and Marchand said he has had “significant talks with the gambling site Action Network.”

Marchand also mentioned that Dana White, who runs the UFC (the most popular of the mixed martial arts “leagues”), is not a fan of Helwani. The UFC is in a partnership with ESPN.

Marchand wrote, “Meanwhile, White wanted Helwani off ESPN. White has called Helwani a variety of names over the years and has complained to ESPN executives about him. White has made no secret he would like to hurt Helwani’s career. ESPN definitely does not want it to appear that White has a hand in its decision making, and there is no actual proof that they listened to him. That said, it is weird that an up-and-comer like Helwani wouldn’t be more prioritized, even in ESPN’s current cost-cutting environment where 50 percent cuts, give or take, are being asked of some of the highest earners.”

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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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