By:
April 22, 2021

I’ll be honest. I debated long and hard with myself about how to start today’s newsletter.

The question I asked: Should I lead today’s newsletter with comments about how Fox News, and in particular primetime host Tucker Carlson, reacted to the Derek Chauvin guilty-guilty-guilty verdict?

On one hand, Carlson, his guests and others on Fox News (Greg Gutfeld, for example) had commentary that questioned the fairness of the verdict and whether it could be trusted. Such irresponsible and damaging comments should be exposed.

On the other hand — and this happens quite often when it comes to Carlson and some of the more extreme voices on Fox News — there’s always a worry that publicizing their comments only amplifies their views and gives them more exposure than they deserve. Perhaps they should just be ignored. Aren’t they just trolling everyone and getting what they want when media critics and others react to that trolling?

In the end, however, I maintain that their commentary should be exposed in the hopes that, one day, the bosses at Fox News — specifically ownership (the Murdochs) — do something about it.

This is mostly about Carlson, who just hours after Tuesday’s verdict seemingly had a meltdown on his highly rated prime-time show. His opening commentary included this question: “Can we trust the way this decision was made?” Then he interviewed frequent Fox News guest Candace Owens, who said, “No one can say this was a fair trial.” Carlson went on to say “nobody has more faith in the system after this.”

Then he cut off a guest — Ed Gavin, a former New York City deputy sheriff and corrections officer — because he started talking about something Carlson had no interest in discussing: police reform. (Here’s the clip, which includes a maniacal and somewhat disturbing laugh from Carlson.) He concluded with: “Nope. Done.”

It all showed that Carlson was more concerned about protests over George Floyd’s death than the actual death of Floyd.

Wednesday’s show was more of the same with Carlson suggesting that the Chauvin verdict was a result of mob intimidation. Again, Carlson was more concerned with protests than a Black man dying at the hands (or knee) of police. And then Carlson tried to scare viewers that protesters standing up for civil rights have been emboldened and that could lead to a more violent America.

The headline on Charlotte Klein’s story for Vanity Fair: “In Shocking Turn of Events, Tucker Carlson and Majorie Taylor Greene aren’t happy with Chauvin verdict.”

The headline on a column by Erik Wemple in The Washington Post: “Tucker Carlson despises the Derek Chauvin verdict.”

Wemple wrote, “To viewers of ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight,’ accordingly, the George Floyd story is one of civil unrest, fires and broken windows. And when someone comes on air and dares to explain the atrocity, well — that person needs to be cut off and shut down. That’s because the truth of the Floyd murder threatens the fragile white-grievance ecosystem that Carlson has fashioned on Fox News’s airwaves. It speaks to the systemic racism that Carlson so commonly mocks. So desperate was Carlson to exonerate the system of Floyd’s death that he claimed that Floyd had died of a drug overdose. The Chauvin jury repudiated that nonsense; no wonder Carlson doesn’t want to talk about it.”

And Carlson not wanting to talk about it is something that all of us should be talking about.

Then again, does any of this — complaining about Tucker, calling him out, citizens threatening a boycott, pleading with his bosses to take notice — even matter?

Politico’s Jack Shafer writes, “Given the commercial value Carlson provides Fox, no advertiser boycott or denunciations from high places will dislodge his show from the network. As long as he maintains his audience (his show is consistently one of the most-watched on cable) and avoids the sort of legal trouble that destroyed Bill O’Reilly’s reputation, Carlson is all but cancel-proof.”

In fact, Shafer points out that Carlson is probably loving all this as he “has been wisely leaning into the storm against him, characterizing the calls for his ouster as a campaign to silence him and, by extension, his audience.”

Shafer adds, “‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ remains integral to the Fox formula because the sensationalist views the show serves — populist, race-baiting, nativist, anti-immigrant — slipstream neatly behind those of Fox owner Rupert Murdoch. This is not to suggest that Murdoch endorses everything Carlson says any more than he endorses every tack his British tabloids take. But Murdoch adores ballyhoo and the lurid smell of burning garbage. And he loves to outrage those he considers his elitist foes. As long as the 90-year-old Murdoch lives, you can be sure there will be a space for Carlson — or someone exactly like him — in the Fox parking lot.”

Shafer is right. And that’s incredibly disheartening.

Where did viewers watch the verdict?

It’s believed that more viewers turned to CNN than any other network to see the verdict in the Chauvin trial. This is according to Nielsen in the early ratings. I say it’s believed CNN had the most viewers because NBC’s ratings are not included in the early returns.

CNN had 4.08 viewers in the U.S. from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Eastern. That was followed by ABC (4.003 million), Fox News (3.442 million), MSNBC (3.066 million) and CBS (3.017 million).

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King’s coverage

Gayle King, left, in Minneapolis during “CBS This Morning” coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. (Courtesy: CBS News)

I just wanted to take a moment to point out the smart decision by CBS News to send “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King to Minneapolis ahead of the Derek Chauvin verdict. King co-hosted the morning show and then was on the scene when the verdict came down Tuesday, perhaps much sooner than most people expected.

That made for an incredibly long Tuesday. King co-hosted the morning show, scrambled back on the air during the afternoon for the verdict and then, along with Norah O’Donnell, co-hosted a one-hour special at 10 p.m. Eastern.

While all networks had impressive coverage and reporters in Minnesota, having King in Minneapolis was a solid signal of commitment to this story by CBS.

More notable coverage

Here is some of the day-after coverage of the Chauvin trial worth your attention:

ESPN’s take

ESPN dedicated much of its programming over the past two days to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin case. That included Thursday’s entire two-hour “First Take” as hosts Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim Rose offered commentary and welcomed guests such as director Spike Lee and attorney and political commentator Angela Rye.

Every time ESPN weighs in on political or social issues, it gets pushback from those who yank out the tired “stick to sports” cliche. My belief: the criticism comes not from those who don’t want to see political/social issues discussed on sports shows, but from those who simply don’t agree with the message being delivered by those shows.

Smith and Kellerman know a heck of a lot about sports, but they also speak thoughtfully about issues outside of sports, particularly when it comes to race. And, hey, it’s their show. They can talk about whatever they want. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch. But my guess is that the audience of “First Take” has no problem hearing Smith, Kellerman, Qerim Rose and their guests talk about important issues that don’t involve a ball.

She said what?

Fox News host and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Passing this along with no commentary — which, I suppose, is making a little bit of a comment. Anyway, Fox News co-host Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press secretary under Donald Trump, said this when talking about President Joe Biden weighing in on the Chauvin trial:

“I’m glad that he at least waited until the jury was sequestered. But I think that the country is such a tinderbox right now, especially Minneapolis. There’s so much hurt, so much pain.”

Then she added, with a straight face, “And I think it’s the role of the president of the United States to stay back, to not inflame the tensions.”

Global days

What a wonderful gesture by The New York Times. Employees at the Times were informed on Wednesday that they would receive “Global Days Off” to help deal with the stress of the pandemic and other crises. In a memo, the Times told employees that they would receive one day off a quarter for the rest of the year. The scheduled off days are May 14, Aug. 13 and Nov. 5. If employees cannot take any of those days off because of their duties, they will get another day off in its place.

The memo — which was signed by CEO and president Meredith Kopit Levien, executive editor Dean Baquet and executive vice president and chief human resources officer Jacqueline Welch — said, “The goal of the Global Day Off is to create a few moments to reset as we have just come through a difficult period that has produced a sense of exhaustion, burnout, and a need for respite for many.”

They also wrote, “We look forward to not seeing as many of you as possible during our first Global Day Off on May 14!”

Simon & Schuster sticking with Pence

Earlier this month, publisher Simon & Schuster announced a two-book deal with former Vice President Mike Pence. Employees at Simon & Schuster signed a petition to protest the deal with Pence, but the president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, sent a letter to employees on Wednesday saying the publishing company was standing by its decision.

Karp wrote, “As a publisher in this polarized era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide and from different constituencies and groups. But we come to work each day to publish, not cancel, which is the most extreme decision a publisher can make, and one that runs counter to the very core of our mission to publish a diversity of voices and perspectives. We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with Vice President Mike Pence.”

An online petition included this: “By choosing to publish Mike Pence, Simon & Schuster is generating wealth for a central figure of a presidency that unequivocally advocated for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, misogyny, ableism, islamophobia, antisemitism, and violence. This is not a difference of opinions; this is legitimizing bigotry.”

Who is next up on “Jeopardy?”

LeVar Burton (Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

More guest hosts for “Jeopardy” have been announced, including one who fans have been trumpeting ever since the show announced it would have, for a while, a rotation of guest hosts to replace the late Alex Trebek.

Actor LeVar Burton — known for his roles in “Roots” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as well as being host of PBS’s “Reading Rainbow” — is among the final group of guest hosts announced by the show. Burton thanked fans on Wednesday, tweeting, “THANK YOU… to all y’all for your passionate support! I am overjoyed, excited, and eager to be guest-hosting Jeopardy!, and will do my utmost best to live up to your faith in me. YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE! Go ahead and take my word for it, this time.”

Other upcoming guest hosts will include “Good Morning America” anchors George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts and author and CNBC host David Faber. Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck also will serve as guest host.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper is host of the shows currently airing. He will be followed by “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker and then “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik.

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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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