January 14, 2021


That was the blaring headline on the homepages of both The New York Times and The Washington Post.

CNN’s headline: “IMPEACHED AGAIN.” That’s the exact same headline found on the Fox News website. The banner on NBC: “PRESIDENT TRUMP IMPEACHED.”

These are unprecedented times.

“We are all dizzy at this moment,” CNN’s John King said. “This town is stunned.”

This town? More like this country and this world.

Think of all that has happened over the past year.

An impeachment of President Donald Trump. A global pandemic that has killed nearly 400,000 so far in the United States. A reckoning over race. A hotly contested presidential election. A fight over the results of that election based on unproven claims of fraud. A Senate runoff in Georgia that tipped the balance of power. An insurrection with Trump supporters — stoked by the words of the president — storming the Capitol while lawmakers were trying to certify the election. And now, another impeachment of Trump less than a week before Joe Biden is inaugurated as the next president.

“The country is on edge because of what we saw last week and for good reason,” CNN commentator Gloria Borger said as the network showed video of armed National Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of the Capitol. That’s a sight that hasn’t been seen since the Civil War.

“Now we have Fortress Washington,” King said. “There are more troops in Washington, D.C., right now than there are in Afghanistan.”

Rachel Scott, ABC White House correspondent, called the scene at the Capitol “eerie.”

Those troops are there because of what happened last Wednesday when Trump supporters invaded the Capitol. And last week’s events are why Trump was impeached again Wednesday.

“Stunning, but not surprising” is how Borger described it.

MSNBC contributor Claire McCaskill, the former Democratic senator from Missouri, said, “There has never been a president who was focused more on his base as opposed to stitching together the country. He never made any effort to reach out to voters who didn’t support him. He absolutely went out of his way to alienate voters who were not for him in 2016. And just spent time with the people who adored him. So this was never a unifying president.”

He’ll go out as he went in: controversial and divisive. And he will go out. The only question that remains is if he will be convicted by the Senate. As of now, the Senate is not planning to convene again until Jan. 19 at the earliest — a day before the inauguration. So he could end up being fired from a job even after he has left that job.

“Here’s one thing I would say,” said “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd during NBC’s coverage. “Today is Jan. 13. The start of this trial is Jan. 19. We’re going to learn a lot in six days. Every hour, we see more people charged (for the attack on the Capitol), we learn more information about the plot from last week. There are more facts that are filled in. And ask yourself how much more will we know on Jan. 19 than we know today?”

Todd smartly pointed out that we don’t know what time will do — it could calm the ire of some GOP lawmakers who might have been ready to impeach or it could actually stoke their outrage even more.

NBC’s Savannah Guthrie astutely pointed out that the “X-factor” is Trump himself, who is liable to say or do something that could sway some of his defenders in the Senate to break party lines and vote to convict. As an example, Guthrie noted, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went from saying there would be no trial for impeachment to possibly voting to convict the president. What happened in between? Trump made public remarks saying some thought his words before the mob attacked the Capitol were “totally appropriate.”

Todd said, “I’ll tell you this: If Mitch McConnell is, indeed, a yes on impeachment, I promise you there are 16 other Republicans that will join with him.”

So how will it all go down from here? PolitiFact’s Louis Jacobson has the details with “The House Impeached Donald Trump Over His Speech Before the Capitol Attack. Here’s What Happens Next.”

Timely interviews

Kudos to all the news networks for chasing down relevant interviews, particularly with those in Congress. One of the better ones was NBC’s Savannah Guthrie interviewing Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of the 10 Republicans to vote to impeach.

Guthrie asked why Kinzinger voted how he did and if he worried that it might hurt him politically.

He said, “This was an attack on American democracy. It’s not just about the violence, this is about the message about American democracy which is exactly the process we use to prevent violence in this country. Do I worry about my political future? Not really because honestly I never got into this to build some political empire. I did it to do the right thing and I am in total peace today that my vote was the right thing and I actually think history will judge it that way.”

Running commentary

Watching the impeachment hearings on The New York Times website Wednesday was a satisfying experience. Why? Because Times journalists had an instant and smart running commentary on the screen in real time as members of Congress spoke. The journalists included White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, congressional correspondent Catie Edmondson, chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse, Washington correspondent Charlie Savage, fact check reporter Linda Qiu, and several others.

For example, some of the comments were astute. Alan Rappeport, the Times’ economic policy reporter, wrote, “There’s a real disconnect in the recent calls for unity from Republicans and Trump and the fact that Trump has not called Biden or invited him to the White House and will not attend inauguration.”

Some were informative. Hulse wrote, “Rep. Newhouse makes it official. He will vote to impeach. Here is a data point — five Democrats joined Republicans in supporting articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton in 1998. So Trump will top that number. A couple of those Democrats later who turned against Clinton later became Republicans.”

And some were simply observational and funny. Haberman wrote, “Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and his recognizable head of hair are speaking.” To which Savage replied, “I think Matt Gaetz put on extra hair gel for the occasion.”

Irony is dead

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., walks on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

This was my favorite tweet on Wednesday. Journalist Ashish Malhotra tweeted out a photo of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman from Georgia who has embraced QAnon and has been accused of being a bigot. While speaking at the impeachment hearing, she was wearing a mask that said “CENSORED” on it.

As Malhotra tweeted, “Irony is dead as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene wears a mask emblazoned with the word ‘CENSORED’….as she speaks on the House Floor and on national television.”

How it started … How it’s going

Here are the USA Today covers from both times Donald Trump has been impeached, including this morning’s print edition:

(Courtesy: USA Today)


Journalists: Submit your best work of 2020 by Feb. 5. The Scripps Howard Awards offer $170,000 in prize money in 14 categories for journalism across all platforms. The awards recognize impactful journalism and work that embraces new tools, technologies and approaches. Submit at

They took him literally

Appearing on CNN, David Gregory said, “I think one of the great mistakes of the Trump era are those in media, conservative circles and elsewhere who thought, ‘Don’t take him literally. He’s an idea. He’s representative of some sentiment out there.’ In fact, he should have been taken literally all along because his supporters, last week, took him literally and that mob stormed the Capitol.”

What an exchange

During Wednesday morning’s “Fox & Friends,” co-host Steve Doocy asked that if a Democratic president had told his or her supporters to storm the Capitol, would Republicans in the House and Senate move to impeach that president?

That set off colleague Brian Kilmeade, who incredibly told Doocy this: “You had no problem with President Trump up until this week. So what happened?”

So what happened? Was Kilmeade living in a cave with no access to the outside world in the past week?

Doocy responded, “Brian, what happened was the rioting and the looting at the U.S. Capitol.”

Just to remind you: Kilmeade is going to be the first guest host of a new weeknight Fox opinion show set to debut next Monday.

Ignoring the warning

After Trump supporters invaded the Capitol, Cumulus Media sent a warning to its radio stations across the country: Help induce national calm by knocking off the baseless rhetoric about election fraud. Brian Philips, the executive vice president of Cumulus, wrote, “There will be no dog-whistle talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘civil wars’ or any other language that infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever.” He said there would be zero tolerance.

But Media Matters’ Jason Campbell and Alex Walker note that some of Cumulus’ best-known personalities continue to repeat misinformation about the election.

They report that since the memo went out, Dan Bongino has said “we had an election with unbelievably suspect behavior” and “we’ll continue” to “question the election” and “principles about what happened in the election, the constitutionality, are in dispute.”

Mark Levin has said election rules “were changed” and “what took place in this last election cannot be dismissed,” among other comments.

Campbell and Walker go on to point out several other examples from several other radio hosts.

One more thought about the Capitol attack

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., hand pizzas to members of the National Guard gathered at the Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

New revelations about last week’s deadly riot at the Capitol continue to emerge and they are even more frightening than originally thought. And it reveals that it could have been much, much worse.

Trump put out a video on the White House’s Twitter feed criticizing the violence, asking for peace, but then he talked about freedom of speech — an obvious complaint about being banned by Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. Here’s the video.

ABC chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl said on ABC’s “World News Tonight”: “I am told (Trump) is angry about the vote. That’s not surprising. He’s also clearly scared. He’s clearly frightened about what comes next.”

Karl reported that’s why Trump might have put out the video he released Wednesday evening, although Karl also points out that Trump never took any responsibility for inciting the crowd that stormed the Capitol.

Is Parler done?

Reuters’ Elizabeth Culliford reports that Parler, the social media app favored by many Trump supporters because of its pretty much anything-goes policy, might be finished. Parler has gone dark after several major service providers cut it off because it could not regulate violent content. Now Parler CEO John Matze tells Culliford it may never come back. “We don’t know yet,” he said.

Culliford has more details in her story about Parler’s options.

‘I felt raw and exposed’

As I wrote about in Wednesday’s newsletter, there was a powerful moment on TV this week when CNN reporter Sara Sidner broke down while reporting on the coronavirus from a hospital in California.

Sidner wrote about the moment for CNN in a piece called “Why I Lost It on Live TV.” (The video of her emotional moment is included in the link.)

Sidner wrote, “I felt raw and exposed and embarrassed all at once. I have long been taught as a woman ‘never let them see you cry’ — not in public and especially not at work. But I did that Tuesday. I cried. I couldn’t control my tears. I couldn’t use my words. It happened not just in public, but on CNN, in front of America and the world.”

Sidner then goes into detail about what led to her emotional report in a compelling story that I highly recommend.

Don’t quote them

The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC are among the most respected news outlets in the world. They also happen to often be on the receiving end of criticism and “fake news” attacks by President Trump and his supporters.

Perhaps because of the latter (and certainly not the former), editors at the New York Post have told staff not to use reporting from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC as the sole basis for any New York Post story. The New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Now the amusing part: The New York Times and reporter Katie Robertson broke this story. Three New York Post journalists were the sources of Robertson’s story.

Robertson wrote, “Why did The Post single out these four outlets and not, say, Variety or CBS News? The three journalists said no explanation was given, but they added that the reason did not have to be detailed. CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The Times are seen as liberal within the Murdoch empire, which is home to Fox News and Fox Business, cable networks that were instrumental to the rise of President Trump. To publish articles based on the work of those organizations would not fit the Post’s right-leaning identity, the journalists said.”

What makes the mandate so ridiculous is that these outlets have led the way in breaking stories about the White House, Trump and the election.

The Atlantic’s latest hire

The Atlantic’s exemplary coronavirus coverage just got even better. It hired Katherine Wu, who joins The Atlantic from The New York Times, where she has reported on the science of COVID-19 as well as its human toll.

Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg said in a statement, “Katie is joining the best pandemic team in journalism. Across the past year, our science and health writers and editors have done historic work, and the addition of a brilliant reporter like Katie to this team is further proof of The Atlantic’s commitment to covering this story.”

Yes, it’s a statement for a public relations release, but what Goldberg said is spot on. The Atlantic has been at the forefront of all news outlets in its coronavirus coverage.

What’s cooking

(Courtesy: The New York Times)

The New York Times is launching a new marketing campaign for NYT Cooking. It is to “inspire home cooks of every level to make delicious meals every day.” It will include TV, digital and social media advertising, and will run for eight weeks. NYT Cooking has been wildly successful for the Times. In 2020, the Times says the vertical attracted 113 million users to its recipes, guides and collections.

Hot type

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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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