By:
June 29, 2021

Supposedly one of the great things about America is our freedom.

The freedom to think. The freedom of speech. The freedom to peacefully protest.

All Americans seem to agree these are the freedoms that make America great.

Well, until we disagree with the protest, that is. Or the timing. Or the location. Or who is protesting.

Then it’s a problem.

That brings us to what happened over the weekend at the U.S. track and field trials in Eugene, Oregon.

There, hammer thrower Gwen Berry practiced her right to peacefully protest. And yet, the White House is being asked about it and some lawmakers want her kicked off the Olympic team that she is qualified to be on.

And, naturally, it became the topic du jour for conservative media.

Here’s what happened. Berry is a hammer thrower who finished third at the trials over the weekend. By finishing third, Berry qualified for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

While receiving her bronze medal, “The Star-Spangled Banner” began to play. Berry eventually turned her back to the American flag and then put a T-shirt that said “Activist Athlete” over her head.

So what was going on?

The national anthem had been played once per day at the U.S. track and field trials. The song was played as the hammer throwers received their medals and Berry believed it was not a coincidence.

“I feel like it was a setup, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said. “I was (ticked), to be honest. … I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be alright. I see what’s up.”

Berry is known for her activism as well as her athletic abilities. Berry raised a fist during a medal ceremony and anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games.

USA Track and Field, through a spokesperson, said it didn’t wait for the hammer throwers to be on the podium before playing the anthem. But Berry said she was told the anthem would be played before the athletes took the podium.

No surprise that Berry was criticized, especially by conservatives such as Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw. Cruz asked why the left hates America. Crenshaw called for Berry’s removal from the Olympic team.

Conservative talk show host Clay Travis, who is part of the team that has replaced Rush Limbaugh, told Fox News’ “America Newsroom” that Berry’s protest was “ridiculous.” He added, “And I think what we’re going to see a lot of, unfortunately, as the Olympic trials continue and as we move into the Olympics next month, is everybody is looking for their Colin Kaepernick payday.”

Berry was criticized by Fox News’ Jesse Watters, who said, “If I were on the committee for the U.S. Olympic squad, I would sanction (Berry) not for the sign of disrespect — I would do it for poor sportsmanship. She was third. That was (first-place DeAnna Price and second-place Brooke Andersen’s) moment. That was the country’s moment to reflect on a great event and instead, she poisoned the chemistry of the female track and field squad and she made it all about herself.”

It even came up during Monday’s White House press conference.

Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki, “Does President Biden think that’s appropriate behavior for someone who hopes to represent Team USA?”

Psaki said she had not spoken to Biden about Berry, and that the president respects the flag and the anthem. Then she added, “He’d also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals. It means respecting the right of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”

About those criticizing her, Berry tweeted, “These comments really show that: 1.) People in American rally patriotism over basic morality. 2.) Even after the murder of George Floyd and so many others; the commercials, statements, and phony sentiments regarding black lives were just a hoax.”

In another tweet, Berry said, “I never said I hated this country! People try to put words in my mouth but they can’t. That’s why I speak out. I LOVE MY PEOPLE.”

Berry’s protest has been — and surely will continue — making the rounds on conservative TV, radio and other outlets. Her actions will be called un-American even though what she did is about as American as it can get and, supposedly, part of what makes our country so special.

Well, unless you don’t agree with her, it seems.

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Excerpt of the day

Then-President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally on Jan. 6 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

New York Magazine ran an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s upcoming book: “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency.” The excerpt looked at the events on Jan. 6. And even though you probably know (or could have guessed) much of what was going on behind the scenes, the excerpt still is likely to leave you jaw-dropped.

The one thing that really stands out is that Donald Trump seemed absolutely convinced he — somehow, someway — was going to hold onto the presidency.

“Almost everyone,” Wolff wrote, “who remained around the president understood that he, along with (Rudy) Giuliani, did in fact actually believe that there was yet a decent chance of upsetting the electoral count and having Trump declared the Electoral College winner or, failing that, prolonging the election and returning the fight to the disputed states. The president’s aides (and family) understood, too, that he was the only one (along with Giuliani, which only made the situation more alarming) in any professional political sphere to believe this.”

The book also gets into Trump’s reaction to seeing insurrectionists storm the Capitol. According to Wolff’s book, Trump didn’t even realize he said he was going to march to the Capitol with those at the rally. When he saw what was happening later in the day, his instinct, according to Wolff, was to say nothing because he didn’t want to imply he was responsible for any of it. Besides, Trump still didn’t think what was happening was all that bad. Aides, reminding Trump that Republicans are the “law and order” party, finally got him to send out a tweet asking for protesters to remain peaceful.

Wolff also gets into the details of what happened that night as Trump, at one point, told adviser Jason Miller, “The media thinks I’m not going to leave. Do they really think that? That’s crazy.”

Mediaite’s Aidan McLaughlin wrote about the four wildest claims in the excerpt:

  • Trump’s advisers fled, and those remaining declined to tell him that Mike Pence actually could not throw out the election.
  • Giuliani, allegedly sauced, fed delusion until the bitter end.
  • Team Trump tried to turn Parler into a post-presidency propaganda machine.
  • During the insurrection, Ivanka Trump was focused on her kids getting into a private school.

The excerpt is a fascinating read. The book is due out July 27 from publisher Henry Holt and Co.

Bolling is back

Eric Bolling used to be a host on Fox News. But he left the network in 2017 after allegations that he sent inappropriate messages to colleagues.

Now Bolling is returning to the national scene. The pro-Trump pundit is now joining the pro-Trump network, Newsmax. He will begin hosting a show in July. He will make appearances on the network in the meantime.

The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum noted, “Mr. Bolling anchored a current-affairs program for the Sinclair Broadcast Group on which he regularly interviewed Mr. Trump; it aired in dozens of markets from 2019 until earlier this year. Sinclair edited an episode of the show last year to remove some of Mr. Bolling’s statements when he questioned the utility of face masks and lockdowns in combating the coronavirus.”

Answer: The next host of Jeopardy

Dr. Sanjay Gupta (Donald Traill/Invision/AP, File)

Question: Who is Dr. Sanjay Gupta?

The shows with the CNN chief medical correspondent began airing Monday and will air through next week.

Gupta has written a piece for CNN.com: “The Secrets of a ‘Jeopardy’ Guest Host.” He called hosting the game show the “honor of a lifetime.”

Gupta wrote that when he got the call from “Jeopardy” executive Barry Nugent to guest host, “My mouth went dry and my chest tightened. The thing about calls like that is you always imagine they will come with lots of fanfare, confetti and maybe the victorious sound of trumpets marking a momentous occasion in your life. But instead, they are almost always low-key, understated affairs, nearly to the point of being unbelievable. After his simple invitation, Barry added that he thought I’d have a lot of fun. That was it — followed by a very enthusiastic and ebullient response from me.”

And that answer? “What is: yes!?”

Gupta’s piece is very detailed, extremely interesting and a must-read, especially if you’re a fan of the show.

Facebook’s win in court

A federal judge has thrown out antitrust lawsuits filed against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 states. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the FTC “failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish … that Facebook (FB) has monopoly power in the market for Personal Social Networking (PSN) Services.”

Boasberg also ruled that the case from the states should be dismissed because too much time had passed since the alleged offenses took place.

William E. Kovacich, a former chairman of the FTC, told The New York Times’ Cecilia Kang, “This really stings. This is a reminder to those who have wanted a dramatic, sweeping litigation campaign to take on Big Tech that there’s nothing easy about it, because the courts have a different view of the antitrust system.”

CNN’s Brian Fung wrote, “Boasberg’s ruling — a respite for Facebook in the midst of constant scrutiny from regulators around the globe — immediately prompted further calls for Congress to update the nation’s antitrust laws.”

Kang wrote, “The decision was a major blow to bipartisan attempts in Washington to rein in Big Tech. President Biden has installed critics of the technology giants in key regulatory roles, including Lina Khan as chair of the F.T.C., and he is expected to issue broad mandates this week for federal agencies to address corporate concentration across the economy. Ms. Khan’s first major task as chair will be to rewrite the lawsuit to address the judge’s criticisms.”

Today’s podcast

NBC News’ “Today” show is now a podcast. All four hours of the show — from the latest breaking news of the first hour to the more casual final hour with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager — are available wherever you get your podcasts. Episodes will be available daily shortly after each hour of the show.

Libby Leist, the executive who oversees “Today,” told Variety’s Brian Steinberg, “There are a lot of podcast-only audiences these days, people who are interested in audio. We are hoping to gain some new listeners in audio as well as in the news and lifestyle space. This is in addition to the big, broadcast loyalty group we know watches every morning.”

Lede of the day

Check out this opening paragraph by the Riverfront Times’ Daniel Hill:

“Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed.”

Oh, there’s plenty more where that came from. Check out Hill’s story.

Media tidbits

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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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