April 8, 2021

Would you be interested in reading a book written by former Vice President Mike Pence?

Will it be a can’t-put-down bestseller or so boring that you only read it when you have trouble falling asleep?

Publisher Simon & Schuster is banking that you will be interested. The publishing house has signed Pence to a two-book deal. CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Brian Stelter and Michael Warren report the deal is worth somewhere between $3 million and $4 million.

Those numbers matter. This deal could set the market for those who were in the Trump White House. But it also comes with some issues. The CNN reporters wrote, “The concern, according to highly placed sources in publishing, is whether the writers could be counted on to tell the truth — and whether a publisher might provoke a damaging backlash in the culture of cancellation.”

Pence’s first book is tentatively scheduled to be published in 2023 and is expected to include Pence’s four years as Donald Trump’s vice president. But how much will Pence take readers behind the scenes at the White House? Revealing never-heard-before details about the inner workings of the Trump White House might be what’s needed to put Pence on the bestseller list. But if Pence were to pull punches or sugarcoat many of the things that happened during the Trump presidency, will many even care to read?

Pence has been extremely loyal to Trump, although Trump’s presidency and relationship with Pence were embroiled in controversy when Pence refused Trump’s request to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president.

Still, Pence doesn’t seem like someone who is going to dish any dirt. Throw into the mix that Pence might have future political aspirations, including a possible run for president in 2024, and that makes it likely he will keep it his book — pardon the pun — pretty conservative.

Expect others from the Trump White House to suddenly take up writing books as well. Adviser Kellyanne Conway reportedly got a huge advance for her memoir. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might draw lots of interest, too.

Now for the big question: What will happen if Trump decides to write a book? Will anyone publish it? Who would publish it and how much will he get?

CNN wrote, “A book from Trump would likely be an instant best-seller, but publishers anticipate he’ll expect an exorbitant advance and that the process of putting it together could be too difficult to make it worth the effort and money. Trump, major publishing executives say, would likely have to self-publish, especially if the smaller independent houses won’t be able to pay a large enough advance.”

Top CBS TV Stations execs are out

After being accused of abusive workplace behavior, two top CBS TV Stations executives are out: Peter Dunn, the head of CBS TV Stations, and David Friend, senior vice president of news for the Stations group. The two were put on administrative leave back in January following detailed reporting by the Los Angeles Times’ Meg James.

One James story detailed allegations of abuse and racist treatment of employees at local TV stations. For example, Dunn, the head of CBS TV stations, referred to a Black anchor in Philadelphia as “just a jive guy.” James also reported that Dunn and a senior lieutenant “cultivated a hostile work environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.”

In a statement announcing that Dunn and Friend are out, CBS said, “The external investigation into CBS Television Stations management that is being conducted by Keisha-Ann Gray at Proskauer Rose remains ongoing. We are thankful to those who have shared their experiences and knowledge with the investigators thus far. CBS is committed to a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace where all voices are heard, claims are investigated and appropriate action is taken when necessary.”

CBS announced that, on an interim basis, Byron Rubin has been named to run the Stations group while Kim Godwin will continue the overseeing of Stations’ news operations until new leadership is named.


Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The Matt Gaetz story continues to have more twists and turns as the Florida Republican congressman is being investigated for sex trafficking and prostitution, including involving a minor. The latest comes from The New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos. They report Gaetz asked the White House for a blanket pardon before Donald Trump left the White House. They wrote, “He privately asked the White House for blanket preemptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed.”

The Times reported it wasn’t clear if Gaetz or the White House knew about the inquiry into Gaetz’s actions when he asked for the pardon. The Times said Gaetz did not tell the White House he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations.

Trump put out a brief statement on Wednesday saying, “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

It’s possible Gaetz never personally asked Trump for a pardon, but instead approached Trump’s staff about it. Haberman appeared on CNN on Wednesday and said Trump’s first instinct was to defend Gaetz from these allegations. However, knowing just how serious the allegations are, advisers have so far kept Trump from publicly backing Gaetz.

In an opinion piece for CNN, Chris Cillizza wrote, “Words are one thing. Actions are another. And Gaetz’s actions — in the final days of the Trump administration — suggest a man who was worried about possible legal exposure.”

He also wrote, “Gaetz may well be exonerated by this Justice Department investigation. The DOJ isn’t commenting and our ability to see inside a federal investigation is extremely limited. So, we simply don’t know how this ends up. But what we do know is that it’s not a convincing look for a totally innocent man to seek a blanket preemptive pardon from an outgoing president — and then say he wasn’t seeking that pardon. None of that makes Gaetz guilty. But it certainly creates more questions — none of which are good for him.”

DeSantis vs. ‘60 Minutes’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

In Wednesday’s newsletter, I wrote about the story “60 Minutes” did on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and how grocery store chain Publix was the sole provider of the COVID-19 vaccine in Palm Beach County in the early stages of the vaccine rollouts. In the piece, “60 Minutes” suggested that Publix became the provider following a $100,000 donation to DeSantis’ reelection campaign. The problem was “60 Minutes” did not back up that there was a “pay-for-play” scheme with any substantial evidence.

But I did want to point you to the outstanding work of The Palm Beach Post’s Jane Musgrave, who has been all over this story. In her latest piece, Musgrave notes the “60 Minutes” story has ignited a testy back-and-forth between two Democratic Palm Beach County commissioners.

County Mayor Dave Kerner slammed the “60 Minutes” piece and defended DeSantis. But, in a series of tweets, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay pushed back, saying DeSantis misrepresented the facts in the “60 Minutes” piece. McKinlay said she was never concerned with the whole “pay-for-play” argument — which is the part of the story that “60 Minutes” seemingly bungled and that I wrote about Wednesday. McKinlay’s problem with Publix being the sole provider of the vaccine early on was the lack of Publix stores in predominantly Black cities, and the Belle Glade area, which Musgrave described as a “sprawling agricultural community, where reliable transportation is in short supply.”

McKinlay pushed back on DeSantis’ claims (and Kerner’s defense) about who was consulted and how the decision came to be that Publix would be the early sole provider of the vaccine. In addition, McKinlay claims she never knew Publix would be the only source for the vaccine with none going to county health centers.

McKinlay tweeted, “We never asked for them to be only provider! Why on Earth would I support that knowing it would hurt my district?”

Check out Musgrave’s well-detailed story for more.

Meanwhile, DeSantis continued his assault on “60 Minutes,” blasting the show and “corporate media” during a news conference on Wednesday.

My Poynter colleague Daniel Funke wrote for PolitiFact: “Unpacking the edits in ‘60 Minutes’ report on Ron DeSantis, Florida vaccines.”

In his story, Funke quotes another one of my colleagues, Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at Poynter. Tompkins said, “In the story, there was a direct line between the campaign contribution and the rewarding. And they never proved that. I think they owe it to everybody — they owe it to the governor, they owe it to Publix, they owe it to the public — to explain to us how they came to that conclusion.”

Donald Who?

One of Philip Bump’s more recent columns in The Washington Post is “The Trump media era ends not with a wow but a whisper.”

Trump still pops up here and there, mostly on conservative TV such as Fox News or Newsmax. And he still has a following that stops and watches him.

“But,” Bump writes, “it is also true that Trump’s grip on our attention has collapsed.”

Bump found that Google searches of Trump were lower than at any point since June 2015. And his appearances and mentions on cable and network news in March also have slipped back to where they were before he was president.

Bump wrote, “The former president still holds out hope that he will be a powerful force in American politics and culture moving forward. In one of the mostly ignored news releases that have come to replace his beloved tweets, Trump this week promised his supporters that ‘the best is yet to come!’ We can all hope that it is, but it seems increasingly unlikely that Trump will be at the center of events should that come to pass.”

Media tidbits

  • The second season of “Meet the Press Reports” debuts tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on streaming services NBC Now and Peacock, where viewers can watch on demand. The show airs each Thursday and is moderated by Chuck Todd. NBC says, “The season premiere dives into how populism, grievance politics and nationalism play into extremism and what law enforcement, national security experts and elected officials can do to combat domestic terrorism in the future.”
  • ABC News Live, the network’s streaming service, will present a special tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern called “Hope & Desperation: Emergency at the Border.” Anchored by John Quiñones from Dallas, the special will have an interview with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and reporting from ABC News’ Juju Chang, Cecilia Vega, Martha Raddatz, Marcus Moore, Matt Gutman and Terry Moran, who has been on this story for the past month.
  • Veteran journalist and educator Stephen Buckley — who has worked at The Washington Post, Tampa Bay Times and Poynter — will begin teaching journalism and public policy at Duke University starting in July. Buckley joins New York Times columnist Frank Bruni as the Eugene C. Patterson Professors of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Buckley, a 1989 Duke graduate, is the lead story editor for Global Press Journal, an international news organization that focuses its reporting on undercovered regions. He also is a member of Poynter’s board of trustees.
  • In an op-ed for The New York Times, software engineer Emi Nietfeld writes, “After Working at Google, I’ll Never Let Myself Love a Job Again.”

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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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