August 7, 2020

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“Almost immune.”

Those were the words of President Donald Trump when talking about kids and the coronavirus during an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday. The claim seemed outrageous almost as soon as he said it.

Which is why it wasn’t surprising that both Twitter and Facebook cracked down on Trump’s unproven claims. Twitter temporarily restricted the Trump campaign from tweeting after it shared a video of the interview. In addition, Facebook removed that video from Trump’s main Facebook page.

They cracked down because what Trump said simply is not true.

But, Trump alleges there’s another reason why they censor him: They don’t like his politics.

During an interview on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show on WTAM in Cleveland on Thursday, Trump said, “They’re doing anybody, on the right, anybody, any Republican, any conservative Republican is censored and look at the horrible things they say on the left.”

It seems like a ridiculous claim, seeing as how Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been highly criticized for his hesitancy to get involved in anything, right or wrong, said by politicians.

However, Facebook has been more aggressive about claims made involving COVID-19. As Bloomberg’s Mario Parker and Josh Wingrove wrote, Zuckerberg “has said that fighting misinformation on Covid-19 is easier than on other topics because the company has reliable sources to help determine what is true, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Trump’s comments on children and Covid contradicted what officials at those organizations say about the virus.”

Trump addressed more than Facebook and Twitter during his 40-minute interview with Rivera. He said he is doing a “fantastic job” when it comes to the coronavirus and things will get back to normal quickly if he’s reelected.

Trump again blamed the virus on China, which led to Rivera asking Trump about Trump’s constant use of the phrase “China virus.”

Rivera said, “I have some Asian friends who say, you know, that it’s not very polite, that they worry that it has a racial overtone.”

Trump said, “I do, too. We have great Asian support, and they understand exactly what it is that we’re doing and saying, and they understand how China’s hurt our country.”

Good for Rivera for asking the question, but it’s disappointing that Trump keeps repeating the phrase and is generally not called out on it anymore — especially from conservative media.

Trump and many of his supporters will act innocent and say, “What? That’s where the virus came from.” But Trump’s insistence on continually calling it the “China virus” even after he has been made aware that it is offensive shows a purposeful motive that is not only disrespectful, but potentially dangerous.

Fox News’ Sandra Smith rises to the occasion

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway speaks to reporters outside the White House on Thursday. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Props to Fox News’ Sandra Smith for her take-no-spin interview Thursday with Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway. Smith kept hammering away at Trump’s claim on Wednesday’s “Fox & Friends” that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus. And Smith and her crew came prepared, putting up CDC statistics that showed cases involving children under 18. The latest numbers show they make up about 7.4% of confirmed cases, and that’s a nearly 7% increase from two weeks ago.

“So,” Smith said, “kids are getting this disease, Kellyanne.”

Conway did admit kids do get COVID-19, but when she tried to pivot away from kids, Smith kept bringing it back to Trump’s statement.

It was good work by Smith, and the type of pushback that is absolutely required when politicians carelessly throw out misinformation. You can watch the interview here.

“Don’t mess with my family”

Mercedes Schlapp, a Trump campaign senior adviser for strategic communications, is having a rough week. Not only did she get bumped around by Fox News’ Sandra Smith in an interview about unsubstantiated claims of mail-in voter fraud, she also butted heads with CNN’s Brianna Keilar and it has quickly turned into a nasty back-and-forth. At one point in the CNN interview, Keilar told Schlapp, “This is pointless. … You’re saying a bunch of crap.”

Schlapp then responded with a commentary piece for RealClearPolitics. In the piece, she ripped into CNN and then wrote, “I was further disturbed to learn that Brianna Keilar’s husband is a ferocious opponent of the president, a former director of the National Security Council under President Obama, and a man who tweets, among other things, that Donald Trump makes him ‘throw up.’”

Keilar fired back on Twitter, defending her husband — a Green Beret who has served seven combat deployments. “You state that he tweeted something disparaging about the president. No, he didn’t. I don’t know what tweet you’re talking about, but it is not my husband’s.”

Keilar also pointed out that her husband also served as director of the National Security Council under President Trump.

Keilar concluded her lengthy Twitter response with “Get your facts straight. And don’t mess with my family.”

Teaching a lesson

Jill Biden, being interviewed by “CBS Sunday Morning.” (Courtesy: CBS News.)

Jill Biden will be featured on this week’s “CBS Sunday Morning” (9 a.m. Eastern). And, she tells Rita Braver, she intends to keep her job as a professor in the English department at Northern Virginia Community College even if her husband, Joe, is elected president.

“I would love to,” Dr. Biden said. “If we get to the White House, I’m going to continue to teach. And I want people to value teachers and know their contributions and to lift up the profession.”

Braver asked, “So you’re really planning to do it as first lady?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Biden said.

The interview also will include Biden’s thoughts about her husband, the presidential campaign and Donald Trump.

Stay at home

The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr was the first to report that Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch told staffers in a memo that non-production employees who are working remotely “will continue doing so for the remainder of the calendar year.”

In addition, Murdoch’s memo said that for those working in the office, the company “will soon be introducing additional screenings and processes designed to keep you protected.”

So, clearly Fox Corp’s leadership is trying to be responsible and safe. Now let’s see if Fox News’ primetime personalities have the same message for their audiences.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier reported that Facebook has told employees they can continue working from home at least until July 2021. In addition, Facebook is giving employees $1,000 for home office needs.

Wild card

Former sports talk show host Craig Carton. (Courtesy: HBO)

Craig Carton used to be a very big deal in New York sports talk radio. The morning show he co-hosted with former football star Boomer Esiason on the powerhouse WFAN (and syndicated nationally on cable TV) made him a star in New York media circles. His wisecracking, brash, loudmouth style made him perfect for sports talk radio — especially in the Big Apple.

And then it all came crashing down because of a gambling addiction and ticket-scalping scandal that resulted in Carton being convicted and sentenced to 42 months in federal prison for fraud. (He was released after a little more than a year to serve out the rest of his sentence in a halfway house or at home.)

Now Carton’s story has turned into an HBO documentary. “Wild Card: The Downfall of a Radio Loudmouth” is scheduled to debut on Oct. 7. It includes extensive conversations with Carton, Esiason, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Carton’s former WFAN co-workers and journalists who covered this story. It’s directed and produced by Martin Dunn and Marie McGovern.

In a statement, McGovern said, “We see Craig in real-time as he weathers public scrutiny and endures private pain. The emotion is real and raw.”

Media tidbits

  • Here’s some surprising and good news. Gannett CEO Mike Reed told Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds that staff increases are coming at USA Today and Gannett’s network of 260 regional dailies. Gannett has about 5,000 journalists. Reed did not reveal to Edmonds exactly how many journalists could be added. That is still being planned.
  • Great point made by former NBA star Kendrick Perkins on ESPN’s “First Take” on Thursday following President Trump’s criticism and refusal to watch the NBA because some players are kneeling to protest racism. Perkins suggested that instead of criticizing the NBA, perhaps the president should compliment it for proving, at least so far, that with the proper precautions and procedure, it is possible to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
  • NBC News and Noticias Telemundo are combining resources to expand coverage of the Latino community that will be presented in both Spanish and English, according to The Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Battaglio. The stories — which fall under the title of “NBC News x Telemundo Report” — will air on the streaming channel NBC News Now, as well as occasionally on “Today,” “NBC Nightly News” and other MSNBC programs. The Spanish-language versions will air on Telemundo’s newscasts.
  • Business Insider’s Rachel Premack with “3 of Bon Appetit’s Test Kitchen Stars of Color Are Departing The Video Channel After Failed Contract Negotiations.” One of those stars, Priya Krishna, detailed her explanation in this Twitter statement. Variety’s Todd Spangler also wrote about it.

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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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