Inch by inch. A vibrant press is not curtailed all at once, not weakened with a single draconian action. When it happens, it's inch by inch.
Is that what's happening right now?
On Friday morning President Trump repeatedly attacked the "fake news media" while making comments that were demonstrably "fake." On Friday afternoon several outlets that he has called "fake," including CNN and The New York Times, were blocked from attending one of Sean Spicer's off-camera White House briefings.
As I said on CNN when the news broke, there's no reason to hyperventilate over this specific dust-up; it may be just an isolated incident. But it's troubling nevertheless -- another step down a dangerous path...
Trump says "fake news" coverage is "sad!"
Just as I was about to hit "send" on this letter, the president tweeted: "FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn't tell the truth. A great danger to our country. The failing @nytimes has become a joke. Likewise @CNN. Sad!" The key words: "A great danger to our country."
The American press is stronger than any demagogue.
On CNN's "The Lead," Jake Tapper said "this White House does not seem to respect the idea of accountability. This White House does not seem to value an independent press. There is a word for that line of thinking. The word is un-American."
Then Tapper turned to the rest of the day's news, and there was lots of it. But since this newsletter is all about media, we're staying on the media clashes. Trump's CPAC speech was all about "us versus them," including good news outlets and bad outlets. At one point he said "I am not against the media... I am only against the fake news media." It's an interesting rhetorical strategy, right? Claiming to delineate between real and "fake" news.
Trump's claim: There are "fake" newsrooms with "terrible, dishonest" journalists who make up stories.
Translation: Newsrooms that are leading the way with investigations of Trump's White House, partly through anonymous sources, are "fake."
Who was in, who was out
Was Spicer doing something similar on Friday afternoon, signaling news outlets the W.H. approves of, and those that it disapproves of? Among those excluded along with CNN and the NYT: the L.A. Times, Politico, BuzzFeed, the BBC and the Guardian.
Among those included: The W.H. press pool; CNN's four main TV rivals (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News); and several smaller conservative outlets (Breitbart News, The Washington Times and One America News Network).
When the briefing was beginning, "reporters from The Associated Press, Time magazine and USA Today decided in the moment to boycott the briefing because of how it was handled," per CNN's story. There's lots of debate in press corps circles about who did the right thing and who didn't.
>> CBS was there as part of the pool, and it quickly shared audio of the briefing with other outlets...
>> The WSJ attended the briefing, but "had we known at the time" that other big news orgs were blocked, "we would not have participated and we will not participate in such closed briefings in the future," a spokesperson said...
Quote of the day
"If they make it harder for us to do our jobs, we just need to work harder."
--John King on "AC360"
Reactions from editors
NYT editor Dean Baquet: "Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties." Politico EIC John Harris: W.H. strategy was "misguided." BuzzFeed EIC Ben Smith: "We strongly object" but "won't let these latest antics distract us." WashPost editor Marty Baron: "Appalling." He said the Trump admin is on "an undemocratic path."
"This is an unacceptable development by the Trump White House. Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don't like. We'll keep reporting regardless."
>> The White House Correspondents Association says its board will be "discussing this further with White House staff..."
>> WashPost's Aaron Blake nails it: "Don't doubt this is calculated move to provoke media. Don't doubt much of America doesn't care. It's still a big story."
>> The GOP party chairman in Virginia, John Whitbeck, tweets: "Good job Sean Spicer. Why would we let media who hate us have access to POTUS? Time to take a stand."
>> Stephen Colbert tweets: "Don't (RUSSIA) let this (RUSSIA) press (RUSSIA) issue distract you (RUSSIA) from (oh my God RUSSIA) Trump's ties to Russia. (RUSSIA!)"
>> NYT's Nick Confessore: "When your party controls every branch of the federal government, blaming the media is pretty much your only stick..."
Translating Trump, part two
Trump's claim: "I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said nine people have confirmed. There are no nine people."
Translation:This is really a hazardous thing to say, isn't it? He's casually accusing reporters of something -- making up stories -- that would be a career-ender, if it were true. But it's not. In this case, he was talking about one of the WashPost's blockbuster Michael Flynn stories. The Post's Philip Rucker responded: "The sources were real. Flynn resigned."
Trump attacks the media's sources at CPAC
Tom Kludtwith a dispatch from CPAC: Anonymous sources? Trump said "they shouldn't be allowed." Never mind that he called New York gossip scribes for years as a background source. Or that in 2012 he claimed an "extremely credible source" had told him that Barack Obama's birth certificate was bogus. Or that as recently as Friday morning, Trump's White House held what's known as a background briefing with reporters, declining to use their names to respond to a CNN report about contacts between the administration and the FBI. Or that in that very same CPAC speech, Trump cited a guy named "Jim" who says Paris is too dangerous to visit...
Caring about careless comments by POTUS
Do journalists care too much about the careless comments and full-blown misstatements that come from the president's mouth? I found myself debating this with a group of lawyers and journalists at a media law conference in Atlanta on Friday. I think part of the answer has to do with proportionality -- how prominently to feature our fact-checks. Part of it also has to do with tone. What do you think of Scott Pelley's tone in this Friday night segment? "The president's real troubles again today were not with the media, but with the facts," he said on the "CBS Evening News," running through three examples. ("Mr. Trump said Obamacare covers 'very few people.' The number is 22 million.")
I was intrigued by this error in Trump's CPAC speech: "There are lines that go back six blocks, and I tell you that because you won't read about it, okay?" You won't read about it because it's not true. The Hill's reporting, here, is clear. Did someone tell him there were long lines?
-- While seeking official Capitol Hill press credentials on Friday, Breitbart apparently revealed its owners: CEO Larry Solov, the Mercer family and Andrew Breitbart's widow Susie Breitbart... (Politico)
-- The AP "filed a lawsuit against LifeZette, the Laura Ingraham-helmed website, seeking more than $49,000 in allegedly unpaid licensing fees, penalties, and interest..." (BuzzFeed)
"I know Trump says 'the failing New York Times,' but they're credible," said Cody Leach, a student at the University of Alabama who sported the ubiquitous Make America Great Again cap and a tie that was autographed by Sean Hannity.
The paper, of course, has been highly critical of POTUS via its front pages...
Tune in alert
Sunday on "Reliable Sources"
Dean Baquet... Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor Kevin Riley... the WSJ's Bret Stephens... Politico's Tara Palmeri... Philly Daily News columnist Will Bunch... Tea Party activist Amy Kremer... and world-renowned linguist George Lakoff... I'll be anchoring live from Atlanta, 11am ET, CNN...
Jon Stewart to return to "Late Show" Monday
Frank Pallotta with a little Friday evening scoop: Jon Stewart will return to "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on Monday night. This will be the second time the former host of "The Daily Show" has appeared on Colbert's CBS broadcast since President Trump took office...
Now -- from Trump v. the media to "La La Land" v. "Moonlight!" Frank Pallotta takes over from here...
Your 89th Annual Academy Awards Viewing Guide
To make sure you don't miss any of the glitz & glamour on Sunday night, here's a quick viewers guide to Hollywood's biggest night
1:30 p.m. ET- "Countdown to the Red Carpet" on E! 5:30 p.m. ET - Ryan Seacrest, Giuliana Rancic host "Live From the Red Carpet" on E! All evening - CNN Entertainment will have live coverage on CNN.com 7:00 p.m. ET - ABC's red carpet show kicks off 8:30 p.m. ET - The big show begins on ABC
Oscars for Dummies
CNN's Brandon Griggs reports: So you've been invited to watch the 89th Annual Academy Awards with friends and you don't know "Moonlight" from "Spotlight." Well, here's a guide -- sort of an Oscars for Dummies -- that answers even your dumbest questions, like... Who's hosting? Jimmy Kimmel. What are the big Oscar movies this year? "La La Land," "Moonlight," "Manchester by the Sea," etc. Is "Hidden Fences" a movie? No. Read more!
Meryl Streep will be a presenter
THR: "Meryl Streep will have another opportunity to confront president Donald Trump..."
This weekend's *other* awards show: The Razzies
CNN's AJ Willingham and Madeline Holcombereport: Not all movies are good! In fact, a lot of them are really bad. Like, award-worthy bad. That's the point of the yearly Razzie Awards, which recognize the best of the worst.
Films like "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," "Gods of Egypt," and "Dirty Grandpa" are all nominated at the "awards show" that will take place on Saturday. So before you bask in the cultural significance and artfulness of the Academy Awards, remember these awful movies!
The women behind "La La Land" sound could make history
CNN's Lionel Lim reports: "La La Land" could set a winning record at Sunday's Oscars. One of the film's sound supervisors is hoping to make a little history of her own. Ai-Ling Lee is the first Asian woman to receive an Oscar nomination for sound production. Together with her fellow sound editing supervisor Mildred Iatrou Morgan, she is also part of the first female sound editing duo to be nominated.
"I wasn't really aware of it until the nominations were out and some news outlets mentioned that little trivia. I'm surprised, but honored to be (the first Asian woman)," Lee told CNN...
"Get Out" may bring in big crowds this weekend
Next week kicks off a big March at the box office with 20th Century Fox's gritty Wolverine film, "Logan" hitting theaters, but don't count out what I think may be a surprising box office hit this weekend with Universal's "Get Out."
The horror film brought in $1.8 million on Thursday night which is a good start seeing the film was made for just $4.5 million. Yet, the story here is how much buzz and acclaim the film has right now.
Critics are in absolute love with the film so much so that it currently holds a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes -- a rare feat. It's also projected to bring in roughly $20 million this weekend, which would be about five times its budget.
Jordan Peele wants you to "Get Out"
Lisa Francereports: Jordan Peele, the actor known for his work as part of the comedic duo Key & Peele has channeled his love of horror films into his writing/directorial debut, "Get Out."
"I came up with this idea during the Obama administration, when we were living in this era of the post-racial lie," Peele told me. "Racism is real and it's not really represented in the horror genre, which is a genre that traditionally takes on social horrors and human demons."
Here comes TV's midseason
Brian Lowry emails: While attention is understandably focused on the Oscars, the awards again represent a starter's pistol for a flurry of new midseason network programs. ABC, in particular, is hoping the awards will be a platform for new shows, with the four-part miniseries 'When We Rise" scheduled to kick off Monday, and the new drama "Time After Time" (partly based on the 1979 movie) premiering March 5.
NBC, meanwhile, brings back "The Voice" on Monday as a lead-in for its own movie adaptation, "Taken." The network also got off to a rather tepid start with its spin-off "The Blacklist: Redemption," which premiered Thursday.
HBO is "tickeled" over new documentary
Lowry also points out: "Tickled," a strange documentary about "competitive endurance tickling" that took an unexpected turn, became a hit on the festival circuit. It premieres Monday on HBO, along with a new 20-minute short updating what happened after the film made its debut.
"It Is Happening Again" on "Twin Peaks"
Showtime's limited event series revival of "Twin Peaks" unveiled new posters today ("Twin Peaks" day) and hoo boy they're creepy.
-- Beyonce canceled her Coachella performance yesterday. Today the ticket prices dropped 12 percent... (Billboard)
-- Via Lisa France: One of Hollywood's most famous Bachelors, John Mayer, is a fan of "The Bachelor..." (CNN)
-- Speaking of "The Bachelor," Elijah Wood is friends with The Bachelor himself, Nick Viall... (Vulture)
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