I think we're going to remember this day -- the day Steve Bannon was named chief strategist and senior counselor to Donald Trump. Reince Priebus, the insider, was named chief of staff, but it's Bannon, the outsider, that should be the big story. Team Trump says the two men will be "equal partners..."
Trump's "big, first fight"
Bannon's web site,Breitbart, has been "the platform for the alt right." (Those are his words.) The "alt right" movement is many things. It rejects both progressive and mainstream conservative thought; it opposes "political correctness," and it promotes skepticism and outright hostility toward immigration and multiculturalism. Some "alt right" adherents are openly racist and sexist. Some others are merely trolls. The phrase that keeps coming up again and again in news coverage is "white nationalism."
Ana Navarro tweeted: "A white supremacist Neanderthal in WH w/President's ear is DISGUSTING & TERRIFYING!" Kasich strategist John Weaver: "The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America."
Bannon's ex-wife swore in a 2007 court proceeding that "he said that he doesn't like Jews and that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids..." Bannon denied this, and his friends dismiss it. Fox contributor Jonathan Morris says he's "never heard or seen a racist word or action from him."
Breitbart is an example of "anti-media." What do I mean? I mean it's a form of media that is defined by its opposition to traditional media. Much of Fox News is also "anti-media," which is why Fox sometimes feels like one long screed against "media bias." These outlets provide a different audience with a different set of facts about the world -- though too often it's just opinion and conspiracy theory masquerading as fact. Competing left- and right-wing news sources? We're so far past that. Those days seem quaint now. Here's my essay about "anti-media" from Sunday's show.
The main point I tried to make: A lot of the arguments we're having as a country are a result of this "media" versus "anti-media" clash. Are the incidents of post-election hate and harassment across the country real and disturbing (the media says yes) or fake attempts to smear Trump supporters? Breitbart is telling its readers that it's "fake." BTW, claiming these incidents are "hoaxes" is a whole lot easier and cheaper to do than actually verifying them...
Scroll down for more on Bannon...
Laura Ingraham, press secretary?
That's according to The Hill's Jonathan Swan, who reports that radio host Laura Ingraham "is under serious consideration" to become press secretary. More: "Trump appreciated Ingraham's loyalty through the campaign... Ingraham helped Trump with debate preparation. She also campaigned on his behalf and offered occasional strategic advice." Ingraham did not respond to my requests for comment on Sunday...
-- Precedent? Tony Snow -- who served in the role during Bush 43's administration -- is the most recent conservative talk radio host to stand behind the podium. But Ingraham is different -- she has said some outrageous things about the alleged "Hillary media" over the years...
Alex Jones claims...
Infowars host Alex Jones claims in this new YouTube video that Trump called him to say thanks: "I told him, 'Mr. President elect, you're too busy, we don't need to talk.' We still spent over five minutes. He said 'Listen, Alex, I just talked to the kings and queens of the world, world leaders, you name it;' he said, 'It doesn't matter, I wanted to talk to you to thank your audience and I'll be on in the next few weeks to thank them.'" Jones traffics in fictions and conspiracy theories; is he telling the truth about this phone call?
Journalism in the Age of Trump
Dylan Byers emails: Forget about White House pool reports for a moment. Forget about press briefings and travel schedules and access to his comings-and-goings. The fears of political journalists run much deeper. There is a legitimate concern that a Trump administration will work to intentionally deceive the media, blacklist reporters it doesn't like and incite violence against them by calling them out in public.
Why do reporters have those fears? Because that is exactly what Trump did during the campaign. There is no reason to believe that will change. Remember what happened in May, after a particularly nasty round of name-calling and stonewalling by Trump? One reporter asked: "Is this what it's going to be like covering you if you're president?"
"Yeah, it is," Trump said. "I'm going to continue to attack the press."
Special edition of "Reliable Sources"
A few highlights from Sunday's show:
-- MZ Hemingway: The media "gambled everything -- including their credibility -- on defeating Trump and electing Hillary Clinton, and they lost. And now where does that leave everybody?" -- Jeff Greenfield: "For people beyond our world, the distrust in the media was so high that even when Trump's liabilities were accurately reported, people who wanted Trump for all kinds of reasons said, 'No, you're part of the problem. You're part of the system we want Donald Trump to upend.'"
-- John Avlon: "We need to hope for the best but we need to prepare for the worst. And the job of journalists is more important than ever before right now." -- Liz Plank: "Our job is to scrutinize, never normalize. Donald Trump is not our assignment editor."
-- Related: From THR's Eriq Gardner: Abrams recently said that media lawyers need to think creatively "and even contemplate bringing libel cases on the plaintiff's side to bolster the First Amendment..."
Dan Rather's message: "Don't be intimidated"
From the "A block" of Sunday's show: "Our job now is to stand up, look him in the eye, ask the tough questions, don't be intimidated. Trump prides himself on being an intimidator." He said the owners of big media companies also need to "have some spine." Watch...
Keep this stat in mind
...This finding from Pew last month: Compared with Clinton voters, Trump voter are "far less likely to say that the freedom of the press to criticize political leaders is essential to maintaining a strong democracy. Only about half of Trump supporters (49%) view this as very important, compared with 72% of Clinton supporters..."
BTW-- What's next for Billy Bush?
Page Six has a source saying that Breitbart News "is interested in luring Bush for its coverage of Hollywood." But a "media insider" is quoted in the item saying "Billy's ego is big. He likes to be a TV star, and would want to go to a rival like ABC or CBS..."
Part of my message on Sunday's show:"It is not elitist to value the truth. The truth is not in a bubble. It is not elitist to reject conspiracy theories or fact check obvious falsehoods. It should be done equally -- but truth is the word we can keep coming back to. Don't cower before the truth. Don't tell half-truths. Don't shade the truth. Don't fear the truth. And then we can focus on the other T word -- trust. Winning back peoples' trust." Watch the rest here...
Winning back trust
First, we have to recognize the reasons why we're distrusted. Pardon me from quoting myself again, from the intro to Sunday's show: "I know that some of you watching right now are having a very hard time trusting this channel and every other news source. So we, on the other side of the screen, have to reckon with that -- not just for a week or two but for the long term. I have heard from thousands of you this week on Facebook, on Twitter, on e-mail, all over the place, and some of you feel like the media paved the way for a madman to become president. Others of you feel like journalism is completely irrelevant now. Still, others of you feel like the media bias tilted the race in one direction or the other. Many of you are wondering who and what you can trust. So, the bottom line is, there are lessons to be learned -- if we are willing to learn them."
On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted: "Wow, the @nytimes is losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the 'Trump phenomena.'" Trump did not cite any evidence to back up his claim. And the Times flatly says it is not true. The newspaper crunched the numbers on Sunday morning and found that it has gained a lot more subscribers than it has lost since Election Day. Then it responded to Trump, naturally, on Twitter. "Fact: surge in new subscriptions, print & digital, with trends, stops & starts, 4 X better than normal," the Times said. Here's my full story...
"As we close one of the most momentous weeks in our nation's recent history, let's pause for a moment on those famous instructions that Adolph S. Ochs left for us: to cover the news without fear or favor. As Donald Trump begins preparing for his new administration, those words have rarely felt more important. The Times is certainly not afraid -- our investigative report has demonstrated our courage many times over. That fearless, hard-fought journalism will always stand as the backbone of The Times, no matter the President. But we also approach the incoming Trump administration without bias. We will cover his policies and his agenda fairly..."
Now ask yourself: Is that an "apology" to readers? Trump says it is... I don't think so... But Trump's Sunday morning claim came one hour after Fox claimed the NYT apologized for its Trump coverage... Maybe that's where Trump got the idea?
"A category five hurricane"
Dylan Byers flagged this piece by The New Republic's Brian Beutler: "In addition to the banal chaos that the Trump administration is likely to unleash, we're facing a moment that threatens equal protection, due process, free expression, democracy—not just press freedom. It's not a drill. The media undersold the threat to many freedoms before election night, and it would be self-dealing, and a disservice, if the only liberty under attack we rose to defend was one that undergirds our industry."
For the record
-- Trump true believer Bill Mitchell, the butt of so many jokes before Election Day, is now looking to become a professional pundit... a "Sean Hannity-type..." BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzelwrote this profile of Mitchell... (BuzzFeed)
-- Dan Gillmor: "Journalists have to recognize that on some issues, they have to become activists. There is no alternative..." (Gillmor's blog)
-- Brian Fung on why Trump's administration may not block the AT&T-Time Warner deal, after all... (WashPost)
Corey Lewandowski:Out at CNN...
In at Trump White House?
ICYMI on Friday: Corey Lewandowski resigned from CNN, effective immediately... Lewandowski stayed in close touch with Trump and some top Trump aides since being fired from the campaign in June. It's unclear what his role in the Trump White House will be...
CNN adds Salena Zito
After Trump's election, CNN signed reporter Salena Zito as a contributor. Zito, a writer based in Pittsburgh, understood the Trump phenomenon early on... On "The Lead" on Thursday, Jake Tapper urged his viewers to Google her name to read her work about Trump voters... Here's the segment...
Steve Bannon, Trump Whisperer
Important context from Friday: Dylan Byers emails: Despite his scorched-earth approach to politics, Bannon is also tactical, and often acts as a check on Trump's more erratic tendencies: "Bannon really can take Trump's phone away from him," CNN's Dana Bash tells us. "While he certainly at times feeds into Trumps worst instincts, Bannon can also successfully convince Trump not to do things that would hurt him -- because Bannon has credibility."
"There were several occasions during the end of the campaign when Trump wanted to go after people who criticized him and Bannon said don't do it," Bash says. "Trump's response was, 'Well if you're saying that – okay.'"
Reactions to the Bannon news
-- Jonathan Alter: "Bannon's bigotry must be front and center in all coverage of him for as long as he has power..." -- MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin: Let's not sugarcoat: An extremist publisher will now inform most powerful man alive daily. Politics and news must deal with that reality..." -- Kurt Bardellato the NYT: "It will be as close as we are ever going to have — hopefully — to a state-run media enterprise..." -- Former DOJ spox Matthew Miller: "Think of what Breitbart can do to anyone who opposes Trump once Bannon has access to the full resources & information of the federal govt..."
Hate and harassment...
Staffers from the NYT, CNN, HuffPost, and a number of other news organizations have been "doxxed" by pro-Trump trolls. Some reporters have received anti-Semitic literature at home.
Other reporters are also noticing harassment and bullying. Fernanda Santos, the NYT's Phoenix bureau chief, writes that she was speaking Spanish on a phone call when a man started glaring at her. When she hung up, he shouted: "Speak English!" "I told him — in English — that I speak four languages," Santos writes. "He told me to f--- off, got up and walked away." She said she has never experienced anything like that in Phoenix before...
Was MSNBC's pivot from liberal POV to hard news poorly timed? Brian Lowry considers the channel's future:
The network appeared to benefit as a voice for the party out of power during the Obama years... It has now tacked a bit to the center with a straight news approach in daytime, while continuing to showcase liberal commentators in primetime. But is there an enhanced opportunity for the channel to improve its competitive standing under a Trump administration? And would it gain from in essence strengthening its hand as a voice for the disenfranchised, a profile that defined the network during Keith Olbermann's stint there?
One curb on any headlong rush in that direction: MSNBC is part of Comcast, a huge company with no small number of regulatory issues that impact its bottom line. Might that mean that making the network a more strident anti-Trump/Republican voice would be balanced against concerns those might come at a larger cost? If NBC brass haven't already had some version of these conversations, I suspect they will....
Quote of the day
"In the end, Trump's most satisfying victory might be his humiliation of a media establishment that thoroughly underestimated him at every turn."
Mark Zuckerberg continues to say that "fake news" on Facebook did not play a role in the election outcome. While he says he doesn't want ANY hoaxes on the site, "of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic," he wrote in a Saturday night post.
He's right that Facebook has to "proceed very carefully" and that "identifying the 'truth' is complicated." But his comments about "fake news" are coming across as dismissive and overly optimistic. Mike Isaac's NYT story indicates that some key people inside FB are quite concerned about the company's impact...
-- Karen K. Hotweets: "FB + Twitter cannot take credit for changing the world during events like the Egyptian Uprising, then downplay their influence on elections..."
Maybe Facebook should buy Snopes
Kaveh Waddell of The Atlantic writes: "A lot of what's on Facebook isn't true... Perhaps the algorithms that currently find disputed posts could flag them for human review by a Snopes-like fact-checking team—heck, it could even buy Snopes..."
Kate McKinnon's "Hallelujah"
"I'm not giving up and neither should you." That's how Kate McKinnon began this week's "SNL" -- in what was one of the more somber and emotional openings in the history of the longtime NBC variety show, Frank Pallotta reports. Read/watch here...
The history of the N-word on TV
"SNL" host Dave Chappelle performed a searing opening monologue about Trump's victory and the current climate of the country, saying that "I'm wishing Donald Trump luck and I'm going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he gives us one too."