Exec summary: The "Mediator" is back... Netflix is about to release earnings... "Venom" is still No. 1 at the box office... Plus, Judge Jeanine versus Fox's newsroom and much more...
Access is great, but...
President Trump is opening up to the press again, holding lots of Q&A's, giving lots of interviews! It's a good thing, right? Yes, in some ways, but there's a downside.
Access IS valuable. But Trump distorts the truth so often that he cheapens the interview format, the Q&A format, etc. As I said on Sunday's "Reliable Sources," I wish this weren't the case... I wish the fact-checkers could take a day off... but just look at his USA Today op-ed the other day. Or his most recent rally. The more he talks, the more misinformation he spreads.
Lemme put it another way: If Trump was more careful and made fewer mistakes, then access to him would be more valuable, because more people would trust him and his words would carry more weight.
Still, having his lies on the record is valuable, because journalists can dissect and debunk 'em. Even better: When skilled interviewers can take apart his talking points in real time. Enter Lesley Stahl...
Trump on "60"
During the broadcast, these two tweets appeared in my Twitter timeline back to back:
Laura McGann: "Lesley Stahl is on fire." Colby Hall: "Stahl is getting steam rolled."
So what'd you think of Sunday night's interview? There are a wide range of opinions out there. Here are Variety and THR's insta-reviews. Stahl said afterward, "He enjoyed the sparring. He said so. And I could tell he enjoyed it."
"Who says that?"
I appreciated Stahl's very first question in the segment, "Do you still think that climate change is a hoax?" Trump hasn't been asked about this issue enough. His answer showed just how uninformed he is.
"I think SOMETHING'S happening. Something's changing and it'll change back again. I don't think it's a hoax, I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's manmade..."
She let him go on, then said "I wish you could go to Greenland, watch these huge chunks of ice just falling into the ocean, raising the sea levels." He interjected with the we-don't-know argument again. Reminder: His own government says most of the current warming trend "is extremely likely" to be the result of human activity.
Later, he employed one of his favorite rhetorical devices, "they say:"
TRUMP: They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael." STAHL: Who says that? "They say"? TRUMP: People say. People say that in the-- STAHL: Yeah, but what about the scientists who say it's worse than ever? TRUMP: You'd have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley.
...So he think it's a scientific conspiracy?
How much interrupting is too much?
Some viewers thought Stahl didn't interject/fact-check enough. Others thought she interrupted too often. CNN's Chris Cuomo, responding to a critic of Stahl's, said she is top notch, and "to check all the dissembling you would need to interrupt POTUS constantly. And she would never get another interview. Some push back is better than none."
There was a curious amount of "baby" talk in the interview. Trump said "I'm not a baby" at two different points. He's hardly ever used that line publicly before. And he said Manhattan real estate bosses are "babies" compared to vicious DC types...
When asked by a colleague why Trump said yes to the interview now, after turning down "60 Minutes" for almost two years, Stahl said, "I think he's trying to win the midterm election for the Republicans. And I think he believes, and I KNOW his people believe, the more he's out there, publicly, the stronger the chances are for the Republicans..."
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- Next up on the TV tour: Trump will be on Trish Regan's Fox Business show on Tuesday night... Regan's promotion to the 8 p.m. hour takes effect on Monday...
-- "On Friday, NBC News reported, and tweeted, that President Donald Trump praised Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as 'incredible.' But on Sunday, NBC had to correct that tweet since, as it turns out, Trump was actually praising Union General (and future U.S. President) Ulysses S. Grant in the clip..." (Mediaite)
-- Trump called out NBC via Twitter in the morning, then thanked the network for the correction later in the day... (Twitter)
Media week ahead 📅
-- Monday: The president and the first lady will visit areas impacted by Hurricane Michael...
-- Satya Nadella, Kevin Systrom, Jony Ive, Susan Wojcicki, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, and many more will be speaking at the WIRED25 Summit... WIRED will be live-streaming it...
-- Tuesday: Netflix earnings day...
-- Thursday: CNN will hold a live town hall with Beto O'Rourke in McAllen, Texas...
-- Friday: Via Brian Lowry:"Halloween," a 40-years-later sequel with Jamie Lee Curtis that ignores all the ones in between, opens in theaters...
-- Friday: "Making a Murderer Part 2" premieres on Netflix...
"Roseanne" without Roseanne
Is there really life after "Roseanne?" "The Conners" premieres on ABC on Tuesday night... The first episode explains Roseanne Barr's absence, and reviewers were sworn to secrecy... And so far, the reviews have been mixed. Deadline's Dominic Patten says the show is "fundamentally just another multi-cam" now. But EW's Kristen Baldwin says it does "a good job replicating Roseanne without Roseanne." The bottom line from THR's Daniel Fienberg: "No Roseanne? No problem." We'll see...
New Perspectives section on CNN Business
Quick plug for the home team here: Our newly named CNN Business site is launching a new section for POV and opinion pieces, Perspectives, on Monday morning... Contributors at launch include Melinda Gates, Tina Tchen,Ian Bremmer... and Bill Carter! He has a commentary about the waning political power of shows like "SNL."
"We are now at a point," he says, "where television comedy, no matter how potent, is unlikely to pull even a few of the true believers out from the ring of wagons encircling their separate camps." Here's his full piece...
-- THE LATEST: On "60 Minutes," President Trump warned of "severe punishment" if the Saudis are found responsible for Khashoggi's death. In an apparent response, "Saudi Arabia came out swinging," CNN's story says, "threatening to retaliate and spelling out the ways in which Riyadh would punish the US if it imposed sanctions." And Saudi's allies in the region came out with statements of solidarity...
-- BUT: The Saudi Embassy in Washington offered a milder statement in a tweet on Sunday. "To help clarify recently issued Saudi statement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends its appreciation to all, including the US administration, for refraining from jumping to conclusions on the ongoing investigation," the statement said...
Did US media fall for the kingdom's PR campaign earlier this year?
If you pick up Monday's NYT, you'll notice that Jim Rutenberg's "Mediator" media column has returned. And Rutenberg is packing a punch. "There's a streak in American journalism to allow glittering narratives about budding authoritarians to obscure less appealing facts," he says, addressing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.
Rutenberg re-examines last spring's goodwill tour by MBS -- from Google to Rupert Murdoch's vineyard. Some American media outlets and bosses accepted "the story Crown Prince Mohammed was selling about himself — that here, at last, was the modern Middle Eastern leader the West had been waiting for," but there was ample reason to be skeptical then, and even more so now.
Why this story is breaking through
I brought this up on Sunday's "Reliable Sources" as well, asking if folks were fooled by Saudi's PR campaign. Cato's Emma Ashford tweeted the other day, "Most depressing part of this whole affair is that it took the death of a Western-connected journalist to make people care about Saudi atrocities in Yemen or funding of proxies in Syria."
That's "a really important point," Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution told me. The catastrophe in Yemen is "not getting as much attention as it should." But he also said he sees why the Khashoggi case "is something that people can latch on to," because it's about a single well-known person, and "the human connection matters..."
The latest from the Washington Post
"As long as there's a 1% chance he's alive, we're going to talk about him in the present tense," WaPo editorial page editor Fred Hiatt told me on Sunday's "Reliable." Someone knows the truth. Khashoggi's disappearance is "a mystery that somebody knows the answer to," Hiatt said.
Key line: "The burden of proof is on Saudi Arabia -- or should be -- and that's what President Trump should be saying. Jamal entered that consulate. He didn't come out. Where is he? You said he completed his paperwork and walked out. Fine. Let's see the paperwork. Let's see the video of him walking out."
"Enemy of the people?"
I asked Hiatt this question, knowing Trump detractors would say "duh" and Trump boosters would attack me just for asking. Do "you wonder if 'enemy of the people' rhetoric, not just from President Trump, but also then from other world leaders, has anything to do with this? Anything at all?"
Hiatt said it's important to focus on the actual crime and the actual criminal, but "I think there is a larger picture which it's ALSO fair to look at, which is that dictators around the world feel emboldened." Why? "I do think it's happening in part because the US is retreating from its traditional role as a leader in the world standing up for democratic values, including freedom of expression."
But: "I also think it's crucial to say, where is Jamal? That is a single crime. It has criminals who are responsible. And let's focus on finding them and holding them accountable..."
What will Fox do?
The latest person to withdraw from the Future Investment Initiative: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
Yashar Ali tweeted Sunday night: "As CEOs with significant business interests (JPMorgan/Uber) drop out of the FII conference... one of the lone holdouts is the Fox Business Network and Maria Bartiromo. Maria moderated a panel last year with the Crown Prince in Riyadh." Fox says the matter is "still under review..."
-- The New Yorker's Robin Wright: "As America's elite abandons a reckless Saudi prince, will Trump join them?"
Trump, Fox, and the rallies...
On Sunday's "Reliable," I spoke with Gabby Orr and David Zurawik about Fox's recent turn away from wall-to-wall rally coverage. Zurawik said he thinks Trump is now seeking "other venues to get time," pointing to the recent phoners into Fox's late night and morning shows. "I think he'll be calling in more," he said...
-- Trump has done away with daily W.H. briefings. Does it matter? Doug Heyesaid yes -- partly because future admins might cite this as precedent... Watch...
-- Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik got serious: He said POTUS is "existing in a matrix where he is nodding at his audience of supporters who believe in things that are radically untrue..."
Saturday night on Fox News, Jeanine Pirro did her usual schtick, calling Democrats "demon rats" and assailing the nation's news media. Then she added a new line: "You're all losers. Sore losers. Stupid losers, too dumb to even know that you are losing." Huh. I tweeted that I always wonder how her colleagues in the Fox newsroom feel when Pirro trashes the press like this. And I heard from some of them right away...
The views were summed up by a former Fox News producer, who wrote, "I can safely say that there are many, many journalists, straight news journalists at FNC, who find her comments abhorrent. Not just these but her entire behavior during her career at Fox. She is not a journalist, never has been. She is a former prosecutor, an attorney, who craves attention more than she craves oxygen."
So I suppose I should cut off the attention here...
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Check out Sandra Gonzalez's profile: As "A Star Is Born" shines, Lukas Nelson remains grounded... (CNN)
-- This story about Jill Soloway's plan to grow her production company includes some news: Soloway's "Transparent" will end with a musical. The two-hour movie will air on Amazon next fall... (NYT)
Gura is "Up" on MSNBC
Spotted:David Gura leaving 30 Rock on Sunday afternoon. (I was on the way to the LEGO store with Sunny! We picked out her very first LEGO blocks.)
But back to Gura: He's officially hosting the 8 to 10 a.m. weekend block on MSNBC. This weekend, the network smartly revived the name of Chris Hayes' old show in the time slot, "Up," and rechristened it as "Up with David Gura..."
Overheard at Newsgeist
This weekend was Newsgeist, a so-called "unconference" of digital leaders from around the world. CNN's S. Mitra Kalita was there, and she reports:
"The good news: We've finally moved beyond fretting over the 'fake news' label and are talking about establishing trust with audiences by showing our work, diversifying staff and holding platforms more accountable. There are a ton of efforts to find and build local-news models, namely through nonprofits and membership (aka subscriptions). The bad news: Digital used to be THE disruptor of journalism. Now we feel established and old-school and everywhere. Yet it doesn't feel like we are doing quite enough to be revolutionary and not slip into the old beats, the usual suspects and web-traffic chase. Newsgeist is held under Chatham House rules so I can't quote anyone by name or organization but here are some overheard lines...
-- 'The organizing principle of our newsrooms is still the clock.'
-- 'The same people keeping us alive (in the TV business) are killing us.'
-- 'Our funders and advertisers demand page-view reports. But we know that's not a sign of loyalty.'
-- 'Our users, our audience, our people just want to be listened to. We do a really bad job of that.'
So I'm returning to work Monday feeling more optimistic than my first Newsgeist two years ago but also like we have so much more work to do, internally and externally..."
Ariana and Pete have split...
TMZ broke this news on Sunday evening, and it checked out. A source confirmed to Chloe Melas that Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson have broken up. The engagement is off. Sandra Gonzalez has a full story here...
Weekend box office report
"Universal's 'First Man,' the director Damien Chazelle's first movie since 'La La Land,' took in a soft $16.5 million domestically during its opening weekend," the NYT reports. "Critics mostly loved this film... but the masses were less impressed."
No. 1 for the weekend: Sony's "Venom," with an "estimated weekend gross of $35.7 million, bringing its estimated domestic total to $142.8 million." No. 2: Warner's "A Star is Born."
Brian Lowry emails: Given the drama and angst caused by the Academy's aborted plan to introduce a "popular film" category, its strong second weekend increasingly makes "A Star is Born" look like the answer to a prayer -- a mass-appeal hit movie with legitimate Oscar-nomination credentials. The next question is whether voters will broaden their horizons enough to recognize something like "Black Panther," which invite a lot of younger folks who don't normally watch to tune in.
The softer-than-expected launch for "First Man," meanwhile, might speak to the lingering gap between critical buzz and box office, although I still think the movie might hold up quite well -- appealing, as it should, to an older crowd that isn't as apt to rush out for opening weekends.
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