Exec summary: Hello from the American Museum of Natural History... "CNN Heroes" just wrapped up... Scroll down for a recap and a preview of this week's biggest media stories...
Is Trump the Person of the Year?
We all know about President Trump's affinity for TIME magazine. And we know how much he cares about titles like Person of the Year. So I'm wondering: Will he be on this year's cover? Perhaps TIME dangled the possibility to snag an end of the year interview? I don't know. But I do know this: If he IS the POY, it won't be an "honor." It would be because of the controversies and scandals and criminal investigations that have paralyzed his presidency despite strong economic numbers and other traditionally positive signs for a president.
It was different back in 2016. He was named TIME's Person of the Year shortly after surprising everyone and winning the election. That time, he said his selection was "a tremendous honor." But so much has changed in the two years since... I mean, the big story this weekend was that he's been implicated in two crimes...
Announcement on Tuesday
I know, I know, a lot of people say TIME's POY is just a marketing stunt to sell magazines. But when done right, it's a special way to mark a moment in time. The 2017 cover featured the "silence breakers" who spoke out against sexual harassment. The 2018 cover will be announced by editor Ed Felsenthal on the "Today" show Tuesday morning... "Today" is also doing a piece on the magazine's shortlist, ten contenders, on Monday morning...
"Buckle up," CNN's Manu Raju tweeted Sunday night. Trump's schedule on Monday "only has one thing listed: lunch with Pence. Nothing else at the moment..."
Both Kelly and Ayers are out
CNN's Kaitlan Collins was spot-on. She reported on Friday that chief of staff John Kelly was expected to leave in the coming days, and on Saturday Trump confirmed it when Brian Karem asked about Kelly during a South Lawn Q&A. There was immediate chatter about the VP's chief of staff Nick Ayers possibly taking over... But no, on Sunday Ayers declined the job and said he's leaving too...
A powerful lede in Monday's NYT by Maggie Haberman: "As President Trump heads into the fight of his political life, the man he had hoped would help guide him through it has now turned him down, and he finds himself in the unaccustomed position of having no obvious second option..."
BTW: Kelly has not commented on his imminent exit yet. Can't wait to hear his side of the story...
-- Reminder: Just a few months ago, Kelly said that Trump had asked him to stay on until 2020, and he'd accepted...
-- I oftentimes think about this quote from Trump's FIRST chief of staff, Reince Priebus, talking about W.H. chaos: "Take everything you've heard and multiply it by 50."
Bernstein has described the Nixon years as a "criminal presidency." So at the end of the interview, I asked him if the same term applies to President Trump. "I don't think we know completely yet," Bernstein said. But "I think it's very obvious that there has been a criminal conspiracy led by the president of the United States to obstruct justice. It's hard to see otherwise in the filings that have been made public thus far." Watch the rest here...
-- Adam Davidson writing for The New Yorker: "It is no longer journalistically sound to report on the Trump investigation as if it is a matter that may, or may not, yield damning information about the President." It has, already, yielded the info...
-- James Risenwriting for The Intercept: "What is obvious is that, despite Trump's denials, he and his campaign were involved in repeated, serious efforts to develop deep connections to Vladimir Putin's regime from the very beginning of Trump's run for the presidency."
"Stick to the facts"
On Sunday's "Reliable Sources," we talked about the challenges of covering these complex investigations. Susan Glasser advised journalists to be humble and "stick to the facts." What we already know is shocking enough -- no need to speculate. David Zurawik agreed: "Now more than ever, we have to really NOT get out in front of our skis."
I really appreciated this point Zurawik made: "Look, this is a HUGE story. There is no narrative in American life -- fiction or nonfiction -- as big as Trump v. Mueller," he said. "It's got everything in American life. A man of rectitude, who believes in the rule of law, versus a man who will say anything, who scorns law, who's taught by Roy Cohn to do everything he can to avoid the law. This is huge. Even I think some people don't realize, in our unconscious, that this is battle for our national soul. So, we do want closure."
I said that Z's remarks are an excellent answer to the question I'm often asked, "Why do you all cover Trump so much?"
David Frum added: Trump "has the potential to end organized human life on this planet in seven minutes." Through his control of the country's nuclear weapons arsenal. "So, he's a pretty big story. And if you believe this person is -- if there's evidence that this person is -- mentally unstable or a criminal, that's really newsworthy."
Sad but true?
WaPo's Robert Costa and Philip Ruckerreported over the weekend: "The White House is adopting what one official termed a 'shrugged shoulders' strategy for the Mueller findings, calculating that most GOP base voters will believe whatever the president tells them to believe..."
Deception is a form of disrespect
Trump's nonsensical tweet saying that Friday night's damning court filing "totally clears the President" is just the latest example of his deceptions.
Now, I don't know if he's lying in this particular case. He may actually believe he's been cleared, which is even more worrisome than straight-up lying. But here's what I wanted to pointed out: Trump's deceptions are, among other things, a sign of disrespect. He's talking down to his supporters, plus the rest of the country, by constantly saying stuff that's not true. Many of his allies are doing the same thing. It's a sign of disrespect. And when we in the press repeat the B.S. uncritically, we just make a bad situation worse...
Frum: Treat Trump's comments 'with tongs'
Building on my comments, Frum criticized newsrooms that send out stories and tweets with Trump's deceptions quoted as-is, without any corrections. "The president's statements are news objects, not news topics," he said. "You have to treat them the way you'd treat an allegation or a potentially defamatory statement, you have to treat them with tongs..."
"Early on, Trump-Russia obsessives were marginalized; they're prophets now"
Brian Lowry emails: Check out Virginia Heffernan's LA Times column about the growing vindication of "Trump-Russia obsessives," one-time Chicken Littles who are increasingly finding company among media outlets and personalities that were prone to dismiss or downplay them... FIRST LOOK
The Atlantic's ANGER cover
The Atlantic's next cover will come out on Monday... But here's a first look... The cover story asks "Why Are We So Angry?"
Charles Duhigg wrote what the mag calls "the untold story of how we all got so mad at one another, how dangerous our fury has become, and what we might do about it." He interviewed social scientists, political operatives, psychologists, protest organizers, and others... And says it's much deeper than Trump... "A whole host of invisible forces have been steadily transforming a useful and episodic emotion into something much darker and more persistent..."
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- James Comey speaking on stage with Nicolle Wallace at the 92Y: "All of us should use every breath we have to make sure the lies stop on January 20, 2021..." (CNN)
-- "The War on Truth Spreads" is the title of an editorial in Monday's NYT... "Democratically elected leaders borrow from the anti-press playbook of dictators and tyrants..." (NYT)
-- In this Rolling Stone story, John Podesta talks in-depth about the Pizzagate conspiracy theory "and its impact on his life for the first time..." (RS)
-- Coming up Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET: Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee...
Still no comment from The Academy or ABC...
...About the Kevin Hart controversy. Or about who's going to host the Oscars now. Hopefully sometime this week?
CBS annual meeting is on Tuesday
Shareholders and other observers will be watching to see if CBS makes any announcements about the ongoing misconduct investigation.
The company is coming up on two deadlines that involve Les Moonves. The first, this Friday, is a self-imposed deadline to decide how to disburse $20 million in grants to groups supporting equality. And the deadline to decide about whether Moonves $120 million in severance is at the end of January. But at this point, there's no way he gets paid. right?
The law firms are still interviewing accusers
The two law firms that are doing the investigation for CBS are due to deliver their report soon. But the work hasn't wrapped up yet, according to attorney Gloria Allred, who is representing four Moonves accusers. On "Reliable," Allred told me that three of the women have been interviewed by the lawyers, and the fourth is scheduled to be interviewed on Tuesday.
"I hope that this report will be made public," Allred said. She also said she hopes that the victims are compensated. One of the accusers represented by Allred, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, also joined me. She said the lawyers who interviewed her were "fair" and "asked the right questions." Here's my recap of the interview... Plus the video...
The Correspondent's deadline is Friday
Have you heard about The Correspondent yet? It's been a success in the Netherlands, and now it's trying to expand to the United States and publish in the English language all around the world. But first it wants to raise $2.5 million from members. It is like a Kickstarter for a brand new newsroom. The deadline is this Friday night... and so far the website has raised $1.8 million.
Maybe a few "Reliable Sources" viewers chipped in on Sunday! On the show, I interviewed one of the startup's founders, Rob Wijnberg. He said news coverage makes people "cynical, divided, and less informed," so he wants to "un-break the news." And he wants to create a sense of "membership." Watch the segment here... FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- Jaclyn Peiser's latest: "Since 'The Daily' became a staple of the news junkie's morning routine, the number of daily podcasts has more than tripled." She ID's eight new ones that are worth a listen... (NYT)
-- "At NPR, an army of temps puts out the news, creating a workplace full of anxiety and insecurity," Paul Farhi reports... (WaPo)
What's on the tape of Khashoggi's final moments
CNN's Nic Robertson spoke with a source who has read a translated transcript of the audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi's painful last moments. The source "said it was clear that the killing on October 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist." Khashoggi is repeatedly heard saying "I can't breathe." Read Robertson's full story here...
--> Khashoggi's former editor at the Post, Karen Attiah, tweeted, "It's been two months, but days like this bring the pain and horror back again. @JKhashoggi, you didn't deserve this."
Feds are investigating the torrent of fake comments about net neutrality rules
Donie O'Sullivan emails: Who was behind the millions of fake comments submitted to the FCC against proposed "net neutrality" changes? Now the feds are investigating to find out, BuzzFeed News reports. This is the first sign that "federal investigators are taking an interest in the case, which was already subject to an investigation previously announced by the New York attorney general's office."
--> FLASHBACK: Last year, we tracked down a man whose mother's identity was used to submit a comment against net neutrality — after she had died...
A second life for the Weekly Standard?
The Weekly Standard's future is still up in the air amid possible changes by the magazine's owner, Clarity Media Group. We may hear more later this week. Max Boot said on "Reliable" that some staffers at the publication "are relatively optimistic" that "the magazine will survive, probably under new ownership and maybe with a slightly different name."
I asked one of my sources about this. They said Clarity may not allow a sale, but there have been numerous "inquiries..." So the source expressed confidence that editor Stephen Hayes "can put together a TWS 2.0 pretty quickly (though not overnight)." No new comment from Clarity...
The president's shaky sources of info, Example #688
I'm glad Harry Enten wrote this up... We talked about it on the "Reliable" podcast the other day... About how Rasmussen is the president's favorite pollster, but also has a shaky reputation. (Rasmussen polling does not meet CNN's reporting standards.)
Trump tweeted approvingly about a Rasmussen approval poll last Wednesday. In this column, Enten points out that Rasmussen's midterm performance was sub-par. Its final poll, he explains, "was the least accurate of any of the 32 polls. They had the Republicans ahead nationally by one point. Democrats are currently winning the national House vote by 8.6 points. That's an error of nearly 10 points..." FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- PBS "NewsHour" national correspondent and substitute anchor Amna Nawaz received the American Muslim Institution's Excellence in Media Award at AMI's annual gala on Saturday night. Hasan Minhaj was also honored... (Facebook)
-- Condolences to the family of Stuart Witt, who died Thursday at the age of 84. He worked at CBS News in London for 10 years and as a talent agent at NS Bienstock for 25 years... (Legacy.com)
The CNN Hero of the Year is...
Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong, a physician from Lima, Peru. He was honored "for his efforts to provide free housing, meals and support for sick children and their families while they undergo treatment."
The Top 10 CNN Heroes finalists were featured on Sunday night's live broadcast on CNN, and Pun-Chong was selected by online voters. He received an additional $100,000, and he said on stage that he'll be able to triple his efforts thanks to the gift.
The two-hour program is always one of my favorite nights of the year. One of the other ten honorees, Ellen Stackable, said on stage, "I would like to thank CNN for showing us light in a dark time." That's what it is... Light in a dark time...
Spotted:Lauren Bush Lauren, Will Ferrell, Don Lemon, Tim Malone, Jeff Zucker, Caroline Cook, Katrina Cukaj, Paula Allegretti, Tom Doll, Annie Parisse, Allison Gollust, Michael Bass, Rick Davis, Ken Jautz, Brooke Baldwin, Erica Hill, Christine Romans, Kate Bolduan, Alisyn Camerota, John Berman, Lindsay Coppola, Richard Leibner, Carole Cooper, SE Cupp, John Goodwin, Lenny Kravitz, Ted Danson, many more...
Poynter honors Holt and Sulzberger
Lester Holt and Arthur Sulzberger Jr. were honored at the Poynter Institute's Bowtie Ball on Saturday night... It is the organization's annual fundraising gala...
"I root for the New York Times. I root for the Washington Post. I root for good journalism everyday and you guys are making us all proud," Holt said to Sulzberger.
At the end of his remarks, Holt said, "These are times with a lot of noise, we help people cut through it. And with organizations like Poynter supporting good journalism, we're going to be OK."
Blaze Media cuts ties with Gavin McInnes
Oliver Darcy emails: Blaze Media, the company formed through the merger of Glenn Beck's TheBlaze and CRTV, announced on Saturday night that it had severed its relationship with far-right host Gavin McInnes. McInnes is the founder of the fringe "Proud Boys" organization whose members have been involved in street brawls with left-wing protesters. "Blaze Media no longer has a relationship with Gavin McInnes, and per company policy, cannot comment on personnel matters," a tweet from the company said.
No further comment
More from Darcy: I reached out to several people at Blaze Media on Sunday, including Beck, to try to get some more insight into what happened. But those who responded had no idea what had transpired, and others -- like Beck -- never replied. A company spokesperson declined to comment.
It's worth noting, I did ask Blaze Media co-president Gaston Mooney about McInnes when the CRTV/Blaze merger was announced. At the time, Mooney told me, "Gavin McInnes is a comedian and provocateur and one of the many varied voices and viewpoints on Blaze Media platforms." So what changed?
Subscribers are ticked off
Darcy adds: This is the second high-profile departure for Blaze Media. Michelle Malkin announced last week that she was departing following the merger. The loss of both Malkin and McInnes in the span of a week has infuriated many subscribers, particularly those who belonged to CRTV before the merger. If you dive into BlazeTV's mentions, subscribers are saying their subscription has lost value since the merger as two high-profile hosts have departed the company...
>> This tweet from the Sleeping Giants organization hits the nail on its head: "This is the conundrum for these 'news' outlets. Dump your most outrageous, racist and xenophobic personalities to avoid Terms of Service violations or to placate advertisers and you lose the audience that you've been catering to the entire time."
De Niro returns as Mueller
"Hi Eric, don't be scared. It's just me, Robert Mueller, your dad's friend from work..."
"I'm not allowed to talk to you," Eric played by Alex Moffat said...
"People say you're the worst thing that ever happened to my dad," Eric said later.
"No Eric," Robert De Niro as Mueller said, "getting elected president was the worst thing that ever happened to your dad."
"Ralph" still #1 at the box office
This was a relatively quiet weekend at the US box office..."While it looked like it might be neck-and-neck between Disney's Ralph Breaks the Internet and Universal and Illumination's The Grinch at the top of the box office following Friday's estimates, Ralph carried the weekend as expected, though The Grinch wasn't far behind," Box Office Mojo's Brad Brevet writes...
Brian Lowry emails: These are huge numbers in China for "Aquaman," which doesn't officially open in the United States until December 21. In the shifting box-office math equation, those are the kind of international results that practically assure a sequel, regardless of how it fares here...
Another win for "Roma"
Brian Lowry emails: Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" was voted best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. (of which I'm a member), although in a bit of a surprise, the group bestowed its directing award on Debra Granik, of the indie film "Leave No Trace..."