Trump and racism; WSJ's scoop; the Fox effect; Oprah on TV this weekend; Viacom and CBS merger buzz; Facebook's change; Lowry's reviews

By Brian Stelter and the CNN Media team -- view this email in your browser!
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Scroll down for Oliver Darcy's reporting about James O'Keefe's book... Julia Waldow's recap of our latest podcast... and Brian Lowry's reviews of three new shows... But first...

Enjoying 2018?

The "nuclear button" tweet was just ten days ago. "Fire and Fury" went on sale seven days ago. Steve Bannon was ousted from Breitbart three days ago. Are you enjoying 2018 yet? 😉

The book is still No. 1 on Amazon. Bannon is testifying on the Hill next week. But the news cycle has moved on to "shithole countries" and Stormy Daniels...

Friday's surprise

"Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star's Silence." That was the headline from the WSJ. Let's put the facts in order:

 -- In the fall of 2016, porn star Stephanie Clifford (stage name Stormy Daniels) was in touch with producers at ABC's "Good Morning America" about a potential interview. Two ABC sources confirmed to me that she was prepared to talk about Trump...

 -- So what happened? The WSJ says Trump lawyer Michael Cohen "arranged a $130,000 payment" to Clifford "a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump..."

 -- After the WSJ story hit, The Daily Beast reported that Daniels also had a tentative interview set up with them, but she backed out just days before the election...

 -- From our CNN.com story: Cohen "said the President 'vehemently denies' the encounter, but did not address the alleged payment..."

Alternative history...

What if Clifford had appeared on "GMA" and alleged that she and Trump had an affair? Would the final weeks of the campaign have changed at all?

The Murdoch angle

When Corey Lewandowski cast doubt on the WSJ story on "Cuomo Prime Time," Chris Cuomo pointed out the corporate connection to Trump's friend Rupert Murdoch: "The WSJ. The NY Post. Even Fox News had it on the web site, one of its blog sites. Murdoch-owned periodicals, media properties. Why would Murdoch-owned properties go out of their way to do a false story about POTUS?" Mediaite's Aidan McLaughlin has more...

Navarro's take

On Twitter, Ana Navarro said a friend asked her, "Why aren't you talking about Trump paying hush-money to that Stormy, porn-star lady?" Navarro answered: "Sounded consensual. I care very little that he was a horny real estate guy. I care a lot that he's a racist President of the United States."

"Is Trump a racist?"

Two CNN banners that summed up Friday: "Trump denies 'shithole countries' slur, senator confirms he said it" and "Is President Trump a racist?"

Trump's "shithole" remark "replaced a national conversation about whether or not the president is mentally stable with a conversation about whether or not he is racist," Politico's Annie Karni and Ben White wrote.

 --> Richard Prince's headline captured it really well: "The Day It Became Easier to Say He's Racist."

Journos shouted these Q's:

After Trump signed an MLK, Jr. proclamation, reporters in the room shouted, "Mr. President, did you use the word 'shithole' to refer to African nations?" "Are you a racist?" "Mr. President, will you respond to these serious questions about this statement, sir?" He did not respond...

 --> On "CNN Tonight," Don Lemon pointed out that "the president has NOT apologized..."

Don't "sugarcoat the racist sentiment"

As I wrote in this column for CNNMoney, the revelation about the word "shithole" got newsrooms talking about another word: "racism." Some newscasts couched the word by attributing it to "critics" of the president. Other shows and stories just outright said: The president's remark was racist.

Here's my story about how the anti-immigrant comment was covered. The main takeaway: CNN shows freely repeated the other word, while other channels were much more conservative. This was a telling moment: On Friday's "GMA," George Stephanopoulos said "ABC News policy is not to repeat the profanity," but then expressed his own personal disagreement with the policy. "I think that's probably a mistake," he said, "because I don't think it's right to censor the president or to sugarcoat the racist sentiment revealed by how he used that word in the meeting."

The counterarguments: Kids and FCC regulators might be watching...

Listeners need "the full context"

I appreciated how NPR, the AP, and some other outlets publicly explained their decision-making. The AP said it decided to repeat the word "shithole" because Trump's "utterance could affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and help shape future immigration policy" and because "the use of the term raised questions as to whether he is being discriminatory." More...

It's not really about the vulgarity

My wife flagged her NY1 colleague Pat Kiernan's decision... He said he wouldn't repeat the word because "the people of Africa and Haiti and anywhere else Donald Trump may have been thinking about deserve respect..."

And then Kiernan brought up the bigger point -- the point that was lost in a lot of the debates on Friday -- it's not really about the vulgarity. "If this is the president's lens on the world, then that's the lens on every decision being made at the White House," he said. "Not just immigration decisions. This can lead to a racist decision on health care, a racist decision on education, a racist decision on voting rights, a racist decision on housing policy..."

 --> Related: Adam Serwer's latest: "Trump Puts the Purpose of His Presidency Into Words"

Trump is inspiring illustrators

If you haven't seen it yet, here is next week's hole-themed cover of The New Yorker...
THE "FOX & FRIENDS" EFFECT

Did Fox trigger Trump's half-hearted denial tweet?

From Friday morning's show: "The president made a mistake making those comments," Brian Kilmeade said. Kilmeade added: "I think he should walk it back at some point."

 --> Mediaite's Joe DePaolo noted: "Kilmeade's remarks aired at 7:06 a.m. ET. At 7:28, Trump tweeted what appears to be a denial of the 'shithole' comment..."
 --> Context: Trump's live-tweeting of Fox has been in the news all week long. The anti-Fox group Media Matters has been getting lots of attention for documenting the links between Fox segments and Trump tweets...

 --> James Clapper on Thursday's "AC360:" "I just hope that nobody on Fox & Friends tells him to go bomb North Korea..."

 --> I missed this on Thursday: VF's Gabriel Sherman has a new piece about the Trump-Fox feedback loop...

Dean Baquet's frank talk about "Fox & Friends"

Dean Baquet in an interview with Christiane Amanpour: "I will be frank: anybody who watches Fox and Friends is not getting an honorable news report. I mean it. I will just say it. I think it's sycophantic. I think it's not objective, thoughtful coverage."

 --> Amanpour's Twitter feed has lots of other clips from the interview...

Sunday on "Reliable Sources"

I'll be joined by Van Jones, Lynn Sweet, Norman Pearlstine, David Zurawik, Joan Walsh, Steve Brill, and Reuters EIC Stephen Adler... Join us at 11am ET on CNN!
For the record, part one
 -- Vox's Andrew Golis ‏has an idea: "A news website that only publishes old Trump scandals we've all forgotten as if they were new would easily build a huge audience..."

-- Just how much $$ will Michael Wolff make from his book? Gerry Smith crunched the #'s and says $7.4 million... (Bloomberg)

-- WSJ's Ben Fritz tweeted: "Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey not standing for re-election to Disney's board in March because of increasing conflicts as Disney moves into digital media and they move into content..."

 -- Friday's most controversial column: Andrew Sullivan says "It's Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo" (NYMag)

-- David Folkenflik tweeted: "Crown Publishing says it will not go forward with plans to publish James Rosen's book-in-progress on the late Justice Scalia in light of recent revelations about his departure from Fox News..."

Chris Matthews in more hot water

CNN's Tom Kludt and Dan Merica report: "MSNBC host Chris Matthews apologized Friday after video footage surfaced showing him making a racy joke prior to an interview with Hillary Clinton. In the video, which was obtained and first reported by The Cut, Matthews is seen interacting with various individuals on a makeshift set in an Iowa fire station. 'Can I have some of the queen's waters? Precious waters?' Matthews asked. 'Where's that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?'"

 --> Matthews' statement: "This was a terrible comment I made in poor taste during the height of the Bill Cosby headlines. I realize that's no excuse. I deeply regret it and I'm sorry..."

 --> The pressure is building against Matthews... On the right, The Daily Caller reported last month about a settlement payment from 1999... And on the left, the aforementioned Media Matters is also lining up against him...

"O'Keefe says Trump asked him to go on birther-linked mission"

That's the headline on Oliver Darcy's story. He emails: In the book, James O'Keefe says Trump in 2013 asked him if he could "get inside" Columbia University and obtain President Obama's sealed records. Even when O'Keefe says he told Trump that would not fall in his "line of work," Trump persisted: "Do Columbia," O'Keefe quotes Trump as saying in the book.

 --> Darcy adds: The meeting was confirmed to me by Sam Nunberg. He confirmed he set it up, but said Trump did not ask O'Keefe to "do anything illegal." Read more...

Sources: Shari Redstone wants to reunite CBS and Viacom

Shares in Viacom and CBS jumped Friday after TheWrap's Sharon Waxman and Matt Donnelly reported that the sibling media companies might be reunited once again. Such a move could give a lift to Viacom, which has been struggling to impress investors. Viacom's stock closed up almost 10%. CBS closed up 1.8%.

Here's my intel from sources: Shari Redstone and senior execs have recently discussed recombining the two companies. Redstone is inclined to make the move. But no concrete steps in that direction have been taken. One of the sources said there are no "active" discussions underway. Read more...

What about Moonves?

TheWrap said that "Les Moonves, who has long resisted talk of recombining the companies, is now open to the possibility." The story quoted "an individual close to Moonves" as saying that "he's having active discussions with Shari and the board on a wide variety of issues all the time, including this one. And those discussions continue with regard to looking to merge the two companies..."
For the record, part two
Julia Waldow emails:

 -- Mike Isaac is taking a six-month leave from the NYT to write a book about Uber... (Twitter)

 -- British news site The Canary is refashioning text articles into audio files to better cater to those with visual perception disorders... (Digiday)

 -- If you need a good laugh: Check out the New Yorker's satirical list of alternative titles for "Fire and Fury..." (The New Yorker)

 -- Facebook stock dropped 4% on Friday following the company's announcement of upcoming changes to the News Feed... (CNNMoney)

The Facebook decision

There's been so much reaction in the last 24 hours to Facebook's announcement about prioritizing friends/family posts and downplaying news stories/brands/etc. Seth Fiegerman's view: "Mark Zuckerberg is fighting to save Facebook." But what will it mean for publishers?

Will users notice?!

Joshua Benton's must read for NiemanLab: "If Facebook stops putting news in front of readers, will readers bother to go looking for it?"

"My strong suspicion is that the overwhelming majority of users will barely notice a difference," he wrote, "and that an even more overwhelming majority will do nothing to change their off-Facebook news habits to make up for the loss. People who relied on the vagaries of the Facebook News Feed to get their news were never strong candidates to become assertive, forward-leaning, money-paying news consumers. They were the instantiation of that famous line from an old Brian Stelter story: If the news is that important, it will find me. If the news stops finding them, I doubt many will to start hunting for it."

BuzzFeed's butterfly

"Facebook is taking the news out of your News Feed, but we've got you covered," BuzzFeed told its 3 million followers on Friday, promoting a link to its own app. I've seen lots of other folks recommending email newsletters and other alternatives to FB...

More reactions

 -- Farhad Manjoo's NYT column on the difficulty of reengineering the News Feed: "You created a billion-dollar company cookie company. Now you want to sell healthier stuff. That's going to be very hard to do..."
 -- Megan Thomas emailed: The Atlantic's Franklin Foer says Mark Zuckerberg "broke journalism," broke the reading habits of his users, and now he's "breaking his own site, too..."

 -- Jay Rosen tweeted: "Facebook this week: Informing people is hard!"

 -- Hey, look on the bright side: "One Website's Facebook Apocalypse Is Another's Opportunity to Shine." That's the headline on Ben Mullin's story...
For the record, part three
By Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman:

 -- Via Michael Grynbaum's Twitter: Megyn Kelly will not be traveling to South Korea for NBC's coverage of the Olympics... But she will be a part of NBC's "State of the Union" coverage in DC later this month... (Twitter)

 -- From Thursday: Peter Thiel has submitted a bid to own Gawker's remaining assets, which are up for auction. This includes Gawker's domain names and around 200,000 archived articles... (Reuters)

 -- Ever wondered what movies about journalism are journalists' favorites? CJR has got you covered... (CJR)

Oprah's first "Sunday Morning" story

Oprah Winfrey has multiple "60 Minutes" pieces in the pipeline... And this Sunday she'll have a story on "CBS Sunday Morning" for the first time. It's a discussion about #TimesUp with Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes and other Hollywood A-listers. Here's a preview...

Oprah leads Trump in this poll, but...

"A new poll shows Oprah Winfrey with a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump in a would-be 2020 general election race, with 50% support to his 39%. About one-in-ten voters are undecided. But it's not all good news for Oprah fans," CNN's Greg Krieg writes. "The NPR/NewsHour/Marist survey found that 54% of voters said they did not want to see her enter the presidential fray. Only 35% favored a bid..."

This week's "Reliable" podcast

Oprah is following "a very traditional candidate arc," Chris Cillizza told me on this week's "Reliable" pod. Here's Julia Waldow with a recap. Listen to the discussion via iTunes here...

ESPN says politics has "encroached"

Brian Lowry emails: During its round of the TV Critics Assn. tour, ESPN VP of production Bill Wolff conceded that politics has "encroached on our happy little world." Despite the suspensions and controversies that have surrounded the network, the talent featured at the event said they felt comfortable and clear on the sports giant's guidelines and social-media policies, with analyst Jalen Rose saying, "I've never felt muzzled..."

Spotted at CES

Via Page Six: "Top entertainment power players" gathered at ­MediaLink's annual CES dinner, "where Grammy-nominated singer James Bay performed. At the event co-hosted by Condé Nast and Universal Music Group were Michael Kassan, Michele Anthony, Bob Sauerberg, Shari Redstone, Tim Armstrong, Maverick Carter, Aryeh Bourkoff and Casey Wasserman. Also at the powwow were execs from GE, Bank of America, Samsung and Omnicom..."
The entertainment desk

Academy Awards noms are in...

The deadline for casting Oscar nomination ballots was 8pm ET Friday, Gold Derby notes. "The nominations will be revealed on Jan. 23 and final voting will take place for eight days beginning on Feb. 20..."

Letterman's new show is now streaming

Brian Lowry emails: Given how much he idolizes Johnny Carson, some thought David Letterman might emulate him by essentially disappearing after his late-night run. But Letterman's back, on his own terms, in "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction," a six-episode Netflix series that allows him to engage in lengthy interviews with people he genuinely enjoys and admires, beginning -- in keeping with the title -- with President Obama. Read Lowry's full review here... And here's the link to the Netflix show page...

Kerrigan's reaction to "I, Tonya"

I'm looking forward to watching "I, Tonya" with Jamie this weekend. So I can't read this story yet... But you should!

Lisa Respers France emails:
There's been plenty of buzz about the film "I, Tonya" but the woman at the center of the controversy that brought down skater Tonya Harding isn't contributing to it. Here's what Nancy Kerrigan thinks of the film...

Lowry reviews "Electric Dreams"

Brian Lowry emails: Amazon tries to emulate the sci-fi anthology format that "Black Mirror," most recently, has turned into a sensation on Netflix. But "Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams," adapting short stories by the author whose work birthed "Blade Runner" and Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle," proves at best an uneven exercise... Read more...

Lowry reviews "Black Lightning"

More from Lowry: The latest addition to its DC-derived superhero lineup, CW's "Black Lightning" is notable for a few reasons. Not only does it feature an African-American hero -- in advance of Marvel's theatrical release "Black Panther" -- but the protagonist is, essentially, a middle-aged dad who comes out of retirement, a bit of a departure for a network known for its youth-oriented profile. Read the rest here...
What do you think?
Email brian.stelter@turner.com... I love the feedback, corrections, suggestions, and tips. Thank you! 
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