Fox settles swath of lawsuits; how the White House is carrying out its phone ban; right-wing media's deceptive outrage; AP replaces exit polls

By Oliver Darcy and CNN's media team
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This is Oliver Darcy filling in for Brian Stelter, who is feeling a bit under the weather this Tuesday evening. I love hearing from you, so please send feedback -- or tips -- to You can also find me on Twitter at @oliverdarcy.
Exec summary: Scroll down to see how the White House has been carrying out its phone ban; cable distributors have filed an amici brief in the AT&T case; The Daily Caller's publisher has written an open letter to Michael Avenatti; and we have the latest in this week's upfronts, including Jimmy Kimmel's best jokes at ABC's annual event...

Fox News settles swath of lawsuits

Fox News has settled 18 racial and gender discrimination lawsuits for about $10 million. None of the lawsuits had to do with sexual harassment allegations, and the move means now only a small fraction of lawsuits continue to hang over the network. CNNMoney's Rob McLean has the details... Here are some of highlights:

>> The New York Times reported that the settlement included terms that the former employees not seek future employment at Fox News or 21st Century Fox.

>> Both Fox and Douglas Wigdor, the lawyer who represented the employees, released identical statements: "The parties have reached mutual agreements that resolve various cases involving former Fox News employees."

>> The settlement included a proposed class action lawsuit headlined by former anchor Kelly Wright, who claimed he had been "effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a 'Jim Crow.'" Wright said on Tuesday after the settlement that he planned to seek new opportunities.

-- THR's Eriq Gardner reported that not everyone is happy with this settlement, summing things up well in a tweet: "There was a report today about Wigdor bowing out of the Rod Wheeler case. Well, the firm also bowed out of the Scottie Hughes case and she's upset. She wants to depose Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly and believes Wigdor is dumping her in favor of ambitions on the settlement front."

Moonves v. Redstone heads to court

Brian Stelter emails: With CBS seeking a temporary restraining order against its controlling shareholder National Amusements, a Delaware Chancery Court judge is about to make a crucial decision. A hearing is expected on Wednesday... with CBS hoping to vote to dilute Shari Redstone's controlling stake on Thursday...

"What is clear is that there is no longer a path for CBS and Viacom as they currently exist to come together in a merger. The water in the moat separating the two halves of the Redstone media empire is too poisoned, starting with the relationship between CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves and Redstone," Variety's Cynthia Littleton wrote Tuesday.

Will Moonves prevail? As Littleton wrote, this legal battle "is a gambit for Moonves, who will likely have no choice but to leave or be fired from CBS if the courts side with National Amusements..."

If Moonves wins... who might buy CBS?

Moonves "privately concedes" that this battle could end with the sale of CBS "to another player in the rapidly evolving media business," Fox's Charlie Gasparino wrote Tuesday.

Key graf: "People in Moonves' inner circle acknowledge that if he prevails over Redstone, his company would immediately become takeover bait for large technology companies such as Apple or even Google or Verizon."

Important to remember: CBS-Viacom merger talk has been a drag on CBS stock... Moonves could stand to make a lot more $$$ through a sale to a giant like Verizon...


Viacom has laid off another 100 people... The company confirmed the cuts on Tuesday...

 --> BTW: CEO Bob Bakish spoke at the MoffettNathanson conference on Tuesday, but didn't discuss the corporate drama...

Tom Wolfe dead at 88

Tom Wolfe died at the age of 88 on Tuesday after having been hospitalized with an infection earlier this week. As CNNMoney's Chris Isidore and Tom Kludt wrote, Wolfe will be remembered as an innovative journalist who pioneered New Journalism, and the author of masterpieces such as "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "The Right Stuff."

Brian Stelter emails: Both NBC and CBS had Wolfe obits in the first blocks of their respective nightly newscasts. ABC mentioned his passing later in the half hour. NBC's Cynthia McFadden: "The flame that lit a bonfire, now spent..."

Remembering a literary lion

-- Jeffrey Toobin writes on "With Tom Wolfe, the most important thing was what you didn't see..."

The New York Times said Wolfe's "talent as a writer and caricaturist was evident from the start in his verbal pyrotechnics and perfect mimicry of speech patterns, his meticulous reporting, and his creative use of pop language and explosive punctuation..." 

-- Rolling Stone described Wolfe as the "brilliant, zeitgeist-channeling journalist and novelist who could absorb fascinating subcultures within American life and transform them into electric prose..."

-- The Daily Beast's obit said that Wolfe had on Tuesday exchanged "his trademark white suit for angel's wings..."
For the record, part one
 -- Zig, the media app backed by Graydon Carter, Quincy Jones, Ron Meyer, and others, "has closed a $1.6 million round..." (NBC)

-- Fox News host Steve Hilton exited his own company after his support for Trump "created a tension within our platform and community..." (The Daily Beast

-- Anna Clark asks in CJR: "In an era of disinvestment, how should local news push back?" (CJR

-- Laura Ingraham's ratings are thriving a month and a half since David Hogg called for an advertiser boycott... (IJR)

Remember the West Wing phone ban? Here's how it's playing out

Back in January, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. Amid recent talk from Trump and others about cracking down on leaks, CNN's Kaitlan Collins revisited the ban, talking to four White House officials about how it is being carried out. Read the full story here... 

>> The sources told Collins that when officials arrive for work at the White House each morning they leave personal devices in lockers that "buzz and chirp constantly" throughout the day. The sources added that it's common for staffers to huddle by the lockers as they check messages on their phones.

>> Inside the West Wing, sources told Collins that the ban is enforced by men in suits who use large handheld devices to carry out sweeps looking for unauthorized phones. If a non-government issued phone is detected, the person carrying out the sweep will ask the individuals in the room if someone forgot to store their phone in a locker. If no one fesses up, sources told Collins, the room is searched.

Right-wing media's latest outrage is totally deceptive

The right-wing media universe was in overdrive on Tuesday. Will Sommer, an editor for The Hill who writes about conservative media, put it well: the latest "foolishness" was "the idea that CNN's Chris Cillizza deliberately put a gun sight on a pic of Trump, rather than just inadvertently showing a gif tool's target for capturing images."

>> As Sommer noted, it's pretty obvious Cillizza "is not going around putting gun sights on Trump." Yes, to any normal person who looked at this for more than two seconds, this was plain as day.

>> But the outrage somehow made its way from the Twitter feeds of far-right trolls like Mike Cernovich to the websites of mainstream conservative outlets like The Daily Caller, The Washington Examiner, Fox News, and the Drudge Report. By Tuesday night, even former White House press secretary Sean Spicer had gotten in on the action, spreading the nonsense to his 400K+ Twitter followers. 

>> The takeaway: The way this story migrated from the far-right fever swamps to Spicer's Twitter feed was disturbing. But it also showed that the fringe elements of the pro-Trump media -- while less influential now than in 2016 -- can still drive narratives into the media...

Peter Kafka's promotion

Brian Stelter emails: Recode's media reporting maven Peter Kafka is becoming executive editor at the website... And Kara Swisher is becoming editor at large. Kafka has "been a close partner to me as we define and build all aspects of Recode. His title now reflects it," EIC Dan Frommer said in an internal memo on Tuesday. Kafka will continue leading media coverage while adding more responsibilities to his plate. "Kara, meanwhile, continues to extend her reach, leading Recode's first foray into TV with our 'Revolution' partnership this year with MSNBC, hosting our most popular podcast, and more projects to come," Frommer wrote...

When 'big chains gobble up small TV stations'

The Washington Post explored on Tuesday what happens when "big chains gobble up small TV stations." In a Sinclair-dominated local television market in Pennsylvania, for instance, the three news stations have been airing packages that are "almost verbatim at times." At WJAC's studios, there are two sets equipped with different backdrops that represent the market's three different news outlets.

As Paul Farhi, Jack Gillum, and Chris Alcantara explain, "The media overlap in part of a trend that has spread across the country, as a small number of large holding companies are taking over local TV stations, often more than one in the same market." Check out the must-read story here, and be sure to watch the video embedded in the package...
For the record, part two
-- "Years of cost cuts at Digital First Media, the nation's No. 3 newspaper chain with 48 million readers, are devastating newsrooms and fomenting employee dissent even as the hedge fund-controlled Digital First makes huge profits on beaten-down papers," writes Bob Fernandez in The Philadelphia Inquirer... (Inquirer)

-- NYT's Michael Barbaro is doing a live podcast taping of "The Daily" with Recode's Kara Swisher on June 15 at Kaufmann Concert Hall in NYC. Tickets are $35... (92Y)

-- BuzzFeed's Craig Silverman explains in a Twitter thread how "sometimes you find stories in the strangest ways." He said his latest story "started when I was added on a reply to an innocuous tweet..." (Twitter)

-- Nicholas Diakopoulos takes a look at "reporting in a machine reality" with misinformation and deepfakes gaining steam... (CJR)

The AP replaces exit polls with voter surveys

The Associated Press said Tuesday that it would replace traditional exit polls with what was described as a new "elaborate election voter survey." Sally Buzbee, the news organization's executive editor, said she had been "concerned about the accuracy of in-person exit polls for the past several years," the AP's David Bauder reported. The new election survey, called AP VoteCast, was developed with NORC at the University of Chicago and "uses a combination of online and telephone surveys conducted four days before Election Day and through the close of polls." The AP's first customers for the service are Fox News and The Washington Post.

Cable distributors file amici brief in AT&T case

Hadas Gold emails: On Monday evening RCN cable and several other smaller cable distributors filed an amici brief in the AT&T antitrust case that a judge is currently deciding. 

>> The brief, filed in support of neither side, is proposing remedies that the companies say help alleviate some of the anti-trust concerns without completely stopping the deal.

>> Some cable distributors have said that the initial arbitration offer Turner proposed after the lawsuit was filed isn't enough - and in their brief, RCN and the other cable companies suggested that the court enforce a broader offer. The brief included suggested changes to the offer including a new offer that would apply to all video content managed and controlled by the newly merged entity.

>> The fact that these cable distributors filed this brief could indicate that they fear AT&T and Time Warner are in a stronger position as the judge makes his decision, and this could be their attempt to try and influence whatever the judge may decide. What the brief suggests is something many experts I've spoken to say could easily happen - the judge could decide to ask for a modified arbitration offer in order to let this deal go through.

>> AT&T and Time Warner answered the brief on Tuesday, calling on the judge to block its submission. The companies' attorneys say RCN's submissions are "unsworn, untested, and unmeritorious opinions" and that the brief operates under the assumption that the judge will find the merger violates antitrust law, which AT&T and Time Warner contest.

Lowry's upfront scoreboard

Brian Lowry emails: Bob Iger's big day: Tuesday was a big show-and-tell day for Disney, starting with an upfront presentation by ESPN, and continuing with a first joint upfront by ABC and its sister cable network, Freeform. ABC came in with a bit of a spring in its step, reveling in the success of "Roseanne," to a lesser degree "American Idol" and the first-year drama "The Good Doctor."

Kimmel's best jokes!

Frank Pallotta emails: Jimmy Kimmel's schtick at ABC's annual upfront has become legend, and the late-night host returned to the stage after taking a year off due to his son, Billy, having surgery last year. Kimmel, as usual, killed, so here's a taste of some of his best jokes:

-- "Fox canceled 'Lucifer' and 'The Exorcist.' They can't even make a deal with the devil."

-- "'Murphy Brown' is back at CBS. CBS knows what millennials want and they'll be damned if they give it to them. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I have to admit I'm kind of excited. I think it's refreshing to see anything brown on CBS!"

-- "NBC is touting an all-Chicago Wednesday... Hey NBC, I have an idea for a show. It's called Chica-go to another f***ing city already."

-- "We have a new slogan this year at ABC: 'Forward Together.' Hillary Clinton had a yard sale and she let us have that."

ESPN's presentation was all about 'firsts'

Pallotta emails his story with Ahiza Garcia: ESPN's 2018 upfront presentation was titled "ESPN F1rst" and no "first" was as important as new president Jimmy Pitaro making his introduction. Most felt that Pitaro did a good job showcasing the network, even though he came off at times trying to get his bearings and read the room. Following the presentation he conveyed to a group of reporters that the company needs to expand its offerings. "I think we're doing a fantastic job at serving the sports fanatic," Pitaro told reporters. "But as we think about expanding our audience, what about the casual sports customer. Are we doing everything we can to serve him or her?"

Wednesday: Turner and CBS

Turner presents in the morning... CBS in the afternoon...
For the record, part three
-- John Ziegler writes for Mediaite: "Salem Media's effort to purge anti-Trump conservatives tells you how the business really works..." (Mediaite)

-- Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb are hosting an NBC primetime special at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night: "Inside the Royal Wedding: Harry and Meghan...."

-- Garrett Graff's latest in WIRED is a must-read. It's about the "untold story of Robert Mueller's time in combat..." (WIRED)

-- NYT learned the identity of the prime suspect behind the hacking of a trove of CIA documents posted by Wikileaks last year. He's a 29-year-old former CIA software engineer who was charged last August with possessing child pornography, according to the Times... (NYT)

The Daily Caller responds to Avenatti

The Daily Caller responded on Tuesday to the legal threat it received from Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels. Neil Patel, co-founder and publisher of The DC, wrote an open letter to Avenatti imploring him to "let me know specifically what is incorrect" in the conservative news organization's recent reporting on Avenatti's past business deals. Patel said that "in addition to my role as co-founder and president, I serve as in-house counsel for The Daily Caller News Foundation" and that if Avenatti were to "bring something real" to his attention, The DC "will update the piece immediately."

Patel added, "My strong suspicion is we will not hear from you because we know as well as you know that the piece was done well, and we know as well as you know that your note was just an attempt to silence reporting you don't like." I reached out via email Tuesday evening to Avenatti to see if he had a response. I haven't heard back from him... 

The pro-Trump media's latest darling formerly ran a Trump bashing website

BuzzFeed's Joe Bernstein revealed in a story published Tuesday evening that Candace Owens, who he dubbed "the newest star of the Trump movement," ran a website critical of Trump less than two years ago. 

>> According to Bernstein, Owens was the CEO of an online publication that "frequently mocked then-candidate Trump." The site, according to Bernstein, went as far as to compare Trump to Hitler and speculate about his penis size. 

>> Here's a key line: "The speed with which Owens has gone from running a frequently anti-Trump, anti-conservative website to being one of the President's most prominent new supporters illustrates the wild land grab still going on for influence in the pro-Trump ecosystem."

>> Prior to the publication of Bernstein's story, Owens claimed on Twitter that BuzzFeed was "attempting to threaten current college students that I used to work with into giving statements about me." After Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Ownens, BuzzFeed News responded in a tweet, "In the normal course of reporting, @Bernstein has been reaching out to subjects for comment. Candace knows this but would rather mislead her followers by smearing a journalist for doing his job."
The entertainment desk
By Lisa France:

-- In a recent series of tweets, Pauley Perrette implied that "multiple physical assaults" led her to quit her longtime role on "NCIS..."

-- They may have called off their wedding days before it was set to happen, but John Cena says he still wants to marry Nikki Bella... (Programming note: Bella will be on the "TODAY" show in the 10 a.m. hour on Monday.)

Spike Lee on his latest movie, Trump, and more

Megan Thomas emails: Spike Lee premiered his new film "BlacKkKlansman" at Cannes on Monday night to much acclaim. (Expect to hear more about the film in the run up to award season). Lee spoke with Vanity Fair on Tuesday about the project, president "Agent Orange," and Hollywood's role in promoting racism.

Marti Noxon profiled in The Atlantic

Thomas emails another item: This compelling profile on TV producer Marti Noxon by The Atlantic's Sophie Gilbert asks if "television is ready for angry women?" Noxon, a vet writer of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Mad Men," has two new buzz-worthy series premiering this summer: AMC's "Dietland" and HBO's "Sharp Objects."

'Rosanne' to shift from politics to family

ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said Tuesday that she expects "Rosanne" to shift from politics to "family trials and tribulations" in the second season of the revived sitcom, Deadline reported.

The news was not met with excitement on the right. Matt Drudge, the conservative news aggregator, tweeted from his personal account, "Corporate cannibals stripping Roseanne of her fun...."
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