Trump's trap; shocking new ad; TIME's new cover; Vice's next step; Trebek's extension; Lemon's response; Obamas option Lewis; NYT profiles Gayle King

Trick or treat? This is Oliver Darcy, and on this Halloween, I'm Brian Stelter, filling in for him while he's at the NYC Halloween parade with Jamie. I always enjoy your feedback, so please do get in touch via email or on Twitter.

Scroll down for the latest on Megyn Kelly v. NBC, Nancy Dubuc's plans for Vice, Gayle King's push for Oprah 2020, plus the new cover of TIME...

This Halloween, Trump aims to scare

There's no need to turn on a scary movie — just take a look at the president's Twitter feed or watch him talk. With just days to go before the midterms, Trump is working overtime to sow fear among his base. Wednesday was no exception... As Chris Cuomo said on his show, "It's all too scary, even on Halloween..." And Trump's next rally is in Missouri on Thursday evening...

Trump shocks with racist new ad days before midterms

"In the most racially charged national political ad in 30 years, President Donald Trump and the Republican Party accuse Democrats of plotting to help Central American invaders overrun the nation with cop killers," CNN's Stephen Collinson writes.

The new spot was produced for the Trump campaign and tweeted by the president on Wednesday. Collinson says it is "the most extreme step yet in the most inflammatory closing argument of any campaign in recent memory..."

Trump calls the caravan an "invasion." (It's not.)

In an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl posted on Wednesday night, Trump did all he could to promote fear of the migrants slowly marching toward the southern border. He described it as an "invasion" and said "they can't invade our country." He warned that "they've got a lot of rough people in those caravans, they aren't angels." And he inflated the size of it, saying, "You have caravans coming up that look a lot larger than it's reported, actually. I'm pretty good at estimating crowd size. And I'll tell you they look a lot bigger than people would think."

Trump's trap?

Tom Kludt emails: Once again, Trump has commandeered the news cycle with the migrants, transforming a peripheral story into one that has dominated the final stage of this year's campaign. Has the press taken the bait? Should news outlets devote this much time and attention to a group of migrants dwindling in numbers and still weeks away from reaching the border? I reached out to Ben Smith, Margaret Sullivan, Dean Baquet and several others to get their perspectives. Read it here...

Jon Stewart's critique

ICYMI: In a new interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Jon Stewart chided journalists for taking Trump's "bait" and taking his anti-media attacks too personally. "What he's done well, I thought, is appeal to their own narcissism, to their own ego." Watch here or read Brian Stelter's recap...

"When I can, I tell the truth"

In the aforementioned exchange with Karl, Trump talked about his tenuous relationship with the truth. He said, "Well, I try. I do try... and I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that's different or there's a change, but I always like to be truthful."

>> Stelter tweets: "Fittingly, not a true statement!" 



This week's cover of TIME

In the final week before the midterms, TIME's cover is a special report about hate and healing in America. Contributors include Jon Meacham, Nancy Gibbs, Eddie Glaude, and Katie Couric. Per TIME, "the cover image is an original illustration from Edel Rodriguez, inspired by the mystical Jewish image of the Tree of Life..."


"The ghost of Megyn Kelly's career"

Seth Meyers to writer Amber Ruffin on Tuesday's "Late Night:"

"So Amber, what are you dressing as for Halloween?"

"The ghost of Megyn Kelly's career," Ruffin said. "Oooh, scary."

Kelly v. NBC getting worse

Brian Stelter emails: When will Megyn Kelly and NBC News reach a deal? The legal and PR battle became even testier on Halloween. Kelly's lawyer Bryan Freedman went public, accusing NBC News of leaking and calling out NBCU CEO Steve Burke by name.

In case you missed it, here's what he said: "Despite my efforts to handle this process confidentially, NBC News is allowing the media to run with completely false and irresponsible reports that disparage Megyn by erroneously claiming she has ever asked for more money than her contract requires."

He was talking about the reports in TMZ, the Daily Mail, etc about a potential $10 million bonus payout. Freedman said NBC News should correct the claims, and if "Andy Lack has lost control, my hope would be that Steve Burke can step in and not permit blatant lies about our discussions to remain uncorrected."

NBC fired back with its own statement a few minutes later: "Unlike Mr. Freedman, who has repeatedly commented to the media throughout the negotiations, we respect the confidentiality of the process, and will have no comment until it reaches its conclusion."

So stay tuned...


The issue is the NDA

More from Stelter: My sources are clear that one of the sticking points involves the non-disparagement clause, which would prohibit Kelly from speaking ill of NBC in the future. Kelly is reluctant to sign a one-sided NDA, a source said, because she is concerned that would leave her vulnerable to disparagement by NBC executives...


 -- "From book clubs to cookware, BuzzFeed finds new ways to make money," Jill Disis writes... (CNN Business)

 -- Matt Drudge is still sniping at Steve Bannon. The Drudge Report website trolled the former Breitbart chief on Wednesday evening, tweeting that Bannon had drawn a "crowd of tens in Topeka..." (Twitter)

 -- Right-wing media has been portraying George Soros as a villain for years. The NYT looked at how that "moved from the fringes to the mainstream..." (NYT)

 -- Matthew Ingram writes that "getting scoops is great," but "not if they perpetuate a Trump lie..." (CJR)

 -- A Democrat running for Congress in a tight race says James O'Keefe's group Project Veritas infiltrated her campaign... (WaPo)

 -- Matt Gertz calls out the "unbelievable hypocrisy" of Sean Hannity who has reportedly been the "recipient of unsecured presidential phone calls," but bashed Hillary Clinton for her unsecured private server... (Media Matters)

 -- CNN is debuting a brand new website for David Axelrod based on his Axe Files franchise... (The Axe Files)

How a right-wing effort to slime Mueller with a sexual assault allegation fell apart

For a little while on Tuesday, a document posted to the far-right Gateway Pundit blog seemed to its readers like the perfect story. It was not just an allegation of sexual assault against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but also an opportunity to troll liberals, supporters of the #MeToo movement, and the media. Just a few hours later, however, the story collapsed. Journalists and Internet sleuths tied a scheme to smear Mueller with charges of sexual assault to a sham firm called Surefire Intelligence. That sham firm, as it turned out, was connected to right-wing troll Jacob Wohl. Here's my story with Kara Scannell and David Shortell on on how the whole scheme fell apart...

Remaining questions

More than 24 hours later, there is still quite a bit we do not know about this story. It's still unclear exactly who or how many people were involved with the scheme, or what their motives were. Did they want to discredit Mueller? Were they trying to setup reporters in an attempt to smear them? Were they just in it for themselves? 

Press conference set for Thursday afternoon

Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman, who is also connected to the story, vowed on Wednesday to press forward with a press conference in which he says he will reveal a sexual assault victim of Mueller's. In a tweet, he called the right-wing scheme debunked on Tuesday a "hoax designed to distract the nation from my press conference on Thursday, which is where all eyes need to be." I'm catching the early-morning Acela train down to DC, and will be there to see what transpires...


Speaking of conspiracy theorists...

ABC's Ali Dukakis reported on Wednesday that notorious conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is scheduled to make another appearance with Mueller's investigators. "In recent weeks, Corsi has emerged as a central figure of interest to Mueller as he builds his case," Dukakis writes. As she notes, Mueller's interest likely stems from Corsi's relationship with Roger Stone...


By Daniella Emanuel:

 -- Vice president Andrew Creighton has departed "nearly a year after reports that he had paid a former employee who said she was fired after rejecting his sexual advances..." (Deadline)

 -- Sylvia Obell puts a spotlight on various abuse allegations within the hip-hop industry, and begs the question, "Will time ever be up for abusive men in hip-hop?..." (BuzzFeed News)

 -- Alix Strauss explores how "feminist lifestyle publication" Bust Magazine has stayed "afloat in a media sea of bankruptcies, mergers and buyouts..." (NYT

 -- Film Independent announced today that the Los Angeles Film Festival is being put to rest. It will be replaced "with year-round events aimed at building community and broadening its support of visual storytellers..." (Variety)

Republicans want Trump to end nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia in wake of Khashoggi killing

Five Republican senators — Marco Rubio, Todd Young, Cory Gardner, Rand Paul, and Dean Heller — have written a letter sent to Trump pressing him to cut off nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's killing, per NBC's Josh Lederman who obtained the letter. The senators threatened to use their legislative power to block any nuke agreement if Trump declined to end talks.

>> From the letter: "The ongoing revelations about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as certain Saudi actions related to Yemen and Lebanon, have raised further serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decision-makers in Saudi Arabia."

Turkish prosecutor: Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered

"In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim Jamal Khashoggi, was choked to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul," the Turkish chief prosecutor said in a statement on Wednesday. It was the clearest statement yet from Turkish authorities who continue to search for Khashoggi's body.

"Shep Smith can't redeem Fox News"

That was the provocative headline on Erik Wemple's latest for WaPo. Wemple noted in his piece that Shepard Smith "routinely fact-checks President Trump, fillets his policies and so on." But he contended that "none of that mitigates or minimizes the baseless, irresponsible and destructive programming that takes place in other Fox News precincts."

>> Key lines: "Nothing that Smith says during his Fox News program — no matter how sick his burns on Trump might be — neutralizes the impact of Dobbs or Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson or dozens of other Fox talking heads. Nothing. Episodic truth-telling about Trump doesn't excuse fulsome conspiracy-theorizing about Trump."

The Daily Show's video montage makes Wemple's point

"The Daily Show" on Wednesday posted a video montage about Fox's caravan coverage. It features Fox personality after Fox personality scaremongering over the migrants marching toward the US border. Then, at the end, it shows a snippet of Smith saying there is nothing to worry about. Yes, Smith is a voice of reason on Fox, but he is drowned out by most of the other programming on the channel.

Apatow joins Levitan and slams Fox

Brian Lowry emails: Judd Apatow joined Steve Levitan in trying to ratchet up the pressure on Fox News management, calling out Lachlan Murdoch in a tweet as the person ultimately responsible for all of the content on the network.

>> Apatow's tweet: "People think @FoxNews is this mysterious organization but it is run by Lachlan Murdoch so if you have an issue with anything on there that is racist or incites hate please know that it all comes through him, is designed by him and approved by him. It is a dude. One billionaire."

NYT profiles Gayle

Brian Stelter emails: Amy Chozick's profile of Gayle King is a must read. "CBS This Morning" exec producer Ryan Kadro is rightly quoted saying that King is the "emotional center" of the show.

So this line stood out to me: "King's contract is up in a little over a year, adding to speculation about the show's future." Here's King's quote: "I'm excited about whatever the future may hold."

King keeping "Oprah 2020" talk alive

Stelter adds: King is excited about Oprah Winfrey's future as well — King confirmed to Chozick that she is still urging Oprah to run in 2020, even though O has poured cold water on the idea. "The country is bigger than your life," Oprah says King told her. 

King apparently says it would be "the perfect ticket..." 


Dubuc's "One Vice" vision

Brian Stelter emails: Nancy Dubuc has been CEO of Vice for five months, and she's starting to share her plans. There is lots of news in Natalie Jarvey's THR profile of Dubuc, including:

-- "So far, a lot of her energy has been spent on the unseen (and unsexy) challenge of bringing structure and order to an organization that was built chaotically." She has been trying out the term "One Vice" to bring disparate parts of the org together...

-- "In terms of actual content, her first major swing will be a two-hour nightly live show that will air four nights a week on the Viceland cable network..."

-- "HBO executives won't confirm, but sources say that Vice's weekly newsmagazine show is expected to end after this season. Daily sister show Vice News Tonight is expected to continue, however..."

-- More belt-tightening ahead: Dubuc said she's "not going to rule out more" layoffs in the near future...

-- Dubuc "still believes that 'a strategic sale' is the most likely result for the company." But: "I'd like to see a good couple of years of continued growth under our belts first." More...

By Julia Waldow:

-- Business Insider ran two ads on Facebook that were labeled as being "paid for by Cambridge Analytica" — even though Cambridge Analytica is banned from Facebook. Facebook pulled the ads down for violating its policies, but "at no point during the verification or approvals process did Facebook flag the ads for not meeting its standards..." (Business Insider)

-- Digital First Media, the owner of the Denver Post, is laying off 107 employees at its service center in Colorado Springs "after shifting the work to an outsourcing contractor..." (Gazette)

-- The editor of a British food magazine stepped down from the publication after suggesting to a freelance journalist that she pursue a series on "killing vegans" and force-feeding them meat... (CNN)

-- Facebook Watch is turning away from the short-form, unscripted programming it once relied on and buying into "hot start" shows with big names... (Digiday)

Don Lemon fires back at critics: You're "missing the entire point"

Don Lemon responded on Wednesday night to critics who were upset by his comment that "white men" are the "biggest terror threat to the country." Lemon asked his audience to put "emotion aside" and "look at the cold hard facts." He said the "evidence is overwhelming" that "the vast majority of deadly attacks in this country from 2001 to 2016 were carried out by far-right violent extremists." Lemon said "those are the facts" and added that those "who were angered about what I said are missing the entire point." You can watch Lemon's response in its entirety here...

Reporters slam Trump for Pittsburgh tweet

Reporters laced into Trump on Wednesday morning for using his trip to the Tree of Life Synagogue to attack the media. "Trump said he was going to Pittsburgh to pay respects to the victims, but seems he is most focused on how much respect was shown to him," tweeted NYT's Julie Davis. LAT's Chris Megerian echoed that sentiment, writing, "Was the trip intended for the president to pay his respects? Or was it for a grief-stricken city to pay its respects to him?" Mediaite has a roundup of tweets here...

A plug for "The Daily"

NYT's "The Daily" has been this week's must-listen to podcast. Tuesday's podcast examined the "re-emergence of American anti-Semitism" following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. On Wednesday, Kevin Rose took a look at the "business of Internet outrage" through a profile of the married couple behind the hyper-partisan website Mad World News. I highly recommend you take a listen.

Michael Lewis' book... acquired by the Obamas

Stelter emails: Michael Lewis books have an incredible track record in Hollywood — think "Moneyball," "The Big Short," and "The Blind Side." Now comes word that his new book "The Fifth Risk," about the trouble-filled Trump transition at various federal agencies, has been optioned for a possible Netflix series... By none other than Barack and Michelle Obama

The potential series will be "aimed to help people better understand the inner workings of the government," Deadline reports. "We understand that the Obamas are exploring projects but nothing specifically has yet gotten a greenlight..."
By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Barbra Streisand has a new resistance album. Her "Walls" album drops Friday and contains songs expressing her anti-Trump sentiments...

 -- Tyler Perry says he's ending his popular "Madea" character in 2019...

 -- Natalie Portman says she had no female friends in Hollywood until the Time's Up movement began...

'Bohemian Rhapsody' delivers a good time, not a ball

Brian Lowry emails: Rami Malek's performance as Freddie Mercury is the only standout element of "Bohemian Rhapsody," an otherwise perfectly adequate Queen biopic that's a reasonably good time for those familiar with the music, but not a ball. It nevertheless figures to lead the box-office this weekend, in what's become a strong year for music-based films with "A Star is Born" still adding to its tally. Read Lowry's full review here...

"What is good news for Sony TV?"

Lowry emails: After stoking speculation he might retire when his current contract expires, Alex Trebek has extended his deal to host "Jeopardy!" through 2022, as has the key talent on its companion show, "Wheel of Fortune's" Pat Sajak and Vanna White...

Entertainment, anytime

Lowry emails a final item: CBS has launched "ET Live," a 24/7 streaming site devoted to entertainment news based on the venerable "Entertainment Tonight" brand. It's a logical expansion — especially heading into awards season — although worth noting that Comcast already has a rather sizable footprint in this highly competitive space with "Access Hollywood" and the E! network.

That's a wrap on today's newsletter... Brian is back tomorrow! 
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