A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
With one week until midterm elections in the United States, President Trump is the center of attention. He’s about to begin a week jam packed with campaign rallies. But Tuesday was much more somber.
Trump in Pittsburgh
“Despite calls to stay away, Trump to visit Pittsburgh after massacre” read the WaPo homepage on Tuesday morning, setting a tense tone for the day. But the trip to the synagogue site and a local hospital came and went without much controversy. Trump did not give any public remarks. Local protesters were heard loud and clear. Bloomberg’s; Jennifer Jacobs noted on Twitter that Trump did not talk to reporters on Tuesday: “He’s following the White House plan – letting this visit, to mourn for those killed at the synagogue, speak for itself.”
Tuesday night’s Post headline: “Trump’s quiet visit to a grieving Pittsburgh met with hostility.”
Trump talks to Axios for HBO series
Tuesday’s other big Trump story was an Axios production. Jonathan Swan and Jim VandeHei interviewed POTUS on Monday for the site’s four-part series “Axios on HBO,” which premieres on Sunday. The first big headline from the interview: “Trump to terminate birthright citizenship.”
The story hit before dawn, and the coverage lasted all day long. But Trump’s pledge deserved a LOT of skepticism. As the hours went on, more and more skepticism was added to stories and TV segments. Just now the banner on “AC360” read, “Trump makes dubious claim just days before midterms that he’ll ban birthright citizenship (he can’t).”
→ Kellyanne Conway’s husband George co-wrote this WaPo op-ed with Neal Katyal: “Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is unconstitutional.”
Trump trying to “seize back” the spotlight
On Page One of Wednesday’s NYT: “In the last days before a midterm congressional election that will determine the future of his presidency, Mr. Trump seems to be throwing almost anything he can think of against the wall to see what might stick, no matter how untethered from political or legal reality,” Peter Baker writes. “Frustrated that other topics — like last week’s spate of mail bombs — came to dominate the news, the president has sought to seize back the national stage in the last stretch of the campaign. Ad hoc though they may be, Mr. Trump’s red-meat ideas have come to shape the conversation and, he hopes, may galvanize otherwise complacent conservative voters to turn out on Tuesday…”
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
– Donie O’Sullivan emails: This NBC story serves as a good warning to take election rumors and viral videos of “malfunctioning” voting machines with a grain of salt next Tuesday — even if they do have thousands of retweets… (NBC)
– Clever: CJR and TBWA\Chiat\Day set up a real-life newsstand full of fake headlines to “gauge the responses of New Yorkers” and “draw attention to misinformation…” (CJR)
– Richard Kim, executive editor of The Nation, is joining HuffPost in early 2019 as director of enterprise… (Twitter)
Levitan’s message to Lachlan
“‘Modern Family’ co-creator Steve Levitan has renewed his criticism of Fox News and its parent company amid backlash to the cable channel’s coverage following the mass shooting Saturday at a synagogue in Pittsburgh,” Variety’s Daniel Holloway reported.
Levitan: “By espousing unfounded conspiracy theories and justifying Trump’s reprehensible statements and actions, Fox News fuels our country’s divisiveness. I sincerely hope Lachlan Murdoch recognizes the damage this is doing and finally brings sound journalistic ethics and standards to his network before more unhinged people are riled up to send bombs and shoot up churches and synagogues.”
CONTEXT: Fox produces “Modern Family.” Levitan’s overall deal with Fox’s TV studio expired in July, and he hasn’t renewed or signed a deal with another studio yet…
Follow the money, Fox edition
Fox’s critics, including some on the right, like Bill Kristol, have been increasingly vocal about calling out the company’s management and board.
With that in mind, Forbes reporters Madeline Berg and Lauren Debter made a lot of calls. “Forbes reached out to each of the board members of 21st Century Fox — all except for one are foreign born, immigrants or have immigrant parents — for a comment on the latest controversies, but no one was willing to talk,” they say.
A Fox spokesperson did respond by saying, “Many of the FNC and FBN programs regularly push back on the Trump narrative – and just this morning, the FOX & Friends co-hosts called out Trump for his ‘enemy of the people’ attacks on the media.”
Will advertisers react to this?
As I mentioned last night, the liberal media monitoring group Media Matters has been ratcheting up the pressure on major Fox News advertisers. Here’s my full story in case you missed it…
Brian Lowry emails: I’m coming to this a bit late, but Gabriel Sherman made a really important point about Fox News in his recent VF piece “No One Is In Charge” — namely, that the network’s strident tone has a good deal to do with being relatively rudderless since losing Roger Ailes. While Ailes was a committed partisan, he was also a controlling influence who prided himself on being able to wrangle Fox’s more eccentric talent. Simply as a practical matter, Ailes would have likely curbed some of the excesses that have taken root, precisely to avoid the PR blowback associated with them…
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
– A new example of the John Oliver effect: “Last Week Tonight” sparked a 2,000% spike in visits to Vote411.org… (The Wrap)
– “Meghan Markle’s close friend and stylist Jessica Mulroney just landed herself a new role as fashion contributor on ‘GMA…’” (Page Six)
Facebook’s quarterly revenue and user growth fell short of expectations on Tuesday, Kaya Yurieff reports: “Monthly active users totaled 2.27 billion as of September 30, an increase of 10% year-over-year. Meanwhile, daily active users for the month averaged 1.49 billion — an increase of 9% year-over-year, according to Facebook. Analysts, however, were expecting 2.29 billion monthly users and 1.51 billion daily users. It also was only an incremental increase over the previous quarter…”
STILL: The WSJ’s Deepa Seetharaman notes that “the results, in tandem with the guidance from the company, were largely well received by investors, many of whom feared even worse after the company’s earnings report in July resulted in a historic collapse of the stock price.” $FB is up 3% in after-hours trading…
Read more of Tuesday’s Reliable Sources newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…
FB is pushing Stories and videos
Yurieff says the company is prioritizing new formats, such as its popular Stories feature. “People want to share in ways that don’t stick around permanently,” Mark Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. But “Zuckerberg acknowledged that ads in Stories don’t make Facebook as much money as ads in News Feed, and revenue growth may be ‘slower’ during the transition period, which he compared to the shift to mobile from desktop…”
→ Zuck also said that video is growing “dramatically across the ecosystem…”