A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Pro-journalism groups use the day after April Fool’s to promote fact-checking. International Fact-Checking Day, they call it. Of course, in this twisted era, fact-checkers should be celebrated every day. Here are just a few of the things the president said on Tuesday:
– Talking about his “great respect” for Germany: “My father is German, right, was German. And born in a very wonderful place in Germany, so I have a great feeling for Germany.” Fred Trump was born in the Bronx.
– Describing what “we need” to do to fix the immigration system: We “have to get rid of judges.”
– Sowing doubt about the 2018 midterms and telling GOP lawmakers to be “more paranoid:” “We have to be a little bit careful, because I don’t like the way the votes are being tallied.”
– Supporting a conspiracy theory about wind farms: “They say the noise causes cancer.”
Over on Earth 2, these comments are being treated as shocking breaking news, instead of being shrugged off…
But I want to give credit where it’s due. Some members of the media are taking the president’s words seriously. On Tuesday night, CNN’s Chris Cuomo hosted a fact-checking segment with Daniel Dale of The Toronto Star. One of the banners said, “TRUMP CLAIMS HIS FATHER WAS BORN IN GERMANY (HE WASN’T).”
As for the president’s implication that the midterms were rigged, Cuomo said, “this is full Alex Jones.” Cuomo, of course, was referencing the infamous conspiracy-sowing InfoWars host.
At the end of the segment, Cuomo said to Dale, “You picked the right job. You will never be bored. It’s the full employment plan, checking this president on the facts.” Happy International Fact-Checking Day!
The Post’s new tally
As Cillizza wrote, the lies are “a feature, not a bug, of not only his presidency but his life…”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said it not once, but twice during an interview with MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson on Tuesday. He said Puerto Rico is “that country” — when in fact it’s a proud part of the United States.
Gidley later called the mistake a “slip of the tongue.” But as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake tweeted, it is “not difficult to see a deliberately provocative effort to other-ize Puerto Rico,” between Gidley’s dismissive remarks and Trump’s claims that Puerto Rican officials “only take from USA.”
How Ortagus has changed
Former Fox News contributor Morgan Ortagus blasted Trump as “disgusting” and “not serious” back in 2016. Now she may become the next State Department spokesperson. Zachary Cohen and Andrew Kaczynski reviewed her resume and past TV appearances for this CNN.com story… They say “officials have been preparing paperwork and examining Ortagus’ background for weeks and sources close to her say she is in good standing with the President, but there is lingering uncertainty around whether Trump is fully aware of the blistering attacks Ortagus levied against him during the campaign.”
– Context: Ortagus is in line to replace Heather Nauert, who hasn’t been visibly working for months, but who has remained on the payroll. As of Tuesday, she no longer works for the State Dept, per CNN’s Michelle Kosinski…
Fox News CEO speaks
Variety’s Brian Steinberg landed the first in-depth interview with Suzanne Scott since last May, when she was appointed CEO of Fox News. Key quotes:
– What she’s doing differently: “There wasn’t much communication with the staff under Roger Ailes…”
– What she’s not doing differently: “Our audience is deeply connected to our primetime shows. We are the only ones with conservative talent in primetime. We believe in free speech. We fully support our primetime talent, and we’re not going to let the voices of the few impact our business.”
– Per Steinberg, “she says 85% of people who take a one-week free trial” of Fox Nation “are electing to stay on board…”
Meantime, Fox’s prime time ad problems continue…
Tom Kludt emails: Monday’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” reflected Fox’s new normal, with only 16 ads — including a pair of two-minute spots from MyPillow — running throughout the hour-long broadcast. It’s been this way for a while now. Before Carlson’s racist remarks about immigrants making America “dirtier” in December, the show averaged around 36 ads a broadcast. Months later, those advertisers have not returned. Maybe that’s because subsequent controversies have kept the heat on Carlson. Read on…
Fox still says the advertisers will return
Fox News president of ad sales Marianne Gambelli responded to Kludt’s story by saying, “As the top-rated network in every region of the country since the 2016 election, Fox News viewers are a buying audience, consuming products across all major index categories. Our sponsors know the value of that audience which is not only unduplicated, but also highly affluent and educated.”
Separately, she told Variety that the advertisers who have bailed on prime time “say they are going to pause, with the intent to return.” So far, there are few signs of returnees. Fox News is not able to fully capitalize on its big ratings victories…
Baier’s tweet to Pirro raises eyebrows
Oliver Darcy emails: Fox anchor Bret Baier raised eyebrows on Tuesday afternoon — including among some at Fox — when he tweeted out a “congrats” to Jeanine Pirro for “a big Saturday ratings win.” Baier’s tweet was striking, not only because he is one of the face’s of Fox’s hard news division, which often is seen at odds with the opinion programming, but because it was a “Special Report” producer’s rebuke of Pirro’s Islamophobic remarks that went viral last month. At the time, the producer, Hufsa Kamal asked Pirro to “stop spreading this false narrative that somehow Muslims hate America” because “you have Muslims working at the same network you do.”
YouTube’s harmful recommendation engine
Tuesday’s top must-read is this nearly 4,000 word story by Bloomberg’s Mark Bergen about the very real ways YouTube’s algorithms hurt people.
The headline: “YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant.” Bergen spoke with current and former staffers who said thatproposals to change the recommendation engine and curb conspiracy videos “were sacrificed for engagement.”
→ YouTube’s response: “Our primary focus has been tackling some of the platform’s toughest content challenges… Responsibility remains our number one priority…”
200,000 subscribers for News+ so far
Edmund Lee’s in-depth look at Apple News contains this news: “More than 200,000 people subscribed to Apple News Plus in its first 48 hours — more than Texture had amassed at its peak, according to two people…” And his story has lots more info here…
– More: Vice’s David Uberti tweeted that 200,000 subscribers “sounds like a big number. It’s also $12 million/year split between 300 publishers…”
Matt Kaminski named EIC of Politico
Oliver Darcy emails: After 12 years, Politico is getting a new editor-in-chief. Publisher Robert Allbritton emailed staff on Tuesday to announce that Matt Kaminski will be taking the reins from John Harris, starting on Monday. Allbritton described Kaminski as a “leader with tireless ambition and creativity” who will work with US newsroom editor Carrie Budoff Brown to “create impact and drive growth across a competitive landscape in media that continues to rapidly change.”
Allbritton said Harris will “step aside from managerial duties and move into a governance role,” joining the corporate board that oversees Politico. Harris, Allbritton wrote, had “long made clear” that he wanted to return to reporting. “Over the last two years, it became evident during our conversations that he was thinking seriously about a transition,” Allbritton explained in his memo. “His final assignment as editor in chief was to ensure that our newsroom was led by a team in whom I have trust, and who are ready to write a new chapter of their own for Politico.”
Politico poaches Natasha Bertrand
Darcy sends one more nugget of Politico news: The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand is joining the publication as a national security correspondent. “We thought she would be a perfect fit here: she is a scoop-driven, high-metabolism reporter with the ability to quickly break news as well as turn big, important stories and deliver sharp analysis,” Paul Volpe wrote in an internal memo. Bertrand will continue her role as an MSNBC contributor…