WashPost’s scoop; Trump officials overheard yelling; sourcing questions; right wing reactions; O’Donnell update; upfront news; remembering Brad Grey


By Brian Stelter and the CNNMoney Media team. View this email in your browser!
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Trump and the Russians

Is there a transcript? Is there a tape?

That’s what I’m wondering after all of Monday’s news coverage. Amid all the faux denials and attempts by Trump allies to distract from the WashPost’s blockbuster story… Is there a tape of the Oval Office meeting? Or a transcript?

How it happened

5:02pm: The Washington Post reports that “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian diplomats in their Oval Office meeting last week.”

5:28pm: “Applause in the newsroom,” Glenn Kessler tweets, as the story broke a record for most readers per second. The prior record-holder? David Fahrenthold’s story about the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Bigger than the “Access Hollywood” story. 

By 6:30, the NYT had confirmed the thrust of the Post story and BuzzFeed had quoted a source saying “it’s far worse than what has already been reported.” Reuters, CNN, WSJ and other outlets have also confirmed the main points…

This is a moment when credibility counts.

Both for news outlets and for the White House. And right now White House credibility is in short supply.

“The administration denied something the article didn’t report”

…That quote is from Vox. After H.R. McMaster appeared briefly in front of TV cameras to issue a non-denial denial, many reporters pointed out that he was denying something the Post didn’t report. WashPost’s Greg Miller, who co-bylined the scoop, was on CNN at the same time, and he immediately said the White House was playing “word games…”

 >> WashPost exec editor Marty Baron in a Monday night email to me: “Our only statement is that we stand by the story 100%.”

“Dangerously reckless”

While all this was happening, I was at the 92Y in NYC on Monday night, moderating a panel discussion with Harold Evans, Nancy Gibbs and Dan Rather, so I brought up this latest news right away… remarking that Gibbs is going to have a busy couple of days closing this week’s issue of Time.

When I asked Rather if Trump is “competent to be president,” he politely refrained from answering, but he called the behavior described by the WashPost “dangerously reckless.” Evans, whose new book is “Do I Make Myself Clear?,” asked the key question: “How do we get the Trump voter to believe it?”

Here’s a related question…

Why should readers believe these anonymous sources?

I asked this on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” in connection to the James Comey firing, and I think the question takes on even more importance now. Knowing that so many readers reflexively distrust the “media,” we need to give them reasons to trust… justifications for anonymity… explanations about why these sources have to be anonymous…

Pour one out for the Trump comms team…

This story is told in three tweets from BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo

7:24: “Per @TreyYingst, Bannon, Mike Dubke, Sarah Sanders and Spicer walked into cabinet room just now. They did not look happy.”

7:25: “Can now hear yelling coming from room where officials are.”

7:31: “WH comms staffers just put the TVs on super loud after we could hear yelling coming from room w/ Bannon, Spicer, Sanders”

Tuesday’s press briefing…

Spicer and McMaster are both scheduled to take Q’s at a 1:30pm press briefing…

Also Tuesday: Sally Yates speaks

Anderson Cooper taped an in-depth interview with Sally Yates on Monday… the exclusive TV interview will air on Tuesday night’s “AC360…”

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza also interviewed Yates on Monday, and he’ll be publishing highlights on Tuesday too…

Quote of the day
Closed-door emergency meetings. Hallways packed with reporters. Statements rushed out, but few questions answered. It’s become a familiar scenario in the crisis-prone Trump White House, where big news breaks fast and the aides paid to respond seem perpetually caught off-guard…

–AP’s Jill Colvin and Catherine Lucey in this reporters notebook…

What pro-Trump media types are saying about the Post scoop

Oliver Darcy emails with his latest story: Trump’s allies in conservative media are moving to dismiss or ignore the bombshell report. Sean Hannity called it “fake news” and other hosts downplayed the story. The Fox News website buried the story low on the homepage. When I showed Fox’s online coverage to a longtime employee of the network, the person reacted in shock: “Wowza.”

Other facets of the pro-Trump media were more aggressively combatting the story. “DEEP STATE STRIKES,” blared a Breitbart headline. “MORE LEAKS SMEAR PRESIDENT,” declared the Drudge Report banner…

{Laughing out loud at Hannity’s latest suggestion}

Oliver Darcy emails: Hannity said on his program Monday night that he would like to see W.H. press briefings “restructured.” He said questions should be limited to topics the administration selects ahead of time and that reporters should be required to presubmit their questions. Here’s the video…

 — Q: How do Fox’s real reporters feel about this prime time host advocating restrictions on the media?

Trump simply overwhelmed?

Brian Lowry emails: Bret Stephensweekend column compared Trump to Claude Rains’ bumbling Nazi operator in the Hitchcock classic “Notorious,” quoting the character’s mother telling him, “We are protected by the enormity of your stupidity — for a time.” The latest story seems tailored to that mentality among Trump’s critics, casting him more than anything as inept and overwhelmed…

“NBC Nightly News” under-played the story

Not a pretty day over at the “NBC Nightly News.” From an emailer: “NBC did not mention the WashPost story in their headlines. Instead did it as a tag to their long Comey story. Sad.”

Top media tweets

 — Karen Tumulty‏: “I bet it’s a three-scoop night in the White House.”

 — Matthew Yglesias: “It’s not a real Trump news cycle until someone finds a retired electrician in Altoona who doesn’t care…”

 — Caitlin Kelly: “the funniest thing about all this is it’s monday”

Remember, American news media were kept out of that meeting with Russian diplomats… 

Politico’s Tim Alberta tweets: “Consider that every outlet covering this story is using the same Russian-state-run media photo b/c American photographers weren’t allowed in”

Maddow says “hyperbole is dead”

This is quite the graphic from Rachel Maddow‘s show, rattling off “ongoing investigations…”

MSNBC prime time won last week in the 25-54 demo

MSNBC averaged 590,000 viewers in the demo during prime time, Fox News averaged 524,000 and CNN’s 464,000. According to the network, “this is the first weekly win for MSNBC in 25-54 since the week of December 29, 2008,” i.e. the first week of 2009, when Barack Obama was about to be inaugurated. The Comey firing was the accelerant…

Rachel Maddow continues to be MSNBC’s biggest prime time show by far, giving Lawrence O’Donnell a big boost at 10pm…

Why is MSNBC treating Lawrence O’Donnell so shabbily?

Yashar Ali reported on Sunday that Lawrence O’Donnell‘s contract is set to expire in four weeks, and “MSNBC has not been in contact with O’Donnell’s team of representatives to negotiate a new deal.” There’s been some pushback from the MSNBC side, saying contract talks are underway. But at the moment it seems quite possible that O’Donnell and “The Last Word” will be leaving MSNBC in four weeks. On Monday night, Ari Melber was in for O’Donnell… a spokesman said it was a previously planned day off, and O’Donnell would be back on Tuesday…

But I’m left wondering: Who let it get to this point? How did it get to this point, a messy public drama between a prime time host and his bosses? Normally this stuff happens in private, with rare exceptions like Megyn Kelly

For the record, part one
 — Until the WashPost story hit, I was going to lead the newsletter with this story by Politico’s Shane Goldmacher: “How Trump gets his fake news”

 — Watch: A mom tells Jake Tapper that “she wants an apology from Fox News for mocking her son…”

Jillian Mele is the new news anchor on “Fox & Friends…” her predecessor Heather Nauert recently started work as the State Department’s top spokesperson…

“The fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year”

CNN’s Sarah Faidell writes: “Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, who reported extensively on drug trafficking, was killed on Monday in Sinaloa, officials said. He is the fifth journalist to be killed in Mexico this year…

Tronc wants to buy the Chicago Sun-Times, but…

CNNMoney’s Julia Horowitz writes: Chicago’s media scene could get a lot smaller — so long as the Justice Department approves. Wrapports, the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times, is looking for a buyer that will keep publishing the daily newspaper. The owner of the Chicago Tribune, tronc, has stepped up to the plate, both companies announced Monday.

But it’s not a done deal yet. Since they kicked off discussions, tronc and Wrapports have been in touch with the Justice Department. The antitrust division asked Wrapports to post an advertisement announcing that its assets are for sale, giving other potential buyers 15 days to come forward. Even then, the Justice Department could oppose the deal. It announced Monday that it’s investigating the possible acquisition and will “closely monitor the sale process…” Read more…

The Atlantic’s next cover story

The Atlantic will be publishing its next cover story on Tuesday morning. This one, “MY FAMILY’S SLAVE,” is newsworthy for several reasons — one of them being that the Pulitzer Prize winning author of the piece, Alex Tizon, died at the end of March…

A.G. Sulzberger overseeing NYT’s opinion section

Dylan Byers reports: The NYT announced Monday that A.G. Sulzberger will take over the paper’s opinion section from Arthur Sulzberger Jr., his father and the paper’s publisher. It’s a step toward A.G. taking over the paper…
For the record, part two
By Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman:

— According to THR’s anonymous sources, Bob Iger says hackers claim to have gotten ahold of a Disney movie that they are threatening to release unless the company pays a ransom… Disney is apparently refusing to pay and is working with federal investigators on the case…

— Fascinating CJR read about the fall of Bill O’Reilly: Yardena Schwartz delves into how Emily Steel and Wendy Walsh developed a relationship, and how Steel ultimately convinced Walsh to go on the record with her accusations of sexual harassment against O’Reilly…

 — Via NiemanLab: Vox and ProPublica are “teaming up on video production…”

 — NYT has poached BuzzFeed’s Sheera Frenkel to cover cybersecurity…

TV UPFRONT WEEK

Lowry’s recap of NBC’s upfront 

Brian Lowry emails: Again this year NBCUniversal’s upfront was less of a programming presentation than a broader attempt to demonstrate the overwhelming power of its portfolio, trotting out a dizzying array of channels and assets. New NBC series were previewed, but Bob Greenblatt didn’t appear on stage – which might be a first – while there was plenty of time for talent like the Kardashians, Universal’s animated “Minions,” new NBC News star Megyn Kelly, and of course the cast of “This is Us,” now the centerpiece of NBC’s Thursday lineup. There was also a modest contradiction in the network’s talking points, which pushed the value of TV over digital media – its sales chief noted that TV “reaches real people,” not just “views” – while simultaneously touting NBC’s investment in digital properties like Buzzfeed and Vox…

Megyn Kelly takes the stage

Frank Pallotta emails: At NBC’s upfront, Megyn Kelly made her first public appearance as an NBC employee… Kelly confirmed that her Sunday newsmag will air at 7pm in June and her morning show will air at 9am starting in the fall… Details here…

Fox’s first Marvel series

Sandra Gonzalez emails: There was a lot of excitement around the first trailer for “The Gifted,” which is Fox’s first Marvel series. The pilot was by Bryan Singer. Here’s the math Fox is hoping works out with this one: *Family x [Marvel + powers] / the government being shady = hit (*Hat-tip, “This Is Us”) Here’s the trailer on YouTube…

#1 message: TV-versus-digital

Brian Lowry writes: Much like NBC, Fox delivered a TV-versus-digital pitch, indicating the networks clearly see themselves in a skirmish to keep ad dollars from slipping away to that medium. Among other things, new ad chief Joe Marchese said the shift of high-quality shows to platforms that don’t carry advertising (Netflix, HBO, etc.) “should be terrifying to everybody in our industry,” singling out FX as an ad-supported haven for Emmy-worthy fare.

The most uncomfortable moment, meanwhile, came courtesy of “Family Guy’s” Seth MacFarlane, who introduced Fox execs Dana Walden and Gary Newman as “the only two people at Fox not being sued…”

ESPN’s revamp to “SportsCenter”

Ahead of Tuesday morning’s upfront, ESPN announced a batch of anchor contract renewals and changes to its “SportsCenter” brand. Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts, who was given a first look, says “there are two themes to the changes: making SportsCenter more digital, and shifting anchor assignments to make every SportsCenter slot even more tied to the personality of the host…”

ABC touting “Idol” on Tuesday

Sandra Gonzalez emails: It’s going to be all about “Idol” at ABC‘s Tuesday afternoon upfront, but the biggest uphill battle will be defending the show’s quick return…

 — Related: Ahead of the Tuesday afternoon upfront, ABC’s reality chief Robert Mills spoke with THR’s Michael O’ConnellHe said “there has been some very early reaching out” about Ryan Seacrest hosting the new iteration of the show… “He really wants to be as good as he was on it before, while now giving his all to Kelly & Ryan. I think he can do both; he thinks he can do both, but he’s giving it some serious thought.” I’ll take that as a yes!

Last but not least… some laughs

Three of Seth Meyers‘ jokes at the NBC stage show:

 — “‘Law and Order: SVU’ is having a big year — it got elected president.”
 — “The upfronts have been post-truth from the beginning!”
 — “Based on what is promised and what delivered, this week is the definition of fake news…”

Brad Grey, 1957-2017 

The NYT’s Brooks Barnes writes:Brad Grey, who rose from blue-collar roots in New York to the pinnacle of Hollywood, where he was the chairman of Paramount Pictures for a dozen years and played a pivotal role in the creation of seminal television hits like ‘The Sopranos,’ died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 59.” 

The cause was cancer. Hollywood was shocked by the news of Grey’s death on Monday morning. As Brooks says, “most people were awaiting word of his next professional chapter.” People were generally “unaware of his illness,” Sandra Gonzalez and Brian Lowry write…

For the record, part three
 — Chloe Melas emails: Nicki Minaj paid off thousands in fans’ student loans, and I had a chance to speak with one of the lucky college kids, check it out here!

 — Lisa France emails: “Last Man Standing” was doing well in the ratings, but ABC still canceled the comedy. Some conservatives believe it’s because of star Tim Allen‘s politics and support of Trump. There’s a movement afoot to bring the show back…

 — More from Lisa: The new “Law & Order” is based on the Menendez case, and based on the trailer, it looks to be pretty bloody…

“Reliable Sources” highlights

Republican voices few and far between

Quoting Jeffrey Toobin from Sunday’s “Reliable Sources:” “What is striking is that notwithstanding how obviously inappropriate this firing was, you have close to complete silence — or support — from” GOP leaders…

On “Reliable” and other shows, several guests suggested that some prominent Republicans are concerned about the president’s conduct… but are only talking about it privately, not publicly…

Carl Bernstein says “I think this is a potentially more dangerous situation than Watergate”

Jackie Wattles recapping “Reliable:”Carl Bernstein says the Trump administration could put the U.S. in a ‘more dangerous’ situation than the Watergate scandal did during President Richard Nixon‘s tenure.”

While this moment is “very different than Watergate,” he said, there are similarities. For instance: “The president of the United States seems to be doing everything in his power to keep us from knowing the facts.” 

At the same time, “fewer and fewer people are interested in the best obtainable version of the truth, but rather look for information on both sides to buttress what they already believe…”

Notable quotes

 — Jeffrey Toobin told me he stands by his Tuesday assertion that Comey’s dismissal was a “grotesque abuse of power…”

 — Time magazine’s Michael Scherer, who just interviewed Trump, said he consumes his own presidency “very much as a television show…”

 — John Farrell, author of the new biography “Richard Nixon: The Life,” talked about fair and unfair comparisons between Trump and Nixon…

Zurawik’s take on “SNL”

On Sunday’s “Reliable,” Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik said “SNL” is “brilliantly satirizing” an “administration that pumps disinformation…”
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