Spicer and McCarthy; tale of two Foxes; Trump threatens to cancel briefings; new Sinclair story; Sulzberger’s message; Sunday’s guest list


By Brian Stelter and the CNNMoney Media team. View this email in your browser!
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Is Trump the only person speaking for Trump right now? 

This is the low point of the Trump presidency to date. And President Trump does not have many admin officials or Republican lawmakers publicly defending him. I’m left wondering: will we see more angry tweets from POTUS this weekend?

At the moment, the White House doesn’t seem to be providing any spokespeople for the Sunday shows. “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace saId Friday morning: “We can’t even reach anybody” at the White House — “they’re not available, they’re not answering the phone.”

But Trump will be representing himself this weekend… through an interview with one of his biggest fans at Fox, Jeanine Pirro… clips were released on Friday, and the interview will air Saturday night…

“Very LOUD silence” from Republicans 

When I called around on Friday, sources at several networks confirmed that it’s rather difficult to book pro-Trump voices right now. Some prominent GOPers are dodging interviews. “From Republicans tonight, a very LOUD silence,” Erin Burnett said on CNN. “House Republicans on recess this week are facing angry voters demanding an independent investigation,” Katy Tur said on MSNBC…

Fox exec asks: “Does Trump want to be president?”

While aides and Capitol Hill allies are staying off the air, Trump’s conservative media cheerleaders are sticking with him, telling him (through the TV) that he’s a victim. That’s why these comments from Fox Newsers were notable on Friday:

 — Fox’s digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt wrote a column telling Trump’s biggest fans that “this is deadly serious stuff,” so “what Trump badly needs now is straight talk and honest appraisal from his advisers and supporters…”

 — Anchor Chris Wallace said on Shep Smith’s 3pm show that Trump’s behavior this week is “very troubling…”

 — Executive editor John Moody asked in a Foxnews.com column: “Does Donald Trump want to be president?”

Once again, a tale of two Foxes

I’ve said before that Fox News is really two channels in one — the actual “Fox News” side, and then the much higher-rated “Fox Opinion” side. Granted, Fox blurs those lines quite a bit. (Witness Bill Hemmer filling in for Tucker Carlson on Friday night.) But the distinction has been apparent this week, with the channel’s journalists covering a White House in crisis and the channel’s commentators dismissing the crisis as an episode of liberal media hysteria…
QUOTE OF THE DAY…

“The president has nothing further to add”

Sean Spicer‘s sound bite answer to Jeff Mason‘s Q’s about Trump’s tweets — “nothing further to add” — is simply NOT tenable. The Q’s will continue to pile up, particularly about the possibility of an Oval Office taping system…

Friday, a/k/a the day Trump threatened Comey in a tweetstorm

Anderson Cooper‘s intro on “AC360:”

“So what would you call a day in which the POTUS issues a thinly veiled threat against the man he just fired — while that man was investigating him for possible improper Russia ties? What would you call a day in which he denies that he demanded a loyalty pledge of him, refuses to deny he secretly records conversations in the Oval Office, and then hints that maybe all those pesky daily press briefings should simply disappear? What would you a call a day like that? Around here, we call it Friday…

Tweet of the day

Luke Russert: “Let’s be honest—wouldn’t Trump be THE guy who would want to sell secret Oval Office tapes for a TV special post presidency?”

On Monday, I could not have imagined these Friday headlines…

 — A must-read from The Atlantic’s James Fallows: “Five Reasons Why the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate”

 — WashPost: “Trump’s own words add fuel to questions about the legality of firing Comey

–ABC: “Comey furious at lack of respect White House showed, sources say”

 — An opinion piece by the NYT’s Timothy Egan: “Who Will Save the Republic?”

MSNBC #1 in the demo on Thursday night

MSNBC had another huge night on Thursday… the cable newser was lifted by Lester Holt‘s interview on sister network NBC and by Rachel Maddow‘s dominant performance at 9pm… but it was more than just Maddow, since Chris Matthews and Chris Hayes and Lawrence O’Donnell posted big #’s too.

THR’s Michael O’Connell writes: “At the risk of sounding dramatic, such across-the-board MSNBC advantages over Fox News Channel and CNN are in the realm of unprecedented…”

Two podiums

Melissa McCarthy was chosen to host this weekend’s “SNL” months ago, as I noted on “Erin Burnett OutFront” Friday night. But it’s perfectly timed from a comedic POV. With the White House’s credibility crisis intensifying, McCarthy’s commentary will have even more impact… 

“Spicey” outside CNN NYC

On Friday morning a bunch of us heading to work at CNN saw an “SNL” crew on 58th Street, right across from the Time Warner lobby, taping a scene with McCarthy-as-Spicer. The character zipped down the street with a motorized White House podium… Details here…

“The most delicious surprise” of the season

Frank Pallotta’s latest: While Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon have defined this season of “SNL,” McCarthy’s Spicer is its most unexpected star…

“It’s been a true blessing for ‘SNL’ when Alec stepped up to the plate, hitting all his home runs as Trump. But Melissa’s impersonation of Spicer has to be the most delicious surprise,” James Andrew Miller told Frank…

HOW SERIOUS IS THIS?

Trump talking about scrapping daily briefings

First Trump suggested cancelling the daily briefings, and then he repeated it in his interview with Jeanine Pirro:

PIRRO: Are you moving so quickly that your communications department can’t keep up with you?
TRUMP: Yes, that’s true.
PIRRO: So what do we do about that?
TRUMP: We don’t have press conferences. And we do…
PIRRO: You don’t mean that.
TRUMP: We just don’t have them. Unless I have them every two weeks and do it myself. We don’t have them. I think it’s a good idea. First of all you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair…

Dylan’s reality check

Dylan Byers emails: The president’s threat is almost certainly an empty one. He might like the sound of it, but his advisers and his communication team know it would create a nightmare for them. It would jettison whatever sliver of good faith still exists between the press corps and this White House…

Is Sean Spicer on thin ice?

Trump told Pirro that Spicer is “doing a good job,” but when she asked “will he be there tomorrow?,” Trump merely said “he’s been there since the beginning…” 

 — Dylan emails: Trump is likely playing games with Spicer too. Based on my conversations with the White House, there are no real plans to end his tenure now. But the fact that Trump would rather leave his public support for Spicer ambiguous than back him 100% should probably give Spicer cause to doubt the president’s loyalty…

Quote of the day
“I don’t think there’s a ‘crisis of credibility.’ I think it’s shot. And I don’t know how they get it back.”

–Former Pentagon spokesman John Kirby to Wolf Blitzer on CNN…

What Trump perceives: a “false narrative”

During Friday’s briefing, Spicer said Trump is “growingly concerned that there is this perpetuated false narrative out there.” A false narrative about Russia. “That’s, I think, the nut of this.”

My response to Brooke Baldwin on CNN after the briefing: These investigations aren’t going to go away just because the president can change the channel…

MEANWHILE, THE LEAKS CONTINUE…

“Why the Trump White House is So Leaky”

That’s the headline on Jonah Goldberg‘s latest column. “I think the problem ultimately goes back to the president himself,” Goldberg writes. “He thrives on drama, particularly drama he creates…”

Drudge sees more “sabotage”

Matt Drudge tweets: “More damaging White House leaks tonight as a senior ‘advisor’ continues to sabotage the boss.” Drudge linked to this Daily Beast story…

Sinclair story on the front page of Saturday’s NYT

TV Titan Requires Its Stations to Air Segments That Roil Its Staff” check out Sydney Ember’s story here…

This Sunday on “Reliable Sources”

Guest list: Jeffrey Toobin, who called Comey’s firing a “grotesque abuse of power” on Tuesday… Olivia Nuzzi, who said Friday that “Spicer is not fulfilling his duty as a public servant…” Michael Scherer, who interviewed Trump this week…

Plus David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, David Zurawik… Nixon biographer John Farrell… And Dan Heyman, the reporter who was arrested in WV this week… Set your DVR/alarm clock for 11am ET Sunday…

For the record, part one
By Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman:

 — Mother Jones wants to raise half a million dollars to cover the Russia story even more closely… Details here…

 — CJR’s Alex Schmidt says focusing on digital habits could help publishers stand up to Facebook…

 — Related: Emily Bell writing for CJR about local news and its complicated relationship with Facebook…

 — CNBC reports that Spotify may do a direct listing (rather than an IPO) on NYSE when it goes public in early 2018…

 — Every second counts! Digiday’s Ross Benes with a story about how HuffPost reduced page-load time by 8 seconds on its app…

NYT publisher “sends personal appeal to those who canceled over Bret Stephens”

Fascinating: Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. is making a personal appeal to subscribers who canceled because the paper hired Bret Stephens,” Politico’s Hadas Gold reports.

Here’s what Sulzberger says in the email…

O’Reilly: “This was a hit”

Oliver Darcy’s latest: In his first post-Fox interview, Bill O’Reilly told Glenn Beck that some members of the media are “vicious and evil,” and he promised an “exposition” to reveal supposed untold details about his unexpected ouster.

“This was a hit, and in the weeks to come we are going to be able to explain some of it,” O’Reilly said… Read more here…

For the record, part two
 — Bloomberg’s latest: 21st Century Fox “is prepared to make concessions to U.K. regulators” to win approval for its Sky bid…

 — Roger Clark deserves a shoutout here… he made a backwards shot from half court at Madison Square Garden this morning, live on NY1my better half Jamie was on the air with him, and was gobsmacked… Video here…

The entertainment desk

Two live events in the works at Fox 

Sandra Gonzalez sends along one of Friday’s pre-upfront announcements: Fox is partnering with Warner Horizon for a live musical production of “A Christmas Story.” The three-hour special will air this December.

And that’s not all… Later in the day, Fox also announced it will be doing a live production of “Rent,” air date TBD…

Upfronts up the ante on hyperbole

Brian Lowry emails: Having covered more TV upfront seasons than I care to remember (or acknowledge), I have been struck by some of the verbiage in regard to the coverage. Every year the networks cancel shows to clear the decks for new ones, and if anything, they’ve been more conservative in recent years about casting aside existing series because of the difficulty launching and marketing new ones. Yet tweets from the trades have repeatedly referred to the cancellation ax as a “bloodbath” — a pretty overt bit of clickbait-ery. This is, admittedly, the world we live in now, but it still qualifies as the kind of hyperventilating news that borders on misleading, and doesn’t — perhaps especially in this journalistic moment — do much to bolster our collective credibility…

“King Arthur” looking like a bomb…

“Well, it looks like summer 2017 has its first official flop,” Variety’s Brent Lang writes.Warner Bros.’ ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,’ Guy Ritchie’s attempt to make the Knights of the Round Table hip again, is collapsing at the box office. Based on its Thursday pre-shows and Friday afternoon mid-day grosses, the $175 million epic is looking at a disastrous $18 million debut. Those projections come from rival studios. Insiders at Warner Bros. think the film could still exceed $20 million, but even if it does, that’s still a very weak start for such an expensive picture…”

Now streaming: “Master of None” season two

Sandra Gonzalez emails: “Master of None” season two is now streaming on Netflix! Here’s part of my mostly spoiler-free chat with executive producer Alan Yang. More to come next week after everyone gets a chance to binge…

Lowry reviews “Mommy Dead and Dearest”

Brian Lowry emails: The scheduling adjacent to Mother’s Day isn’t ideal, but Erin Lee Carr’s HBO documentary “Mommy Dead and Dearest” – about the strange case of mother-daughter Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard – is as riveting as it is unsettling. Read Lowry’s full review here…
For the record, part three
 — Chloe Melas emails: Will Ferrell delivered the USC 2017 commencement address on Friday… and it was epic. He even broke out into song. Check it out here…

 — Harry Styles‘ debut solo album is finally here… and Chloe says he sounds lonely…

 — One more from Chloe: “House of Cards” stars Neve Campbell and Michael Kelly say there’s no way their upcoming season can out “crazy” Trump…

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