Media Buzz

FBI Probe Looking Into Far-Right Websites

“Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid,” McClatchy reports.

“Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said.”

“Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”

Sean Hannity Once Pulled a Gun on Juan Williams

CNN: “Last year, after ending one of his many spirited on-air arguments with liberal contributor Juan Williams, Hannity pulled out a gun and pointed it directly at Williams, according to three sources with knowledge of the incident. He even turned on the laser sight, causing a red dot to bob around on Williams’ body. (Hannity was just showing off, the sources said, but the unforeseen off-camera antic clearly disturbed Williams and others on set.)”

“For the record: Hannity’s colleagues brought the Williams incident to the attention of Fox News executives, though it’s not clear whether anything came of it. The sources said it went to Bill Shine, the longtime Fox News executive who handles sensitive personnel issues at the network, who is Hannity’s longtime friend and a former producer. Shine now serves as the network’s co-president.”

Liberal TV Shows Rise In Viewership

New York Times: “Left-leaning MSNBC, after flailing at the end of the Obama years, has edged CNN in prime time. Stephen Colbert’s openly anti-Trump ‘Late Show’ is beating Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight’ for the first time. Bill Maher’s HBO flock has grown nearly 50 percent since last year’s presidential primaries, and ‘The Daily Show’ has registered its best ratings since Jon Stewart left in 2015.”

The Russia Story Is a Minefield for the Media

Matt Taibbi: “If there’s any truth to the notion that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian state to disrupt the electoral process, then yes, what we’re seeing now are the early outlines of a Watergate-style scandal that could topple a presidency.”

“But it could also be true that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.”

“We have to remember that the unpopularity of the press was a key to Trump’s election. Journalists helped solve the billionaire’s accessibility problem by being a more hated group than the arrogant rich. Trump has people believing he shares a common enemy with them: the news media. When we do badly, he does well.”

“We can’t afford to bolster these accusations of establishment bias and overreach by using the techniques of conspiracy theorists to push this Russia story. Unfortunately, that is happening… Reporters should be scared to their marrow by this story. This is a high-wire act and it is a very long way down.”

How Trump Lies to Undermine the News Media

Andrew Sullivan: “And he lied, of course. And I don’t mean in the speech itself. He lied directly to the faces of the media muckety-mucks that afternoon, telling them that he was going to embrace some kind of immigration reform. For a few hours, much of the press duly reported this — until they heard the speech itself, which did no such thing. The lie, we were told, was a ‘misdirection,’ in order to get some favorable coverage from the media that afternoon.”

“But think about that for a minute. This wasn’t a trial balloon, delivered by some anonymous sources to see the impact of a potential policy. This wasn’t even a defensible fib, for national-security reasons. It was an outright lie from the president himself in order to delegitimize the press. If the New York Times or the evening news reports something completely untrue — indeed refuted just a few hours later — what happens to their credibility? Bannon is not kidding when he describes the free press as the opposition. For shameless demagogues, it always is. And this creepily authoritarian administration will happily lie to its face.”

Trump Goes Off the Record After Complaining About It

“Donald Trump on Friday railed against the media’s use of anonymous sources in stories. Four days later, he was one,” BuzzFeed reports.

“In a private meeting with national news anchors ahead of his address to Congress Tuesday night, Trump went on background with reporters as a ‘senior administration official’ to discuss issues like immigration, telling attendees that it was time for a legislative compromise from both parties.”

Quote of the Day

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We needed the media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.”

— Former President George W. Bush, in an interview on the Today Show.

Trump Won’t Attend WHCA Dinner

President Trump announced that he will not be attending this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, a break with past presidents, The Hill reports.

“Many have speculated that Trump’s appearance at the 2011 dinner fueled his desire to enter the political arena.”

Hollywood Reporter: “Following president Trump’s announcement… users on social media began suggesting actor Alec Baldwin take his place at the event.”

Top Trump Donors Are Part Owners of Breitbart

Breitbart News CEO Larry Solov acknowledged “that the Mercer family — top Republican donors and key backers of President Trump’s campaign — are part owners of the controversial news site,” USA Today reports.

“The ownership of Breitbart has been a closely guarded secret, and Solov said he was reluctant to disclose it publicly. Breitbart is applying for press credentials through the Senate Daily Press Gallery, and the Standing Committee of Correspondents that serve as the gallery leadership had requested information about the site’s ownership to ensure Breitbart meets the gallery’s requirements for editorial independence.”