EXEC SUMMARY: Hello Reliable family! This is Oliver Darcy, filling in for Brian Stelter. I would love to hear from you, so send me feedback/tips via email or connect with me on Twitter.
Scroll down for Mike Pompeo's interesting advice to journalists, the anatomy of President Trump's smear against Ilhan Omar, Pete Buttigieg's imitation of the Straight Talk Express, Taylor Swift's interview with Rolling Stone, and more. But first...
Blowing the whistle
Trump's communication with a foreign leader prompted the whistleblower complaint that has led to a face-off between the intel community and Congress, WaPo reported in an explosive story Wednesday night.
Citing two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter, WaPo reported, "Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a 'promise' that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community."
Citing a source familiar with the case, CNN national security reporter Zachary Cohen confirmed that a communication between Trump and a world leader prompted the whistleblower to come forward. The source would not disclose which leader Trump was speaking to...
"I've never heard of anything like this"
In the era of Trump, where everyone has become a bit numb to the news, WaPo's report still managed to shock. "It's astonishing," Ben Rhodes said on MSNBC. "I've never heard anything like this."
Over on CNN, Max Boot said it was "truly off the charts." Boot pointed out, "The fact this was leaked to my colleagues at the Washington Post indicates that somebody is really worried about what is going on and is potentially willing to risk a jail sentence to get the truth out to the American people. That's pretty significant."
Over on Fox...
While both CNN and MSNBC started the 10pm hour covering WaPo's story, Fox decided another story was apparently more important. A chyron on Laura Ingraham's show read, "DEMONIZE MEN & BECOME A HERO TO THE LEFT." A graphic behind her blared, "THE WAR AGAINST MEN." Quite an interesting editorial decision, Laura!
-- Which leader was Trump talking to?
-- What was the "promise"?
-- Will acting DNI Joseph Maguire share details of the whistleblower complaint with lawmakers? So far, he's refused, but he's agreed to testify next week in an open session before Congress...
-- What will Thursday's closed-door House hearing with Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson look like?
Brian Beutler of Crooked Media tweeted what might prove to be prescient: "We're maybe hours from learning the promise Trump made and to which leader, less than 24 from him calling it fake news, two days away from Republicans being 'troubled,' three away from the WH admitting the story is true but Trump was 'joking,' four from the GOP falling into line."
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- TIME's scoop: Justin Trudeau was photographed wearing brown face at a 2001 "Arabian Nights" party. Trudeau has now apologized... (TIME)
-- Fox has re-signed Maria Bartiromo to a new multiyear contract... (Variety)
-- Conservative news aggregator Matt Drudge says "it's Elizabeth Warren's nomination to lose..." (Twitter)
-- Vanity Fair published an adaption of Bob Iger's forthcoming autobiography. In it, Iger writes, "I believe that if Steve [Jobs] were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously..." (Vanity Fair)
-- CNN says nine Democratic presidential candidates will appear for an LGBTQ town hall on October 11, the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day... (CNN)
Zuck dines with senators
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dined with a group of senators in Washington, DC, Wednesday night, a spokesperson for Sen. Mark Warner said. “At Facebook’s request, Senator Warner helped organize a dinner meeting in Washington for Mr. Zuckerberg and a group of Senators," said Rachel Cohen, the Warner spokesperson.
Cohen added, "The participants had a discussion touching on multiple issues, including the role and responsibility of social media platforms in protecting our democracy, and what steps Congress should take to defend our elections, protect consumer data, and encourage competition in the social media space.”
>> Donie O'Sullivan points out: It's Zuck's first trip to Washington since April 2018, when he testified in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. His visit comes six months after he wrote an op-ed where he challenged lawmakers to get their act together on regulating the internet...
IRONY IS NOT DEAD, PART 1
Pompeo's advice for journalists
Speaking to reporters Wednesday off-camera while en route to Saudi Arabia, Mike Pompeo offered up some advice to reporters: When reporting, make sure you label those who regularly lie as liars. Yes, I am not making this up. The exchange was about reporting on the Houthis, but one can imagine the principle should naturally be extrapolated elsewhere.
Here's exactly what Pompeo said: “Whenever you report about them, and you say, ‘The Houthis said,’ you should say ‘The well known frequently lying Houthis have said the following.’ This is important because you ought not report them as if these truth-tellers, as if these are people who aren’t completely under the boot of the Iranians and who would not, at the direction of the Iranians, lay claim to attacks that they did not engage in. Which clearly was the case here. So there you go, whenever you say Houthis, you should begin with, ‘the well-known, frequently known to lie Houthis,’ and then you can write whatever it is they say. And that’d be good reporting (laughter) and I know you care deeply about that good reporting.”
Natural question: Does this recommendation about prominently labeling liars as "liars" apply to any, say, US politicians? 🤔
ON A RELATED NOTE...
87 falsehoods in a single week
CNN's Daniel Dale found that Trump made 87 false claims last week. "That's his record for the 10 weeks I've counted with Tara Subramaniam at CNN," he tweeted. Trump's all-time record for a week, according to Dale's database, is 240 falsehoods, just before the 2018 midterms. Last week the topics included: Iran. Iraq. Afghanistan. China. North Korea. Venezuela. Canada. California. Democrats. Dorian. Wind. Air. An airport. The wall. Polls. Jobs. African Americans. Overdoses. Inflation. Washington Post. Details here...
The anatomy of Trump's Omar smear
Trump just can't resist a good smear against Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar -- even when it's a complete lie. Here's what happened this time, per Dale's fact-check...
1.) A progressive activist, Adam Green, posted a video on September 13th of Omar dancing on that date to the music of Lizzo.
2.) Terrence K. Williams, a conservative commentator and comedian, used the video to claim it showed something it didn't -- he claimed it showed Omar partying on 9/11.
3.) Trump retweeted Williams' smear to his 64 million followers, writing that Omar is the "new face of the Democrats Party!"
"The President of the United States is continuing to spread lies that put my life at risk"
Omar responded to Trump, tweeting, "The President of the United States is continuing to spread lies that put my life at risk." Omar also questioned, "What is Twitter doing to combat the misinformation?"
Short answer: Twitter did nothing. Williams' tweet was later deleted. But a Twitter spokesperson told CNN's Donie O'Sullivan that Williams himself removed it from the platform, and that the company had not taken any action against it. Moreover, while Williams removed his tweet, Trump chose to leave his own tweet up. Perhaps the comedian held himself to a higher standard than POTUS.
"Are Democrats ready?"
Brian Stelter emails: Greg Sargent, a liberal opinion writer for WaPo, cited the lies about Omar and asked, "Are Democrats prepared for the tsunami of shamelessly propagandistic media manipulation and rank disinformation tactics that Trump and his network will unleash during the coming election?" I tried to make a similar point at this Paley Center event about media bias on Tuesday -- I said disinformation is not exclusive to one party, but 2016's made-up stories and foreign meddling messes are going to seem "amateurish" compared to what's coming in 2020 and beyond. Stepped-up media literacy efforts and responsible practices by popular news organizations will be more important than ever...
Trump's next Fox interview
Fox's Ed Henry, who recently returned to work after successfully donating part of his liver to his sister, taped an interview with Trump during Wednesday's visit to a section of border wall in California... The interview will air Thursday morning on "Fox & Friends..."
Lewandowski grilled on CNN over admission he feels "no obligation" to be honest with media
One day after testifying on Capitol Hill, Corey Lewandowski appeared on “New Day” where he was pressed by anchor Alisyn Camerota on a number of topics, including his admission that he feels “no obligation” to be truthful to the press. Camerota admirably grilled Lewandowski, a former CNN commentator, asking, “You only feel the obligation to tell the truth when you’re under oath?”
Lewandowski deflected, choosing to instead attack CNN contributor Andrew McCabe, who the DOJ inspector general has said “lacked candor” as FBI deputy director when speaking with investigators about his interactions with the press. Camerota tried to keep the focus on Lewandowski, but he kept deflecting. “You’re listening with your mouth,” she told him at one point. “Do you lie to the media, yes or no?” Camerota asked. Lewandowski never gave a satisfactory answer.
Critics zing CNN for booking
While Lewandowski was grilled on CNN, the network was still heavily criticized for putting him on air one day after he admitted to feeling “no obligation” to be truthful with the press. The criticism was similar to that the network receives when booking Kellyanne Conway. Why book Trump-world figures who appear uninterested in good faith discussions, but instead mislead or lie, deflect, and attempt to draw blood?
Personally, I happen to be sympathetic to that line of argument. It’s just hard for me to see the value such interviews provide the viewer. That said, I also see the alternative viewpoint, which is that people like Lewandowski and Conway should be challenged.
Meanwhile, on Fox...
These discussions on ethics in journalism are great, but it’s worth remembering also that Fox exists and often operates outside of them. Case in point: Fox anchor Martha MacCallum interviewed Lewandowski and did not even ask him about his admission regarding his conduct with the press during an interview Tuesday night.
That prompted WaPo media critic Erik Wemple to declare that the network has “no pride whatsoever.” Wemple wrote in a Wednesday piece that it was “disgraceful” that MacCallum did not press Lewandowski on the matter. He added, “In this great land of ours, Fox News has every right to abandon journalistic imperatives in favor of preaching Republican talking points and fluffing the pillow of a Trump devotee in a public hearing. They lose, however, the right to gripe about being viewed as a one-sided outlet.”
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- Daniel Drezner writes "a modest defense of ‘The West Wing...’" (WaPo)
-- Andrew Mitchell sat down with NPR's Terry Gross for a candid and reflective interview. Mitchell discussed the preconceptions she has had to fight in her career about women in journalism, her mother not liking how she shouted questions at Ronald Reagan, and her views on Trump's rhetoric against the press... (NPR)
-- "This picture tells you everything you need to know about impeachment..." (NYT)
-- Audrey Gelman: "I’m honored to be on the cover of @Inc’s Female Founders issue and the first visibly pregnant CEO to be on the cover of a business magazine..." (Twitter)
IRONY IS NOT DEAD, PART 2
Sarah Sanders, on Fox, laments opinion in news
A little bit of self-awareness might help Sarah Sanders. Appearing on Fox Business, the former White House press secretary and newly minted Fox contributor complained about how opinion has become intertwined with news reporting. "I think that we have to start taking so much of the opinion out of the news," Sanders said on Fox, apparently unaware the network she was on is one of the guiltiest culprits of the behavior she was describing.
Remember the Straight Talk Express? Buttigieg's campaign is trying something similar
Back in the 2000 election, John McCain opened his campaign bus up to reporters, offering extreme access as he engaged with journalists in between stops. The bus was called the Straight Talk Express and became a symbol of McCain's commitment to providing press access.
Nearly 20 years later, Pete Buttigieg is going to try out the concept. Beginning Saturday, Buttigieg will go on a four-day swing through Iowa in which reporters from national and local outlets will be welcomed on his bus. Everything will be on the record, spokesperson Lis Smith told me. "Like the original Straight Talk Express, it's a pen and pad thing. No stills and no TV cameras because that ruins the whole feel of it," Smith said. "But it's all on the record."
Smith told me McCain's Straight Talk Express is the "holy grail of radical transparency with the media" and that she started discussing doing something similar with Buttigieg back in March. From there, they decided to make it a reality. "For us it underscores Pete's strengths as a candidate," Smith said. "Generally a press staffer's worst nightmare is the thought of their candidate in a bus with a dozen reporters at one time and it being completely on the record. But for Pete, I think it's a show of strength." Smith said the idea could translate to other states as well, such as New Hampshire and South Carolina.
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Apple's head of comms, Steve Dowling, is departing the company. "Marketing head Phil Schiller will take over Dowling's role in the interim, and sources said the company will be considering both internal and external candidates to take over the position..." (Recode)
-- Facebook announced Portal TV on Wednesday, along with two other video chat devices. Casey Newton writes that "Portal TV, if nothing else, is a product that none of those rivals have yet built: a camera for the TV, seamlessly integrated with your network of friends and family..." (The Verge)
-- Instagram warns Buffer and Hootsuite users that their accounts may have been "compromised..." (Business Insider)
-- Speaking of Insta: The platform has tightened rules on posts about diet and cosmetic surgery... (The Guardian)
What is AT&T going to do with DirecTV?
Brian Stelter emails: The WSJ's Shalini Ramachandran and Drew FitzGerald reported Wednesday that AT&T (CNN's owner) "is exploring parting with its DirecTV unit." Key graf: "The telecom giant has considered various options, including a spinoff of DirecTV into a separate public company and a combination of DirecTV’s assets with Dish Network, its satellite-TV rival."
The backdrop, of course, is Elliott Management's pressure campaign. A source familiar with the matter downplayed the notion of a DirecTV-Dish merger, telling me that no discussions are underway between AT&T and Dish because such a deal is not realistic in the current regulatory environment. AT&T CFO John Stephens noted just last week that "that's been tried" in the past and rejected by regulators. Dish chairman Charlie Ergen brought up the same concerns earlier this week.
So if Dish is off the table, is there another interested buyer for DirecTV? That's unclear. My source familiar with the matter declined to say whether there are other options for AT&T's satellite business. The WSJ said that one option is to do nothing — AT&T may "ultimately decide to keep DirecTV in the fold..."
Facebook now wants to put a camera on your TV
Facebook is not shying away from Portal, even amid privacy concerns. "On Wednesday, Facebook announced it would take the concept a step further with Portal TV, a small black camera that can be clipped onto the top of users' TVs or sit below them on a stand -- and it's introducing this product to even more markets worldwide," Samantha Kelly reported for CNN Business.
But, as Kelly noted in her story, despite Facebook marketing Portal as being "private by design," there are some concerns. "Facebook confirmed to CNN Business that it may have contractors listen to recordings of user interactions with Portal TV and its other Portal devices, beginning when the wake word 'Hey Portal' is spoken," Kelly wrote. Yikes...
CNN Digital chief: Facebook and Apple have "let down journalism"
Andrew Morse, EVP & GM of CNN Digital, joined Variety's Andrew Wallenstein on the "Strictly Business" podcast for a wide-ranging conversation on the state of digital media, how Big Tech has impacted the news business, and more. Three of the newsiest quotes:
-- "I don't think we should seed the ground to Facebook or Apple. The stakes are too high. I think they've let down audiences. I think they've let down advertisers. I think they've let down journalism, and no matter how many task forces and how many reporters they hire, it doesn't change the fact that that's not their core business..."
-- "Frankly, I'm not above taking their money. And I'm not above using their platform to try to reach our audiences. They are powerful engagement tools. But it's how can we use them. We shouldn't be Guinea pigs that they use and experiment, and frankly leech off of."
-- "CNN's success in digital has not been driven by Donald Trump."
News outlets also have problems with privacy issues
Speaking of media critiques of Big Tech... Over the last few years, news organizations have ramped up reporting on privacy issues related to large technology companies. But as Carnegie Mellon University's Timothy Libert points out in a NYT opinion piece, "news sites often expose users to the same surveillance programs and data-collection companies they criticize."
Libert makes a good point, one that is sure to surface in the future...
Taylor Swift condemns white supremacists
In a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Taylor Swift condemned white supremacists, calling the ideology "repulsive." In recent years, some white nationalists and supremacists have lauded Swift, even suggesting she is one of them. Swift said she hasn't seen that, "But, like, if that happened, that's just disgusting. There's literally nothing worse than white supremacy...There should be no place for it."
Says she is "really focused" on 2020...
Continuing to speak about politics, Swift said, "I think a lot of people are like me, where they just didn't really know that this could happen." The pop megastar said she is "really focused" on the 2020 election and "how I can help and not hinder." Swift added, "Because I also don't want it to backfire again, because I do feel that the celebrity involvement with Hillary's campaign was used against her in a lot of ways."
When Swift was asked more bluntly if she regretted not getting involved in 2016, something she has been criticized heavily for, Swift responded, "Totally." Read the full interview here...
Who will win "Law & Order" streaming rights?
THR's Lesley Goldberg with the scoop on Wednesday: Dick Wolf and "executives at Comcast, his home of nearly three decades, are in early discussions for a mass licensing deal that, if Wolf has his way, could include the complete catalog of Law & Order and spinoffs SVU and Criminal Intent; his three Chicago shows; potentially CBS' FBI as well as New York Undercover; and unscripted shows like Cold Justice, That's 72 seasons and 1,568 total hours of content — plus a possible green light for the updated New York Undercover, which is drawing interest after ABC's pass in May."
NBC's Peacock streaming service "is among the outlets eyeing what is sure to be one of the most complex and richest library deals ever, as other potential bidders have begun to surface," Goldberg reports. More here...
The TV-theatrical connection
Brian Lowry emails: Two days before “Downton Abbey” hits theaters, Netflix announced that the “Breaking Bad” movie, “El Camino,” will also receive a limited theatrical release the weekend of Oct. 11, the same day that the film launches on the streaming service. The day-date release is a departure from most of Netflix’s upcoming high-profile movies, which are slated to receive exclusive theatrical windows, shrinking though they are, in advance of being available in homes.
On the subject of theatrical releases...
Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi predicted Wednesday that the "streaming crazy" won't hurt the box office. “I look back at history,” he said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference. “Even with all the technological changes, people adapt to them, they get used to them, they like them. And they still want to get out of the house.”
I know others disagree, but I think to some extent he's right. Going to the movies is less about seeing the actual film, and more about the experience of being at a theater. People like getting dressed up. They like meeting their friends. And they like seeing movies with other moviegoers for the shared experience, particularly comedies where laughter is contagious...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
By Lisa Respers France:
-- The new "Bachelor" choice is both a hit and a miss...
-- Celine Dion is back with three new songs and a world tour...
-- "The Boondocks" has found a home on HBO Max...
-- "Silicon Valley" star Thomas Middleditch says swinging "saved" his marriage. Oh, and it's no longer called "swinging," but rather being "part of the lifestyle..."
LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
Lisa Simpson joins Fox
Lowry emails: Fox gave the TV industry a collective laugh by naming Lisa Simpson — who joins the network from Entertainment Weekly — as its new head of talent relations. The obvious smart-aleck question: What departments would Homer and Bart be heading?
Thanks for reading! Send me your thoughts via email or find me on Twitter. Brian will be back tomorrow. Until next time!