EXEC SUMMARY: TGIF! Oliver Darcy here... Scroll down for the letter the ACLU and other groups sent Senate leadership, what Joe Biden told the NYT about Section 230, info on Hulu's forthcoming docu-series on Hillary Clinton, and more. But first...
The Fox News defense team
President Trump's impeachment defense took shape on Friday. As CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown first reported, Trump added Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, and Robert Ray to his team. The trio will join the group headed by Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow. It will be supplemented by Pam Bondi and Jane Raskin.
Most of these names are no stranger to regular viewers of Fox News. Starr was a Fox contributor (the network cut ties on Friday), Dershowitz and Sekulow have been regular guests in the last few years, Ray has also been on with some regularity, and Bondi, while never formally employed by the network, previously guest-hosted some of the network's shows.
Over at WaPo, Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent summed it up succinctly: "To form the crack legal team that will defend him in the impeachment trial that begins on Tuesday, President Trump went right to the place where the most accomplished and effective lawyers can be found: Fox News."
>> Related: While Dershowitz is a Fox regular, on Friday night he squared off against Jeffrey Toobin on CNN... That said, both Bondi and Dershowitz were also on Sean Hannity's show on Fox...
Just how Foxified is the team?
Starr, Dershowitz, Ray, Sekulow, and Bondi aren't just occasional guests on Fox's airwaves. They are all over it. Over at the progressive watchdog Media Matters, researcher Bobby Lewis found that they've made AT LEAST 365 combined weekday appearances since 2019 -- a hefty figure.
Trump knows his base will love it
Why is Trump drafting his legal team from Fox News? It's possible that as he faces trouble, he is leaning on voices he trusts, and those are the voices he sees and hears as he watches his favorite network regularly.
But as Waldman and Sargent said in their WaPo piece, "Trump isn’t the only one who watches Fox News; other Republicans do too. ... So a Fox News defense is what Trump is after — one that appeals to the base and thus keeps the pressure on Senate Republicans to avoid letting their consideration of the evidence against Trump get out of hand."
This Sunday on "Reliable"
Brian Stelter emails: Jon Favreau, Dahlia Lithwick, Joe Lockhart, Margaret Sullivan, Meridith McGraw, Matt Gertz, and Peter Hamby will join me live... Plus, LAT reporter Sarah Wire, chair of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, will have the latest on the access restrictions that have been put in place for the impeachment trial... See you Sunday at 11am ET on CNN...
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- Anderson Cooper's interview with Lev Parnas is airing as a special hour at 11pm ET Friday...
-- Meanwhile, Sen. Martha McSally was back on Fox News Friday night, appearing on Sean Hannity's show... She reiterated her cheap (and false) insults against CNN and Manu Raju. Hannity predictably ate it up, saying, "I applaud what you did..."
-- Speaking of Hannity... He had an astute observation recently on radio: “Lying, propagandizing, I guess pays for people. It pays pretty well..." (Media Matters)
-- It sounds like Shep Smith's non-compete with Fox News is up this summer. Per Variety's Brian Steinberg, the agreement is "believed to expire six months from now, meaning he could be eligible to work for another news outlet as the nation nears the 2020 election..." (Variety)
-- Just one day after the airing of Dana Bash's piece on Evelyn Yang in which Yang said she had been sexually assaulted by her OBGYN, 15 women have contacted Yang's lawyer saying they were also sexually assaulted by the same doctor... (CNN)
-- Erik Wemple has started "The Grisham Watch." He says it will keep tabs on what Stephanie Grisham is up to... (WaPo)
-- Max Tani reported Friday night that G/O Media is courting Jim Brady to be head of Deadspin. As Tani reported, Brady is "a former public editor at ESPN who has repeatedly used his Twitter account to admonish and mock Deadspin and its then-writers..." (Daily Beast)
-- "We asked CNN's embeds to take a break from washing their well-traveled laundry to discuss the all-important campaign rally. They've collectively witnessed thousands of events, so their perspective provides a clear view on the routines presidential hopefuls embrace as they try to make each one captivating..." (CNN)
ACLU and other orgs say they "vigorously object" to restrictions on press for impeachment trial
The ACLU and several other organizations on Friday sent a letter to Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, saying they "vigorously object" to proposed restrictions on Capitol Hill journalists covering the impeachment trial. "We ask that the Sergeant at Arms and the Senate Rules Committee rescind these overly restrictive regulations," the groups wrote in the letter.
Leo Shane III, the chairmen of the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents, also released a statement that read, in part: “Journalists are the public’s eyes and ears in the Capitol. Any restrictions that keep them from being able to speak with senators and do their jobs hurts the entire country’s ability to understand this important moment in history.” And the Radio & Television Correspondents Association said in a statement that it is "concerned about the restrictions."
Neither the offices of McConnell, Schumer, nor the Sergeant at Arms responded to the letter sent by the ACLU and other groups on Friday. Reporters faced a crackdown on Capitol Hill Thursday as senators were sworn in for the trial. The crackdown limited the ability of reporters to question US senators roaming the Capitol.
"There is a frank exchange of feedback"
Behind the scenes, I'm told by sources familiar with the negotiation process between Senate leadership, the Sergeant at Arms, and the press, there are a lot of conversations taking place to iron things out for the trial next week. "There is a frank exchange of feedback," one of the people told me. "This is an ongoing process."
Another person I spoke with expressed some optimism for the press. The person said that Senate leadership and the Sergeant at Arms started negotiating at zero, and the press started at 100. Now, the person explained, the various parties are working to compromise and straighten things out.
-- Next step in the impeachment process: The House has until 5pm ET Saturday to file a trial brief. Find CNN's live updates here...
-- Women’s March events will take place across the country on Saturday...
-- AFC and NFC championship games on Sunday...
-- "Curb Your Enthusiasm" returns to HBO Sunday night...
-- The Screen Actors Guild Awards are live on TNT and TBS Sunday night...
-- NYT's Dem primary endorsement will be unveiled on FX's "The Weekly" at 10pm ET...
Strong show of support for Manu Raju
Brian Stelter emails: The Capitol Hill press corps has rallied behind CNN's Manu Raju while pro-Trump outlets have cheered for Martha McSally. The GOP senator is continuing to fund-raise off her Thursday morning insult directed at Raju.
On Friday the Radio and Television Correspondents Association, which represents scores of journalists who cover Congress, said McSally's "liberal hack" comment was "inappropriate anywhere, but particularly in the halls of the Congress." And the National Press Club said "Raju is a consummate professional who is respected by his journalistic peers and the people he covers, politics notwithstanding. Stating the contrary is factually and ethically wrong." Here's our full story...
>> From "New Day": Co-host John Berman joked that Laura Ingraham must be a "liberal hack" since she asked McSally the same question that got Raju scolded...
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- On Friday Bill Hemmer signed off Fox's "America's Newsroom" after 12 years as co-anchor... On Monday he moves to the 3pm hour... (Twitter)
-- Hemmer spoke to Brian Steinberg about the move... (Variety)
-- On the topic of sign-offs: Abby Huntsman departed "The View," praising her colleagues and knocking "rumors" about the show: "I do love everyone at this table..." (Deadline)
-- WaPo owner Jeff Bezos has endowed a new White House Correspondents' Association award: The Katharine Graham Award for Courage and Accountability. It'll be presented for the first time this April... (WHCA)
-- In other Bezos news: Lauren Sanchez and Bezos "made their relationship red-carpet official" in Mumbai on Thursday... (VF)
Biden: Section 230 should "immediately" be repealed
In his interview with NYT's Editorial Board, Joe Biden came out swinging against Big Tech. He railed against Facebook ("I've never been a fan"), its founder Mark Zuckerberg ("I've never been a big Zuckerberg fan"), and an unnamed near-billionaire tech titan ("one of the little creeps").
But what really raised eyebrows was Biden's position on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which allows tech platforms to not be liable for most content users post. "[The Times] can’t write something you know to be false and be exempt from being sued. But [Zuckerberg] can," Biden asserted. "The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms."
NYT Editorial Board member Charlie Warzel pointed out to Biden that Section 230 is a "pretty foundational law of the modern Internet." Biden responded, "That’s right. Exactly right. And it should be revoked."
>> The Verge's Casey Newton tweeted: "The weakness of his logic here is staggering, and disqualifying..."
What a difference a few years makes…
Donie O'Sullivan emails: Take a look at this photo of Nancy Pelosi and Sheryl Sandberg from just five years ago. In the caption, Pelosi heaped praise on Sandberg for "inspiring women across the world to believe in themselves." Now, Democrats are at war with Facebook – with new criticisms of the company almost every day. I took a look at how Democrats and Facebook fell out of love…
Trump's rebuke of Apple
Brian Fung emails: My latest story revisits Trump’s tweet to Apple this week. What stands out is not just the president’s sudden involvement in a fight over encryption, but how he effortlessly moved the goalposts on Tim Cook. The headline: "Tim Cook is a cautionary tale for CEOs trying to get close to Trump..."
The Ringer selling to Spotify?
Friday night's WSJ scoop by Anne Steele and Ben Mullin: Spotify is in talks to buy The Ringer. "Discussions are early," per their sources, "and may not result in a deal." But Spotify "has been investing heavily in podcasting," and wants more exclusive content. "The potential Ringer acquisition is just one of many possible transactions under consideration."
Bill Simmons already hosts a show called "The Hottest Take" exclusively for Spotify. A broader deal "would give Spotify a significant entree to the world of sports audio, a realm that has long been dominated by traditional radio stations," Steele and Mullin wrote...
>> A Spotify spox told Kerry Flynn: “We don't comment on rumors and speculation..."
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Amy Chozick profiled Instagram chief (and Mark Zuckerberg jog buddy) Adam Mosseri... (NYT)
-- Tony Romm reported that Facebook was ordered on Friday to hand over data about apps that could have violated user privacy... (WaPo)
-- Rebecca Ballhaus reported that a "network of several dozen Facebook pages" has been "coordinating posts defending" Robert Hyde... (WSJ)
Recommended reads for the weekend 👓
By Katie Pellico:
-- Peter Hamby delineates the dangerous divide between "low-information voters" and "those who follow politics closely," and the fractious ways they engage with TV and social media. (A quick 🔌... Hamby will be on this weekend's "Reliable Sources.")
-- Vox's Sean Illing explains how our overwrought media ecosystem prevents consensus, breaking down what he dubs "an age of manufactured nihilism..."
-- CJR's Amanda Darrach looks back at Life magazine's legacy through photographs, including "the first photograph an American news organization ever ran of US forces killed in action..."
-- Read about what happened when a married couple (of journalists) sat down to interview the main therapist in Showtime's "Couples Therapy..."
-- Kerry Flynn showed how media companies are flocking to TikTok, "looking to appeal to the app's young and engaged audience..."
-- A related weekend "listen": NYT's Popcast podcast suggests that the slew of songs going viral on streaming platforms -- on TikTok in particular -- is "changing how professional songwriters working in studios around the world are thinking about their craft... possibly creating a musical form that is post-song..."
-- Already making rounds: "My Instagram" from Dayna Tortorici...
-- In the wake of YouTuber NikkieTutorials' outing as a trans woman, brought on by blackmail threats, BuzzFeed News reporter Lauren Strapagiel outlines the history of trans outings...
The meaning of this name change...
This isn't just an ordinary rebranding. As Frank Pallotta wrote, "20th Century Fox is an icon of Hollywood history. Its epic fanfare title card has appeared in front of 'The Sound of Music,' 'Star Wars' and other major films over the past 85 years. But in 2020, that name is no more. Disney is dropping the 'Fox' name from its '20th Century Fox' brand, renaming the longtime studio as just '20th Century Studios.' Its art house production company, Fox Searchlight, will now be known as 'Searchlight Pictures...'"
NYT's Brooks Barnes wrote that the move "may prevent consumers from mistakenly thinking the movie studio has anything to do with Rupert Murdoch's polarizing Fox News media empire." Barnes also notes that "Hollywood figures have grown more vocal in their criticism of Fox News..."
"Chipping away a little chunk of Hollywood history..."
Pallotta adds: The name change makes sense since Fox has nothing really to do with Disney, but it’s still an end of an era. "The name 20th Century Fox has deep roots in film, so it's chipping away a little chunk of Hollywood history," critic Leonard Maltin told me...
Iger made $47.5 million last year
"Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger's 2019 compensation declined 28%, or more than $18 million, from the prior year. He'll be fine: Iger still pulled $47.5 million last year," TheWrap's Tony Maglio and Trey Williams wrote on Friday.
"The year to year difference can be attributed to a massive 2018 bump in stock awards. That number came back down to earth for 2019..."
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
By Kerry Flynn:
-- Jason Karaian is joining the NYT as Dealbook's editor. He comes from Quartz, where he was global finance and economic editor... (NYT)
-- Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur is joining NBC News as a national political reporter on the digital team.. (Twitter)
-- Kelly Daniel, a longtime CNNer, is joining NBC News Now as executive producer of its morning show...
-- Nicole Nguyen is joining the WSJ as a personal tech columnist. She leaves BuzzFeed, where she was a tech reporter... (Twitter)
-- BI's Monica Chin is joining The Verge as a reporter covering laptops... (Twitter)
-- Karen Hibbert joined Bustle Digital Group earlier this month as VP of creative for its lifestyle group. Her new job includes oversight of Bustle's upcoming redesign... (Variety)
Hillary Clinton: "Nothing was off limits" for Hulu docu-series
Speaking at the winter Television Critics Association press tour, Hillary Clinton answered questions about Hulu's four-part docu-series (check out the trailer here) examining her life and the 2016 presidential election. Clinton said "nothing was off limits" while filming the special series, but described it as "intense."
Clinton added that she sat down for about 35 hours of interviews for the series, which debuts March 6. Saying that there is a "real struggle" taking place against a "form of politics that is incredibly negative, exclusive, mean-spirited," Clinton suggested that the chief message she hoped to convey is that she is "on the side of a generous, open-hearted country that faces up to the future." More from Deadline's Peter White here...
Julia Louis-Dreyfus strikes a deal with Apple
"Julia Louis-Dreyfus, fresh off seven seasons of HBO stalwart Veep, has signed a sweeping overall deal" with Apple, THR's Lesley Goldberg reported Friday. "Under the multiple-year agreement — which should be seen as a massive 'get' for Apple video heads Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht — the Emmy-winning actress will develop new projects exclusively for Apple — as both an executive producer and star."
>> This is JLD's first such overall deal, and it "reunites her at the same company with former Richard Plepler mere days after the former HBO CEO's producing deal became official..."
"Avenue 5' takes viewers on a satirical flight aboard a space-faring cruise ship
Brian Lowry emails: “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci is back on HBO with “Avenue 5,” a strange satirical series about a space-faring cruise ship that gets knocked off course starring Hugh Laurie and Josh Gad. It’s a little bit “Veep,” a little “Gilligan’s Island,” and makes its debut alongside the new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm." Read Lowry's full review here...
Lawyer for Recording Academy president fires back over allegation of misconduct
Katie Pellico emails: "Just 10 days before the 62nd Grammy Awards, Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan was placed on leave after an allegation of misconduct," LAT's Randy Lewis reported. The Recording Academy cited "a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team" that prompted the call for "two independent third-party investigators to conduct independent investigations of the allegations."
>> Dugan's attorney fired back on Friday: "What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told... When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you 'step up' at the Recording Academy, a public nonprofit."
FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE
By Katie Pellico:
-- Oscar Isaac is set to produce and star in an adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s acclaimed comic, "Ex Machina." THR's Borys Kit pointed out the "twist of Hollywood fate": Isaac had a starring role in sci-fi movie "Ex Machina" in 2014... (THR)
-- ICYMI: Following an awkward remark from a contestant on Project Runway, host Karlie Kloss opened up to Andy Cohen on "WWHL" about being in the Kushner family... (Bravo)
Doolittle battles bad reviews and 'Bad Boys'
Frank Pallotta emails: Universal is projecting that "Dolittle" will have a $25 million opening over the four-day holiday weekend in North America, but it'll have to battle bad reviews (19% score on Rotten Tomatoes, yikes!) and "Bad Boys for Life."
"Bad Boys" is in the running for a $38 million opening over the four-day holiday weekend, according to Sony. Industry experts are projecting a bigger number that could reach as high as $45 million to $50 million, which means it should win the weekend...
>> Related: THR's Borys Kit reported "Bad Boys 4" is already in the works, with writer Chris Bremner returning...
BBC America's "Seven Worlds" kicks off with hour devoted to Australia
Brian Lowry writes: It’s become common for nature documentaries to reference the climate crisis, but BBC America’s latest series, “Seven Worlds, One Planet,” kicks off with the hour devoted to Australia, which definitely takes on an extra dimension given the devastating fires there.
“Australia today is the driest inhabited continent on Earth. Rain hardly ever falls in 70 percent of it,” narrator Sir David Attenborough says at one point, later adding in regard to the rapid disappearance of Australian mammals, "Which of its unique species will survive the coming decades now depends on us.” The show premieres Saturday...
FOR THE RECORD, PART SIX
By Lisa Respers France:
-- Ariana Grande is being sued for copyright infringement over her Grammy-nominated song "7 Rings..."
-- I talked to Tyler Perry and some of his cast, including the legendary Phylicia Rashad, about his new Netflix film, "A Fall From Grace." And he knows which part of the movie will have you yelling...
Thank you for reading! Send your feedback via email or connect with me on Twitter. Brian will be back Sunday...