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Funny new front in Times/Post rivalry

A few weeks ago we broke the news about the WashPost's new slogan, "Democracy dies in darkness." It's a Bob Woodward adage that Jeff Bezos picked up on. Now it's the newest area of competition between the Post and the NYT.

At SXSW on Sunday, Times EIC Dean Baquet was asked to size up "democracy dies in darkness" versus his own paper's "truth is more important now than ever" tagline. 

"I love our competition with the Washington Post," Baquet said. "I think it's great. But I think their slogan -- Marty Baron, please forgive me for saying this -- sounds like the next Batman movie."

Marty replies...

I emailed Baron to ask if Baquet is forgiven. Baron's reply: "No apology necessary from the people of Gotham."

Monday's media columns

NYT's Jim Rutenberg: "The Choose-Your-Own-News Adventure" is increasingly problematic...

WashPost's Margaret Sullivan: "Pro-Trump media sets the agenda with lies. Here’s how traditional media can take it back..."

Bharara blowback

On Friday Preet Bharara refused to resign... on Saturday President Trump fired him... and on Sunday he signaled that he's not going quietly. 

Bharara tweeted on Sunday afternoon, "By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like." And he fired back at the Trump White House via the WSJ. The Journal quoted an anonymous Trump aide saying that "the U.S. attorneys are political appointees, and all 46 of the holdovers from the Obama administration received the same resignation letter. It's fair to say that 45 of the 46 behaved in a manner befitting the office."

Bharara's rebuttal: "It was my understanding that the president himself has said anonymous sources are not to be believed." 🔥 🔥 🔥 

 -- Related: Michael Grynbaum‏ tweeted what I was wondering: "Who in TV books the first Preet interview?"

What about the Fox investigation?

Bharara's office had many investigations in the hopper, including a big one involving Fox News. Attorneys have been looking into whether 21st Century Fox skirted the law when it paid settlements to people who charged Roger Ailes with sexual harassment. So what now? Jeffrey Toobin said this on Sunday's "Reliable Sources:"

"There's really only one political appointee in the office, Bharara, "and everyone else, all the other 200-plus prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's office here in Manhattan, are career, non-political people. They will continue their investigations unless and until a new boss tells them to stop," Toobin said. "I mean, the real power of a U.S. attorney is not to control investigations day-to-day but to say, 'Look, we're not pursuing X or we are pursuing Y.' And 'I will not sign an indictment or I will sign an indictment.' The real question will be who comes in to replace him long-term and whether that person has a similarly aggressive attitude."

Mukasey on the shortlist

"According to the Times, Trump's shortlist to replace Bharara includes Marc Mukasey — who just happens to be former Fox News chief Roger Ailes's personal lawyer," NYMag's Gabriel Sherman wrote in this Sunday night item. "Considering Mukasey's close relationship with Ailes, he would surely come under pressure to recuse himself from the Fox probe if he was appointed by Trump to succeed Bharara. 'I have no comment,' Mukasey said when I reached him Sunday evening and asked if he planned to do so, should he get the job..."

Some Twitter intrigue...

On Sunday's "Reliable" I pointed out that @realDonaldTrump has kept a low profile on Twitter as of late. But eagle-eyed users have noticed two changes to the president's personal profile... two mysterious changes...

 -- Sometime last week, Trump (or another individual with access to his account) favorited a Fox tweet titled "#Franken Says He Thinks #Sessions Committed Perjury." Accident? Presumably. But the Twitter "heart" is still there, several days later...

 -- Trump's account just unfollowed Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, according to the folks at Death & Taxes, who carefully track these things...

"Washington bracing for CBO score on health care bill"
That's the headline in CNNPolitics' Nightcap newsletter... Read the rest here... 
Eye on Breitbart

The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale kept a close eye on Breitbart over the weekend, pointing out this Sunday headline, among others: "Upcoming 'Lie of the Year'? Price Promises 'Nobody Will Be Worse Off Financially' if Ryan Bill Passes."

Dale: "Amazingly, there may not be a single major American publication savaging the Republican health plan as hard as Breitbart is."

CNN's Eli Watkins has more here...

Catch up on Sunday's "Reliable Sources"

Listen to Sunday's show as a podcast... Watch the video clips on Or read the transcript here...

Notable quotes

 >> Reuters EIC Stephen J. Adler offered a rousing defense of the so-called "mainstream media..." People "continue to watch in great numbers..."

 >> Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet said everybody makes mistakes, but "there's just too many mistakes" coming out of the White House...

 >> The BBC's Kim Ghattas said "the news media are finding their footing" covering Trump...

 >> Former State Department official Moira Whelan described the problems with the State Department "going dark..."

Hannity and Crowley in denial

Sean Hannity's disdain for journalism hurts his viewers. That was the point of my essay about Hannity and his recent interview with Monica Crowley.

Back in January, Crowley had to give up a Trump administration job because extensive plagiarism was found in her 2012 book. But both Crowley and Hannity seem to be in denial about it now. Hannity even said to her on TV, "I don't think you should answer any of these people's questions because they can go straight to hell." Real mature, Sean.

Here's the video of my essay...

For the record, part one

 -- Charlie Rose will be back on "CBS This Morning" on Monday, one month after his heart valve replacement surgery...

 -- Laurie Segall's series "Almost Human" launched at SXSW over the weekend. It's "streaming exclusively on CNNgo, and does not require authentication or log-in to a cable provider to access the series, a first for CNN..." (USA Today)

 -- "There is a new safe space for liberals in the age of President Trump: the television set." NYT's Michael Grynbaum and John Koblin wrote about the ratings uptick for Rachel Maddow, Trevor Noah and other liberal voices... (NYT)

 -- A crazy Politico Mag piece by Joshua Zeitz: "Lessons From the Fake News Pandemic of 1942" (Politico)

 -- From "The Apprentice" to the Senate? Apparently not. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he will not mount a run in 2018... (CNN)

Media week ahead calendar

 -- All week: SXSW continues...
 -- Monday evening: "Beauty & the Beast" has an NYC premiere...
 -- Tuesday evening: The season one finale of "This Is Us..."
 -- Wednesday night: CNN hosting a town hall with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price...
 -- Thursday: Trump's new travel ban takes effect...

Public broadcasting preps for budget fight

The Trump administration will send a budget proposal to Congress this week. What will it say about the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? I ran out of time for this on Sunday morning's show, but in this CNNMoney web video, I re-racked the Mitt Romney "I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS" video from 2012 and noted that some Republicans have wanted to strip away funding for PBS/NPR/local stations for decades. Is this the year it'll happen?

Quote of the day
"Oh, he's the worst war on the press ever.' No... it's not the worst war on the press. He hasn't even done what Obama has done. It might be that, but not yet..."

--David Zurawik on Sunday's "Reliable Sources," saying the Obama administration's legal actions were worse than Trump's words... Mediaite has a recap here...
Trump and the media
Is Trump "media literate?" (Are you?)

Educator and advocate Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, the head of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, joined me on Sunday's show. I asked: Is the president, who tweets what he hears on Fox and reads on Breitbart, lacking media literacy?

"Well, I think you have to start with the definition of media literacy," she said. "If you look at media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act, using all forms of media, the president actually does some of those things quite well, right? He's communicating a lot, he's accessing technology. But where he and many Americans are lacking is the ability to analyze and evaluate."

This is much more than a political issue, Lipkin said. "We're not teaching" these skills enough... "I think we're doing a lot of people a disservice..." Watch the segment here...

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a "rising star"

Over the weekend the AP's Catherine Lucey and Ken Thomas profiled Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a "rising star in Trump's orbit" who has taken "a notably more prominent role in selling Trump's agenda."

They write: "Sanders' rise has fueled speculation that she's becoming the president's favored articulator, a notion she disputes. "It's hard for any one person to maintain a schedule of being the singular face all day every day," she said..."

For the record, part two

 -- FX PR chief John Solberg tweets a Sunday anniversary: "15 years ago today The Shield debuted on FX and made history. It paved the way for everything that followed on FX and ad-supported cable TV..." 

 -- OH at SXSW: Gawker founder Nick Denton: "Facebook makes me despise my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world..." (via Twitter)

 -- Via Frank Pallotta: At a SXSW panel on Sunday, "Game of Thrones" creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff "confirmed that the eighth and final season will only be six episodes..." (CNN)

Entertainment desk
CBS show throws shade at NBC 

Brian Lowry emails:

"Law & Order" has a rich tradition of "ripped from the headlines" episodes, but became fodder for one on Sunday.

Responding to a long-delayed Trump-inspired episode of "SVU," "The Good Fight," the CBS All Access spinoff of "The Good Wife," featured an episode in which a writer for "one of the Chicago shows" is sued for leaking an episode he wrote about a Trump-like character having allegedly raped a 13-year-old girl. The case centers on whether the episode was squelched because the parent company fears that its business before the FCC, involving a deal for its owned stations, will face punitive repercussions from the Trump administration.

And yes, there's a bit of a twist ending, although the best moment is pretty inside baseball, as a witness tries to explain what a "co-executive producer" does...

Tyra taking over "America's Got Talent"

"Tyra Banks has been crowned the new host of 'America's Got Talent,'" Variety's Debra Birnbaum reports. "Banks replaces Nick Cannon, who has served as host of “America’s Got Talent” since 2009. Cannon announced last month that he was leaving the show after a falling out with the network over a joke told on a Showtime comedy special..."

"Kong" #1 for the weekend 

"It was a battle of the beasts at the box office this weekend, and King Kong emerged as the definitive victor over Wolverine," the AP's Lindsey Bahr writes. "According to studio estimates Sunday, 'Kong: Skull Island' amassed $61 million in its first weekend in theaters, surpassing expectations and easily beating out 'Logan,' which is now in its second weekend... Costing a reported $185 million to produce, 'Kong' still has work to be done, however, to reach profitability, and much of that will depend on international earnings. This weekend it topped international charts as well with $81.6 million from 66 territories..."

"Get Out" surpasses the $100 million mark

More from Bahr: "In third place, 'Get Out,' the buzzy horror film directed by Jordan Peele, added $21.1 million, pushing its sum to $111 million in just three weeks. With a price tag of only $4.5 million, the movie is a certifiable hit for Blumhouse and Universal and continues to remain prominently in the conversation up against films with much larger production and marketing budgets behind them..."

The conservative blacklist? 

Brian Lowry emails: The Los Angeles Times revisited an old, almost perennial gripe in Hollywood – namely, the perception among conservatives that they face a kind of blacklist for their political leanings, newly exacerbated, they contend, by animosity toward Trump. Inevitably vague in its details, the story does include one pretty obvious disclaimer – that stars like Clint Eastwood and Jon Voight appear to be exempt from such consequences...

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