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"Alternative facts" edition  

By Brian Stelter & the CNNMoney Media team. Click here to view this email in your browser!
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Sean Spicer will meet the White House press corps at 1:30 p.m. Monday. What will the correspondents ask? What will Spicer say? Will people believe him? 

"If you lose" the trust of the press, "you've got nothing"

This is what Spicer told David Axelrod three weeks ago. We ran the video on "Reliable Sources" on Sunday:

"The one thing, whether you're Republican or Democrat or independent, is that you have your integrity... I have never lied... If you lose the respect and trust of the press corps you've got nothing." Going out and telling a "lie" is "just not acceptable," he added...

Spicer held his fire Sunday...

ICYMI, here's our fact-check of Spicer's misstatements. (Note: Fox News journalists like John Roberts also reported that Trump's crowds were smaller than Barack Obama's 2009 crowds.) On "Reliable," WHCA president Jeff Mason said Spicer's statement was "absolutely surprising and stunning..."

 -- As far as I can tell, Spicer didn't say anything more (on the record) about this controversy on Sunday. When I reached out early in the morning and re-upped a TV interview request, he declined... 


 -- Should reporters rebuff Spicer and boycott the W.H. briefing? The "Reliable Sources" panel said no... Watch here...

 -- Margaret Sullivan in Monday's WashPost: "Spicer’s statement should be seen for what it is: Remarks made over the casket at the funeral of access journalism." Sullivan and I will be on Joshua Johnson's "1A" radio program Monday morning...

Here's what Trumpworld is thinking

The new administration feels, on day three, that it is already under siege from unfair reporters. Trump himself spoke about his "running war with the media" on Saturday. (Details here.)

Trump officials, on behalf of their boss, are
"planting a flag, saying they're not going to tolerate this," a longtime Trump aide told me on Sunday morning. 

Tolerate what? Here's what Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus said on "Fox News Sunday," "I'm saying there's an obsession by the media to delegitimize this president, and we are not going to sit around and let it happen. We are going to fight back tooth and nail every day, and twice on Sunday."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the aide elaborated on the admin's view: First, journalists seized on Trump's popular vote loss... Then, on the intelligence community findings regarding Russian interference in the election... and then on inauguration crowd size counts... all in order to "delegitimize" the new president.

Obviously newsroom leaders strongly reject this suggestion. You can see what I mean in this "Reliable Sources" video. 


 -- Flashback: What a very plugged-in news exec pointed out on Sunday: "Steve Bannon WANTS a grand divide between Trump and the mainstream media. He wants his world to never trust the media..."

Who's delegitimizing who?

Trump has been trying to "delegitimize" the mainstream media for some time. This weekend it seems like his aides are taking that word, flipping it around, and saying it's the press trying to "delegitimize" him...
Quote of the day
"The president may feel he's at war with the media. 'The media' is just honest men and women trying to do their job."

--NPR head of news Michael Oreskes on Sunday's show...

Will Sunday be remembered as the day "alternative facts" were born?

The alternative to "facts" is "fictions." But President Trump's special adviser Kellyanne Conway proposed something new during Sunday's "Meet the Press:" "alternative facts." She said Spicer presented "alternative facts" on Saturday.

You could tell that Chuck Todd was startled by the phrase. It didn't take long for #AlternativeFacts to be trending on social media. Todd was praised for challenging Conway, saying, "Alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods." Read my full story here...
 -- Frank Sesno reacted on "Reliable:" At GWU, "we will flunk you if you use alternative facts..."
 -- The aforementioned Michael Oreskes: "There are people who understand that if you can create a different understanding of reality, you can actually change politics..."

Doublethink?

"Alternative facts" is "a George Orwell phrase," WashPost reporter Karen Tumulty said. And she was far from the only person invoking Orwell's "1984" on Sunday. "This brings us to '1984' doublethink, where war is really peace, where famine is really plenty. That's what's happening here," political historian Allan Lichtman said on CNN Sunday afternoon...

"Rethink our relationship"

Two more things to notice about the Todd-Conway interview: At one point, when Todd brought up "falsehoods," Conway said he was being "overly dramatic." At another point, Conway said, "Chuck, I mean, if we're going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms, I think that we're going to have to rethink our relationship here. I want to have a great open relationship with our press..."

Lynn Sweet's thought-provoking point

What Lynn Sweet said during the B block of "Reliable:" 

The jobs of journalists "have not fundamentally changed" in the age of Trump. "If Sean wants to have an angry tone, frankly, I don't care. I've been yelled at by people before, spoken at angrily... Actually, I applaud you, Sean, because you're kind of honest and told us how you felt and you didn't put a smile on it. You didn't pretend..."

Sunday: Trump on message

While Saturday was strange, "today he was very much on message" -- presidential message -- Jeff Zeleny told Poppy Harlow on CNN Sunday evening. Trump largely stayed on script during his on-camera appearances...
For the record
 -- WSJ's Keach Hagey profiles A&E Networks chief Nancy Dubuc, "both the youngest and only female chief executive in the media industry," whose cable channels are suffering distribution declines... (WSJ)

 -- Friday's inauguration coverage averaged 30.6 million TV viewers, "significantly lower than the crowd that turned out for Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009," Variety's Daniel Holloway reports, but higher than the audience for Obama's second inauguration in 2013. Fox News was the most-watched network overall... (Variety)

 -- In Monday's NYT, John Koblin's report from the TCA press tour: "Now That Trump Is President, How Will TV Respond?" (NYT)

NYT's video Twitter account hacked?

CNNMoney's Jill Disis reports: "The NYT is investigating an apparent hack of one of its Twitter accounts that happened Sunday morning." @NYTVideo tweeted "a hoax about a missile attack from Russia against the United States." Details...

Didja miss "SNL?"

If so, Frank Pallotta has you covered here...
Trump and the media

Can you answer any of these questions?

On Sunday's "Reliable," my essay consisted of a series of questions. Here are some of them…

Will President Trump deny reality on a daily basis? Will he make up his own false facts and fake stats? If so, what will the consequences be?

Will reporters give up trying to fact-check? Is that the goal — to wear us down, to wear us out? Is the Trump administration creating confusion and sowing division on purpose? Is the idea to force voters to choose between reporters and the commander in chief —- to cast doubt on the media — so much doubt that you just give up and trust nothing?

Is Trump gas-lighting us, trying to manipulate, make you doubt your own eyes? Does he know what gas-lighting means?

Will Trump use federal agencies to twist the truth? Will we be able to trust the data, the statistics, the #'s this government provides? As CNN's Jim Sciutto said Saturday night, "What if Donald Trump orders troops into battle and they die... Do we trust the White House to speak about that honestly?"

What about the media -- is Trump just trying to twist us into knots? Is it working? Or is there an end goal? Do Trump's allies want to silence skeptics in the media? Destroy the press? Support an alternative press that presents an alternative reality that's more favorable?

What can newsrooms do to help you know what's really going on? Will conservative media outlets play along with Trump's lies? Will they claim he is telling the truth? Or will conservative outlets respect their readers enough to call B.S. on B.S.?

Here's the video version of this list...

Brian Fallon's reaction to Spicer

CNN's Alexandra King writes about Brian Fallon's appearance on "Reliable:"

Hillary Clinton's former press secretary said Spicer "told a lie" and should resign if he couldn't stand up to his boss.

Does that mean Fallon would have resigned if he were in the same position? "I would like to think I would have too much integrity to go out and look in the cameras and say something that was provably false," he said…

Jack Shafer's reminder

He tweets: "The press is supposed to be abused, disparaged, defamed, dissed. It's part of the job."

Too polarizing?

Report: Advertisers avoiding news about the new president

Digiday's Shareen Pathak says that some big companies are asking their ad buyers "to keep their brands away from news about Donald Trump... Buyers declined to name specific clients, but said that those staying away from all things Trump are those whose consumers skew older and follow news." Read more...

View from the left...

Todd Gitlin writing for Bill Moyers' web site: "Could it be any more evident that the liars are running the White House? Their idea of Q-and-A is: Shut up. As long as you are mere stooges, you play their game. You serve as mute extras in his horror movie. You lend credence to outright falsehoods. You lend stature to serial liars..."

View from the right...

Sean Davis of The Federalist tweets: "The same media who spent 8 years either ignoring or justifying Obama's lies think people will now trust their Trump coverage. Not a chance... Here's the thing, media: you're done. Trump's presidency is proof you're done. You declared war on him, and you lost. Nobody trusts you."

View from Facebook

Jake Tapper tweets: "My Facebook feed consists of post after post of folks on different political sides talking past one another. Dispiriting."

The Twitter Police

Reupping this from Saturday's newsletter-- NBC's Katy Tur notes that Spicer, in his statement, also objected to two specific tweets by reporters. This is what happened during the campaign too. "Trump's obsessed with tweets -- campaign hardly dinged me for my on-air reporting but they'd call/email to say Trump found my tweets 'disgraceful,'" Tur tweeted. She also recalled how Conway tracked and printed out reporters' Twitter timelines...
ICYMI: The next White House photographer?
A story I wrote on Saturday afternoon: Shealah Craighead is in the running to become Trump's chief White House photographer. Craighead previously worked in the W.H. during the George W. Bush administration. She photographed Trump at the inaugural balls on Friday night, and the photography world is abuzz that she might be the Trump pick.

Hours before Spicer's on-cam statement, he told me that a director of photography has not been named yet. Craighead, he said, is one of the photographers working with the new administration.

So what's going on? According to a person who has been in contact with the Trump admin, Craighead is on something of a tryout. "She is at the top of the list," the source said. But new presidents often want to make sure they are comfortable with the person who will be following them around snapping photos all the time. That's why no announcement about the position has been made yet, the source said...
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