Hilarity Ensues as the Trump Campaign Threatens To Sue CNN For False Advertising

The psychotic world of Donald Trump just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. The evidence of his rapidly accelerating descent into a paranoid dystopia increases with each new day. Already this week Trump has seen his Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, admit that he engaged in a quid pro quo deal to extort the Ukrainian president; selected his own Miami Doral golf resort to host the 2020 G7 summit; advanced a bizarre conspiracy theory about the 2016 election; and brokered a total surrender by our allies the Kurds to the murderous Erdogan regime of Turkey.

Donald Trump, CNN

Topping off this week from hell, one of Trump’s lawyers, Charles Harder, has just announced that Trump intends to sue CNN for what he calls “a sustained barrage of unfair, unfounded, unethical and unlawful attacks” – otherwise known as accurate journalism. Harder sent a letter advising of that intention to Jeff Zucker, the CEO of CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia (posted below). The threatened lawsuit alleges that the network is in violation of the Lanham Act “by constituting misrepresentations to the public, to your advertisers, and others.” The Lanham Act is a federal statute that, among other things, prohibits trademark infringement and false advertising. It’s safe to say that Trump isn’t accusing CNN of trademark infringement.

The letter warns that the suit will seek “a substantial payment of damages.” But what Harder says is false advertising are merely CNN’s comments as to their reliability as a news source. For instance, they say that they “stand for excellence in journalism,” and that they are “truly fair and balanced.” These, of course, are subjective observations that are neither advertising, nor actionable in litigation. If it were possible to sue for not being “fair and balanced,” Fox News would have been bankrupted long ago by legal judgements against them.

The most preposterous part of this lawsuit is that it relies almost entirely on examples of bias taken from a hysterically bogus set of videos by professional right-wing propagandist, liar, pervert, and ex-con, James O’Keefe, and his deceptively named Project Veritas. His latest smear campaign was cited extensively in Harder’s letter. But it was just another flaming dud that proved nothing but how awful he is at his loathsome job. Harder’s letter included this reference to the O’Keefe scam:

“Recently released video footage of individuals alleged to be your employees indicates that your reporting relating to President Trump is contrary to your own mission and the aforementioned Code of Ethics. Your own employees appear to state that CNN is focused on trying to ‘takedown President Trump,’ driven by a ‘personal vendetta’ that Mr. Zucker purportedly has against him, rather than reporting the news in an objective manner.”

Note that Harder even refers to “individuals alleged to be your employees,” because he doesn’t know whether or not the people appearing in the video are actually who O’Keefe says they are. And he’s proposing to sue on that foundation of mush. Even if they are CNN employees, they are all low-level support staff with no editorial responsibilities or newsroom authority. So they don’t speak for CNN. And every comment attributed to Zucker actually affirmed his integrity as a news executive.

Should Trump go ahead with this lawsuit he will will surely be laughed out of court. But there is little reason to believe that this will go past this embarrassingly dumb letter. Trump often threatens to sue people as a bullying tactic, but rarely has the guts to follow through. He recently threatened to sue House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chair, Adam Schiff. And we’re still holding our breath for that one.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Hysterical Impeachment Syndrome: Now Trump is Attacking Both CNN and Fox News

The severity of Trump’s psychotic breakdown is leading him to ever more bizarre outbursts and tantrums. As his mental infirmity declines, his incoherent raving accelerates. In just the past few days this has manifested in absurd threats to sue Nancy Pelosi, nauseating mimicry of orgasms, and hypocritical assaults on the business affairs of wealthy, politically connected children.

Fox News, Impeach Trump

As the inevitability of impeachment nears, Trump is spewing inanities like a schizophrenic on the street corner shouting gibberish at passing cars. It’s a pathetic display that only reinforces how critical it is to remove him from office as quickly as possible. He even conceded it himself in a carelessly worded tweeted that said “Impeach the Pres.” Another example of his derangement was evident in a Tuesday morning tweet where he whined…

Trump is cryptically referring a so-called exposé by notorious truth distorter James O’Keefe. As usual, O’Keefe’s imaginary “blockbuster” was a colossal bust. But that didn’t stop Trump – and Fox News – from hyping the heck out of it. With specific regard to Jeff Zucker, CEO of CNN parent WarnerMedia, Trump is actually trying to start the rumor he’s tweeting about. No one else has even mentioned Zucker resigning. And it’s a far cry from Trump’s previous opinion of Zucker when he said that Zucker “would be a great choice” to take over CNN. It’s fair to say that Trump will be gone before Zucker will.

In addition to this weak thrust at CNN, Trump is also throwing impotent swings at his very own State TV network (aka Fox News). Last week Fox News released the results of a poll that showed a majority of voters (51%) favoring Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. That set off the Snowflake-in-Chief who tweeted that “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck,” and that “Fox News doesn’t deliver for US anymore.” Nevermind that the Fox poll was in line with several others released at the same time. Trump, though, is continuing to malign Fox’s polling with another tweet on Monday that said…

It goes without saying that Trump is making this up. There was no “announcement” that the poll was incorrect. Consequently, there was no need to mention any correction, or to make one. What Trump’s diseased brain was mangling was an article in the rightist New York Post that took issue with the poll’s methodology. But the Post’s analysis was as shallow as puddle in a heat wave. Fox used a breakdown that represents an accurate sampling of the electorate, and one that most other pollsters use. Furthermore, Fox’s methodology used the same breakdown they used in previous polls where Trump’s impeachment was not favored. That makes this poll useful for tracking how the mood of the electorate is changing.

With Trump firing off hostile rhetoric at both CNN and Fox News he’s revealing just how sensitive he is to any criticism, even from friendly sources. He’s also narrowing the media outlets he trusts to lavish blind praise on him. It’s a sign that he knows his coverage is bound to get worse as new evidence of his criminality comes out. At some point, Fox is going to get jealous of the other news enterprises getting all the scoops, and start reporting some of their own. So it’s just a matter of time before Trump jumps off the cliff of sanity and buries himself in a crater of wrath and rancor as his defenses are drained of any ability to affect his unavoidable downfall.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Trump Flunky Propagandist’s Attempt to Take Down CNN is a Flaming Pile of Failure

We haven’t heard from ultra right-wing video mangler and truth distorter, James O’Keefe, for quite a while. There’s a good reason for that. He has been busy slapping together bullshit “exposés” that no one with a functioning brain has had any interest in watching. This ethically-challenged slime merchant has done a pretty darn good job of making himself a laughing stock and an irrelevant never-was.

Fox News, James O'Keefe

That said, O’Keefe just released his latest effort at maligning the media. But all he’s accomplished is to prove just how persistently stupid he is. In this episode O’Keefe purports to have planted a mole inside CNN with the intention of collecting damning video with which to slander the network. Unfortunately for the would-be news stalkers, all they collected was stale opinions of a few malcontents and some fairly routine remarks by Jeff Zucker, Chairman of CNN parent WarnerMedia News and Sports.

In a short clip that was posted on Twitter, O’Keefe discovered the shocking revelation that Zucker wanted his newsroom to “stay very focused on impeachment.” OMG! So Zucker was instructing his team to pay close attention to the biggest political story in years. And O’Keefe thinks that’s scandalous.

O’Keefe also showed video of a couple of low-level CNN employees privately expressing personal anti-Trump views. Which means that they’re aligned with the majority of the American people. They were not giving these views on the air and they had no authority whatsoever to direct news reporting. But O’Keefe wants people to believe that they represent CNN and that there aren’t any pro-Trump staffers at the network. Of course, that’s absurd. O’Keefe just edits out anyone who doesn’t advance his phony narrative.

As evidence of that, a sliver of reality managed to stick to O’Keefe’s video, contradicting his whole premise. He recorded Zucker saying that he knows that the network employs “a lot of people that are friendly with Lindsey Graham.” Exactly! They are some of the pro-Trump staffers that O’Keefe is exicising from his propaganda piece. And all Zucker said about that was that CNN reporters shouldn’t be “friendly” with Graham. Which, of course, is the ethical position for journalists to take with their subjects. So O’Keefe is actually accusing Zucker of being ethical.

The jewel of this clip appears to be a segment wherein O’Keefe’s mole clandestinely recorded Zucker making statements that O’Keefe seems think are controversial. Well, we report, you decide (video below):

Zucker: I think what’s going on in America right now is really fundamentally the result of years of fake news, conspiracy nonsense from Fox News. … The fake conspiracy nonsense that Fox has spread for years is now deeply embedded in American society. And frankly, that is beyond destructive for America, and I do not think we should be scared to say so.

The HORROR! Zucker articulated out loud a truth that every rational, objective American already knows. Fox News is a deceitful, dishonest, biased, purveyor of manufactured propaganda on behalf of Trump and the Republican Nationalist Party. And the lies that Fox disseminates promote ignorance and division. This is what O’Keefe believes constitutes hard-hitting investigative journalism.

O’Keefe pretends to be a “guerilla” journalist who is only interested in media fairness and transparency. However, his own exploits have been heavily weighted to conservative politics and conspiracy theories. He was arrested and convicted of unlawful entry into a U.S. senator’s office. He was also caught trying and failing to “seduce” a CNN reporter. He also lost a $100,000 lawsuit for libel. This is the character of the guy assaulting CNN’s reputation.

And THIS JUST IN: Trump tweeted about O’Keefe’s bogus Veritas project. Because it’s also the character of our Dumbass-in-Chief.

Naturally Trump heard about it from Tucker Carlson of Fox News who cast CNN as “State Media.” Which is weird since they’re asserting that CNN is against the current State of Trump. What’s more, Carlson made the hilariously incredulous comment that “As of Monday night, we have not independently verified the [O’Keefe] tape … But we have no reason to believe any of this is fake.” Really? No reason other than O’Keefe’s many years of being caught lying? Also, Trump’s speculation about suing (for what, exercising First Amendment rights?) follows on his asinine talk of suing Nancy Pelosi for doing her job as House Speaker.

It’s funny though, while O’Keefe, sees himself as a media crusader, he never goes after Fox News where their “reporters” feign objectivity while blatantly sucking up to Trump. Why hasn’t O’Keefe done anything about Trump’s Attorney Genuflector, William Barr, meeting privately with Fox boss Rupert Murdoch? Why hasn’t he reported that Trump himself called Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to bitch about their coverage of him? Maybe because O’Keefe is a fraud and a failure who is destined to be ridiculed for exposing nothing but his own impotent hackery.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

The full 19 minute video is available for anyone with the stomach to sit through it.

Frantic Gaslighting: Trump Accuses Lester Holt of ‘Fudging’ Interview Where He Incriminated Himself

Thursday morning most of the media was focused on the first public memorial service for the late Sen. John McCain. So as the nation was united in paying tribute to McCain, Donald Trump naturally took to his Twitter throne and fired off a series of frighteningly incoherent outbursts at what he regards as “the enemy of the people.” It’s his way of continuing to show contempt for a man that had the audacity to challenge him.

Donald Trump

The substance of Thursdays’ tweetstorm was typically centered on his aversion to, and fear of, the free press and the Constitution. He began by taking a swipe at a perennial foe, CNN. Trump lashed out at the network’s boss, Jeff Zucker, and called on AT&T to fire him. Think about that. The president of the United States is issuing orders to a private company in order to control their executive management. That’s pretty much the definition of fascism.

But Trump didn’t stop there. The next tweet in the tantrum was aimed at NBC and their news anchor, Lester Holt. What Trump said was obviously pulled from the recesses of a deeply disturbed mind. It was based on nothing resembling reality, but it did serve to advance his mission to Make America Stupid Again:

This is a perfect example of Trump disseminating utter bullcrap to his pathetic and glassy-eyed cult followers who will believe anything Dear Leader disgorges. The interview with Holt was not “fudged” in any way, and Trump offers no evidence to support his charge. The entire interview is posted online for all to see. Trump’s sole purpose in hurling this lie is to mitigate the fact that he incriminated himself in that interview. Trump told Holt that he fired FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.

So Trump literally confessed to obstruction of justice on national television. Now he’s trying to back out of it by saying the interview was doctored. But everyone knows that he’s making that up out of pure desperation. And by doing so he only makes things worse by being so transparently dishonest and by bringing attention back to his guilt. Even Fox News was taken aback by Trump’s glaringly false allegation.

Trump continued his Twitter tirade with a more generalized attack on what he called the “totally dishonest” media. He said that “Truth doesn’t matter to them,” and that “they only have their hatred & agenda.” This is coming from the man who has been documented as telling more than 4,200 lies since his poorly attended inauguration (which he lied about). And he’s also the man whose whole presidency has been marinated in hate and bigotry. He can’t go a single day without tossing around vicious and infantile insults at anyone he perceives as insufficiently worshipful.

Finally (for the time being), Trump circled back around to CNN to reiterate some completely fake allegations about a recent story concerning his troubles with his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, had told CNN that Cohen might tell special counsel Robert Mueller that the President knew about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians before it occurred. Davis later backpedaled and said that he could not actually confirm that. Note that he did not say it wasn’t true, only that he was no longer comfortable with the comment. That’s probably because it could put his client in legal jeopardy because it contradicted what Cohen told Congress.

Subsequently, Trump, Fox News, and other rightist media began accusing CNN of flubbing the story. But they actually got it right. It was Davis who admits that he made a statement that he would no longer stand by. That isn’t CNN’s fault, especially since they also had other sources corroborating their reporting. They continue stand by the story.

The fact that Trump would take this time, as the nation is still mourning the passing of John McCain, to trot out his self-serving delusions, is indicative of his utter lack of character and class. He simply isn’t able to allow anyone else to have the spotlight for a day or two. But the ludicrous charge that Lester Holt tampered with the video of his interview shows that Trump will propound any lie, no matter how outrageous and unfounded, to deceive the nation. And that sort of dishonesty has been the hallmark of his tenure so far in the White House.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

CNN President Blisters State-Run TV (aka Fox News) as ‘a Pure Propaganda Machine’

Two decades ago a conservative media mogul (Rupert Murdoch) and a right-ring political operative (Roger Ailes) colluded to form America’s first overtly partisan news network devoted to advancing a regressive agenda that favored corporations and the wealthy. And ever since Fox News has faithfully served it’s masters, all the while pretending to be “fair and balanced” journalists.

Donald Trump Fox News

For most of that time the rest of the media sheepishly approached Fox News as just another competitor. They rarely spoke honestly about how Fox was deliberately staining the one profession explicitly cited in the Constitution. Consequently, Fox got away with a lot of brazenly biased propaganda and managed to corral America’s Deplorables into a media pen where they felt safe and secure.

So it was rather surprising to hear CNN president Jeff Zucker’s criticism of Fox at the Financial Times’ “Future of News” conference on Thursday. He nailed Fox News in a way that few media executives have in the past twenty years. While nothing he said would be a revelation to anyone who has watched the network for more than two minutes, coming from a corporate media honcho it is borderline breathtaking. Here’s a quick summary of the highlights as reported by The Hollywood Reporter:

    Zucker said that…

  • Fox News “is really state-run TV. It is a pure propaganda machine, and I think does incredible disservice to this country.”
  • “The idea that it’s a news channel, I think, is really not the case at all.”
  • Fox News “has nothing on” the Russian government-run TASS Russian News Agency.
  • “I think they are lost in what is a complete propaganda machine.”

In addition, THR reports Zucker saying that “Fox News has changed substantially in the last two years, following the departure of late founder Roger Ailes. He described the change at the network as ‘shocking.'” However the only thing that might have changed is that in the post-Ailes era the executives at Fox were much less skilled at spewing rightist bullshit. Their deceitful machinations are more visible and sleazy. That may be what drove long-time Fox contributor Ralph Peters to quit the network that he now says he is “ashamed” to be associated with. According to THR Fox News was invited to participate in the event but declined.

Fox News continues to be the mouthpiece of the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s most dedicated defender. It serves as the personnel recruiting pool for the Trump administration. Among those tapped by Trump for White House posts were Heather Nauert, K.T. McFarland, Ben Carson, Sebastian Gorka, Richard Grennell, and Jonathan Wachtel. And just today Trump announced that Fox’s John Bolton will replace H.R. McMaster as his National Security Advisor. And even his legal team is now being stuffed with Fox News personalities, including Joseph DiGenova and, maybe his wife, Victoria Toensing.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

CNN is not without its share of journalistic failures. They were among the news outlets that plastered the airwaves with Trump’s thoroughly un-newsworthy rallies (rants) during the campaign. And they still host Trump-fluffing flacks who are only there to further disseminate Trump’s lies. However, there has never been a presidential administration that was so rife with media shills from a single source. The only people that Trump recognizes are those he’s seen on TV. And the only TV he watches is Fox News. So after a year in office he still behaves like an intellectually shallow reality TV game show host, rather than the president that our nation needs. Hopefully he will be voted off this island soon by Robert Mueller’s team of Survivors.

Trump Gives A Big F.U. To The Media And The Public With A Virtual Press Blackout

Donald Trump was declared the winner of the presidential election two weeks ago. Since that time he has failed to hold a press conference to address the nation he will be representing. This is the longest period a president-elect has gone without a post-election press conference in forty years. But it’s worse than that because he actually hasn’t had a formal press conference since July. Do you suppose there might be a reason for that?

Donald Trump

Speculation could start with the fact that Trump has been more openly hostile to the media than any politician in recent memory. At his rallies he has called them dummies, losers, sleazy, liars, and more. He has not been the least bit shy about expressing his white-hot hatred for the Fourth Estate. He overtly threatened the press with lawsuits and other retribution. That included revoking the press credentials of media outlets he felt were too critical of him. In return, media advocates condemned his reckless behavior as “an unprecedented threat to press freedom.”

However, there are more substantive motives for Trump avoiding press scrutiny. The swarming torrent of scandals swirling around him pose serious risks to his nascent presidency. It begins with his election that is tainted by allegations of voter suppression and his loss of the popular vote. It continues with at least a dozen women who are charging him with sexual assault. Then there are his unsavory connections to Russia and its efforts to interfere with the election.

And that’s not all. Just a few days ago Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle a lawsuit to compensate the fraud victims of his phony Trump University. His cabinet and administration appointees are affiliated with radical racist organizations. And he has a growing list of ethically compromising conflicts of interest. There has never been a president who has more brazenly used the office for personal gain.

No wonder Trump is avoiding the media. By going four months without taking questions from the press corps, Trump has evaded scrutiny over these and other issues. This may benefit his efforts to silence criticism, but it is a disservice to citizens and to democracy.

Sadly, the media seems to be all too willing to go along with him. Even after the atrocious way that Trump treats the press, they continue to cater to his whims. Very little mention is made of his extended refusal to face the media. That is decidedly different from the treatment that Hillary Clinton received when she went a few weeks without holding a press conference. Even though she did conduct hundreds of interviews with individual reporters, she was hounded and criticized. Fox News displayed a running clock of the days since her last press conference. And there was rampant insinuations of her having something to hide. Where is that criticism for Trump, who is no longer merely a candidate, but president-elect?

When asked when he might hold his first post-election press conference, his spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, would say only “Soon.” She dodged any more specific answer saying that he was too busy with his transition activities. Does she expect him to be less busy when he’s the leader of the free world? What’s more, he wasn’t too busy to convene a private, off the record meeting with the heads of the major media corporations and some leading news anchors. The New York Post revealed some of what took place in that meeting, and it wasn’t pretty:

“It was like a f–ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.

Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said “I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,” the source said.

The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing down,” the source added.

A second source confirmed the fireworks.

To be sure, that account was from the notoriously bombastic New York Post. Some other reports described the get together with less intensity. But while the Post may lean toward melodrama, the others may be more interested in preserving access to the administration. All things considered, the Post’s account sounds more like the Trump we have all come to know.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

The old fallacy of the “liberal” media is further undermined by these events. Trump is getting far more favorable treatment than Clinton did under similar circumstances. More importantly, he is getting away with suppressing coverage of his scandalous activities. The media is supposed to hold politicians to account, but they are failing to do their job. If this keeps up for the next four years America will be buried in tabloid irrelevancies. Trump’s improprieties will be state secrets. And the National Enquirer and Breitbart News will become the dominant media and serve as America’s Pravda.

John Oliver Trashes Trump As ‘A Klan-Backed Misogynist Internet Troll’

It may be difficult to find the humor in last week’s election results. Americans who are appropriately terrified by the prospect of Donald Trump’s presidency may be in no mood to laugh. However, some comic relief could be just the right medicine for a nation infected by the Great Orange Plague of 2016. And who better to fill that prescription than John Oliver.

John Oliver

In the season finale of his HBO program, Oliver spent the whole show assessing the consequences of Tuesday’s debacle. He began by finding a smidgen of positivity by noticing that the promise of opportunity in this country is still alive. “America proved,” Oliver wryly observed, “that no grandpa is too racist to become leader of the free world.” Only in America. He went on to question the potential causes that led us to the edge of this political cliff:

“How the fuck did we get here? Well clearly, there are many possible answers to that question, including: misleading forecasts that bred complacency; a flawed candidate who failed to appeal to white rural and working-class voters; and — and this is worth repeating — deep racism and/or indifference to it.”

It’s impossible to argue with that assessment, as far as it goes. But Oliver then launched an assault on what is certainly one of the primary factors in Trump’s victory: The Media! He castigated it for having neglected its professional obligations to the public. He was stunned by “how a system that is supposed to catch a serial liar failed.” But he was also aware of the shameful malfeasance of the corporate press hacks who seemed to be oblivious to their ineptitude. He quoted CNN’s president Jeff Zucker:

“I’d say that if we made a mistake last year, it’s that we probably did put on too many of his campaign rallies in those early months, unedited, and just let them run. And I think, in hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have done that as much.”

Is he freakin’ kidding?! Zucker considers that an insightful reflection on his performance as a news executive? Well, how could he have known not to pander to Trump incessantly for hours on end? Other than by having been chastised for it repeatedly while he was doing it. Every respected media analyst was loudly condemning the networks for kowtowing to Trump. If this “mistake” came as a surprise to him he is either totally incompetent or in the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. More likely he was taking the same approach as a network colleague who at least was honest enough to admit that he was in it for the ratings. Les Moonves of CBS told a media conference that “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” And that’s the same theory by which all the networks operate. Greed before patriotism.

Oliver went on to urge viewers to “stay here and fight” because the country can no longer assume that we have a president who will “stand up for the rights of all Americans.” And he pegged Trump as deceitful and opportunistic saying that:

“Trump is a masterful denier of both reality and responsibility. He is a man that would kick you in the nuts and then tell you that your penis did it. So the press is gonna face challenges. Not just because Trump’s chief strategist is Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, but also because of yet another promise that Trump made:

“‘If I become president they are gonna have such problems. Oh, are they gonna have problems. I’m gonna open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.'”

Let that sink in. Trump, having benefited inordinately from a star-struck press corps, is also threatening to sue them into oblivion. It’s a sort of battered spouse relationship with Trump receiving all the love while meting out the abuse. Unfortunately, that perverse relationship is likely continue as Trump moves into the White House. And Oliver had some closing remarks to make sure that citizens don’t become numbed to the insanity. He urged people to “get actively involved to at least mitigate Trump’s damage” and that:

“It is gonna be too easy for things to start feeling normal, especially if you are someone who is not directly impacted by his actions. So keep reminding yourself: This is not normal. […] because a Klan-backed, misogynist, internet troll is going to be delivering the next State of the Union address. And that is NOT normal! It is FUCKED UP.”

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Breitbart ‘News’ Invents Quotes To Smear CNN

There’s an old saying that wisely counsels to leave well enough alone. Unfortunately, the Tea-guzzlers at Breitbart News have dismissed that advice and unleashed an assault against CNN and its chief, Jeff Zucker. Never mind that CNN has devolved into a nearly useless platform for right-wing propaganda as evidenced by their recent interview of Glenn Beck by Beck’s own employee, S.E. Cupp. But that’s not good enough for the BreitBrats. Now they are launching an attack on CNN that is so feeble they had to make up quotes to hammer them with.

Breitbart News

The title on Breitbart’s article is “CNN To Republicans: Drop Dead.” Of course, no one on CNN ever said or even implied that. The flimsy impetus for the citation occurred in an article that was a slobbering love sonnet to Fox News by BreitBrat Tony Lee, whose feathers were ruffled by a remark made by CNN’s Zucker at a TV convention. Zucker responded to a question about a recent Fox criticism of CNN by correctly pointing out that “I think we all know what’s going on there. The Republican Party is being run out of News Corp. headquarters [and] masquerading as a channel.” Zucker was merely acknowledging the obvious: that the cozy relationship between Fox and the GOP is a well documented fact. [Note: Fox happily reposted the Breitbart article on their own web of lies, Fox Nation]

BreitBrat Tony rushed to Fox’s defense with a quote by the Chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Preibus who denied that Fox was his party’s mouthpiece saying “Hey Jeff Zucker, we’re the Republican Party and we speak for ourselves, pal.” Sure they do. They just do it mostly on Fox News, and when they aren’t available, Fox does it for them.

Lee then gets to the point by alleging that “It’s an interesting strategy Zucker has: trash the Republican Party and, by extension, all Republicans.” Except where in Zucker’s remarks did he trash the Republican Party? He merely noted that Fox is a GOP friendly network, which no one who is paying attention would dispute. Zucker’s comments were not even directed at Republicans at all. They were characterizing Fox News’ obvious partisan bias. But apparently associating Republicans with Fox News constitutes “trashing” in Lee’s view.

The rest of the article went on interminably about how Fox is beating their competition in the ratings, as if that had some relevance to the subject or to the measure of news quality. Lee’s conclusion, therefore, was summed up in the article’s second made up quote: “These factors led The Hollywood Reporter to declare that Roger Ailes and Fox News had won the cable news wars.” The only problem with that is that the Hollywood Reporter declared no such thing. In fact, it was Ailes himself who made the declaration in an interview with the Reporter.

It takes an astonishingly low grade level of comprehension to take a quote by Ailes and attribute it to the Hollywood Reporter simply because that’s where it was published. But the quote itself was deliberately misleading and self-serving, as one might expect coming from the the CEO of Fox News about his own network. The only people who still believe that cable news quality is measured by ratings are the marketing and the PR departments. The truth is, in a point made often here at News Corpse, is that being number one is only a measure of popularity, not quality. After all, McDonalds is the number one restaurant in America, but very few people would say that it is the best quality food in the country. However, they do have something in common with Fox News:

Fox News / McDonalds

Zombie News Network: How New Boss Jeff Zucker Can Bring CNN Back From The Dead

Once upon a time there was a groundbreaking 24-hour cable news network that came to dominate broadcast journalism. After nearly two decades as the undisputed leader in its market, CNN began to stumble and was eventually overtaken by both Fox News and MSNBC.

There are many factors that contributed to CNN’s decline, including a certain arrogance derived from having the field to itself for so long. When Fox came along and challenged CNN, they were unprepared for a competitor that didn’t really care about news, instead favoring a more entertainment oriented approach that focused on a sexier brand of melodrama and sensationalism. Also, the hardcore, right-wing partisanship of Fox News herded all of the conservative news sheeple into one corral, artificially inflating the ratings picture. From the start, Fox reflected the views of its financier, Rupert Murdoch, and its CEO, former GOP media guru Roger Ailes, who described his own philosophy of journalism this way:

“If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”

And ever since Fox has been throwing Democrats into orchestra pits that were built by Fox engineers and reporting that in place of actual news.

CNN GOP Tea PartyIn responding to the competition, CNN did not help itself by embarking on the path to Foxification. Their management made the foolish mistake of concluding that Fox’s success was related to their blatant conservative bias and abandonment of journalistic principles, and rushed to reproduce that model themselves. They installed Ken Jautz, a rabidly right-wing promoter, as it’s chief. Jautz was the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television. Then CNN went on a hiring binge that consisted of the most unsavory figures from Wingnutlandia including: Amy Holmes and Will Cain (of Glenn Beck’s The Blaze), Erick Erickson (of the uber-conservative blog RedState), Dana Loesch (of Breitbart News and the Tea Party), and E.D. Hill, a former Fox anchor and Bill O’Reilly guest host, who is most famous for saying that a friendly fist bump between the President and the First Lady was really a “terrorist fist jab.”

CNN was the only cable news network to broadcast live Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to Obama’s State of the Union address. Then they co-sponsored a GOP primary debate with the corrupt Tea Party Express. They also co-sponsored a debate with the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. However, they conspicuously failed to program similar events with lefties like MoveOn.org or the Center for American Progress.

Dressing up like Fox was damaging to both CNN’s credibility and their ratings. Even Fox’s business network recognized that copying Fox News was a losing strategy. FBN VP Kevin Magee sent a memo to his staff saying that…

“…the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves. I understand the temptation to imitate our sibling network in hopes of imitating its success, but we cannot. If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time.”

Unfortunately, no one at CNN could grasp that simple truth. Now CNN has a fresh opportunity to restore its former glory. Following the resignation of Jim Walton, CNN has tapped former NBC/Universal chief Jeff Zucker to replace him as the president of CNN Worldwide. Zucker has a mixed record at NBC. During his tenure the entertainment division went from first to fourth. He presided over the catastrophic move of Jay Leno to primetime, then back again to late night, which resulted in the loss of Conan O’Brien. However, NBC News boasts the top rated morning and evening news broadcasts. And MSNBC has rocketed into an unexpectedly competitive position with Fox. In fact, since election day, MSNBC has actually outperformed Fox.

Zucker has an abundance of existing assets with which to remake CNN into the global media powerhouse it used to be. They have more reporters in more parts of the world than their competitors. In fact, CNN has more domestic and foreign bureaus than Fox and MSNBC combined. Fox invests very little in news bureaus or other news gathering operations. The bulk of their expenditures is on their “celebrity” presenters and pseudo-pundits. Fox is an enterprise that is engaged more in news analysis and manipulation than anything resembling journalism. While MSNBC benefits from the substantial resources of NBC News, the cable network has concentrated more on opinion and advocacy in recent years.

All of this creates an opening for CNN to become what its marketing department already pitches the network as: a news channel. CNN’s audience still expects the network to perform at its best when some catastrophic event occurs. They continue to get high tune-in for natural disasters and acts of war. However, there isn’t always a convenient calamity to fill their airtime. So they cram their schedule with pablum and phony attempts at balance, but succeed mostly at boring their viewers with a desperate effort to avoid offending anybody.

The question now is, where will they go from here? The best way to put CNN back in the game is to adopt a hard news profile that dispenses with petty partisan bickering. In one of his first quotes after the announcement of his hiring, Zucker said that “news is more than just politics and war.” That’s true. Viewers have many immediate concerns that would compel them to watch a network that provided them with information about issues that impact their lives. That includes economics, civil liberties, health, crime, education, jobs, the environment, etc. And the job of a news network is more than just reporting what occurred. It is also putting it context, explaining matters that are often complex, and making the whole package entertaining enough to keep the viewer’s attention.

By concentrating on real news, CNN can stake out territory that its competitors are neglecting. They can focus on the fundamentals of journalism that consist of shoe-leather investigations, relevant interviews, and compelling production values. They need to jettison the political hacks who populate their studios and replace them with policy experts and academics. This will turn the predictable, partisan slapfights into informed discussions. And the audience can get something out of the program that is more substantive than a red face and ammunition for their next bout with a contrary uncle at a family dinner.

When the subject turns to politics, who would you rather see debating, for instance, raising the age for Social Security eligibility? A Democrat and a Republican who will spew the same old party line talking points? Or an expert on retirement economics and an apolitical career administrator from Health and Human Services? Obviously the later would be more informative, but it could also be more dry and difficult to sit through. That’s why the art of storytelling needs to be brought back to news reporting.

With actual intellectual content to convey, it would be up to anchors and producers to package it attractively. For that you need professionals who know how to tell a story and engage an audience. The newspaper business used to be full of people with those skills until all the papers started folding up. CNN could snap up some of that talent and put them to work juicing up stories that people are really interested in. In fact, there would nothing wrong with employing dramatists and humorists to write news copy that makes people feel something, so long as they stick to the news. And the presenters should be people with demonstrated abilities to connect with audiences on a personal level. Add some dynamic graphics and music and those experts on retirement economics can become downright scintillating.

Finally, there is a concept that has crept into the production of contemporary news that is not, and should not be, a part of quality journalism. CNN should ban the notion of balance from all of their reporting. Balance is a false objective. The goal of honest journalism should be truth. For example, it does no one any good to interview a doctor about the documented health risks of smoking, and then bringing in a tobacco advocate for “balance.” An opposite opinion is worse than a waste of time, it is counterproductive, if it is not based on reality. A news network should not tolerate science deniers, birthers, and zealots who peddle fables as if they were facts.

If CNN wants to be a player in cable news, they need to avoid accepting the terms of their competition. They need to set the terms themselves. And if they commit to identifying the issues that matter to people, and presenting them honestly and with a bit of showbiz flash, they can draw the kind of engaged and loyal audience that appeals to advertisers which, of course, is critical to success in this business. Plus, they can actually serve a positive purpose by educating viewers and advancing dialogs of substance. Even better, if this approach is successful it will spur other news enterprises to follow a similar path. Then, maybe, one day, we can be proud of the American media and not regard it with the disdain that it currently inspires.

Uh Oh. CNN Takes A Sharp Turn Toward Hell

Remember the old days when CNN was the dominant cable news network? Or the even older days when it was the only cable news network? I didn’t think so. It was a long time ago. Viewers today don’t appreciate how remarkable an achievement it was to launch a 24 hour news channel when nothing like it existed at the time.

Whether or not you like Ted Turner, you have to give him credit for being a pioneer, although given the state of cable news today, I’m not sure he’d want the credit/blame. However, he recognized the unique environment in which his experiment was born, and he further recognized the changes that took place in subsequent years that preclude anyone from ever doing the same (see My Beef With Big Media).

Now CNN is mired in third place, overtaken by a bombastic, right-wing, agenda-driven, Fox News, and a lukewarm, marginally liberal, MSNBC. So it should come as no surprise that the brass at CNN would be looking to shake things up in hopes of recovering their glory days. To that end, yesterday CNN announced that its president, Jon Klein, would be leaving the network. That, in and of itself, would appear to be a routine response to poor performance in the marketplace. The problem here is not that Klein is leaving. It’s who they are elevating to his post that is worrisome.

Ken Jautz, presently the head of CNN’s HLN (formerly known as Headline News Network) has been tapped to replace Klein. He is a brash, iconoclastic, executive who is more interested in ratings than journalism. But perhaps the most disturbing item on Jautz’s resume is that he is the man who brought Glenn Beck to HLN, and to television. Looking back at that millstone in broadcast media is one of the best ways of getting a handle on what may be in store for a Juatz-run CNN. Here is what he had to say upon hiring Beck back in January of 2006:

“Glenn Beck is the next piece of the puzzle,” said HLN prexy Ken Jautz. “Glenn’s style is self-deprecating, cordial; he says he’d like to be able to disagree with guests and part as friends. It’s conversational, not confrontational.”

If Beck is Jautz’s idea of cordial, I hope never to meet anyone he considers to be rude. What’s more, Beck is not known for having guests with whom he disagrees, friendly or otherwise. And the notion that he is not confrontational is absurd on its face. Calling the President a racist; charging that progressives are a cancer; tagging anyone with whom he disagrees a Marxist; declaring his hatred for Woodrow Wilson as well as 9/11 families; these are not behaviors generally associated with being non-confrontational. Jautz went on to say…

“As part of the continued evolution of the network, we wanted another primetime show,” Jautz said. “We didn’t look for a conservative, a liberal or anyone of a particular ideology. It was about getting the best talent that would resonate with the most viewers.”

Well then, it’s a good thing he wasn’t actually looking for a conservative. He would have ended up with a modern version of Attila the Hun (or did he anyway?). It should also be noted that his desire to find the “best talent” who would “resonate” with viewers, was unfulfilled. Beck’s show was a dismal ratings failure on HLN. He would not be a success until he moved to Fox News with its built-in audience of pre-cooked FoxBots.

Given the remarks Jautz made when taking over HLN and bringing Beck into the fold, it is fair to say that he was somewhat disingenuous with regard to his public appraisals. And he was similarly disingenuous in private. In the book “Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck And The Triumph Of Ignorance,” author Alexander Zaitchik noted that Jautz mislead his employers at the time as to his intentions in reforming the channel:

“Facing a staff weary of rumored changes, Jautz gently presented Blue Sky [his programming initiative] as a trial balloon. He promised that CNN standards would not be diluted in the makeover and that soon-to-be-hired Headline News personalities would not appear on traditional CNN news programming. He broke both promises.”

Indeed he did. Glenn Beck not only appeared on CNN, he was permitted to fill in as a guest host on Larry King Live. Taking into consideration the duplicity of Jautz’s comments when he assumed command of HLN, it might be prudent to take note of what he is saying now with regard to his promotion at CNN. Jautz was interviewed by The Wrap and said…

Q: Can we expect a tone change, or any sort of ideological shift?
A: I think that CNN needs to be as lively and engaging and as informative as it is known for its reporting.

Whatever that means.

Q: For a long time, Jon Klein resisted any sort of partisan programming — especially as expressed by the hosts. Can we expect to see more opinions — or at least opinionated hosts — under your watch?
A: CNN has always been about adhering to non-partisan programming in general. And it will continue to be.

However, I do not believe that “facts-only” programming … it will not work. Viewers, if they’re looking for just the news, they can get that anywhere now. The news that happened that day, they probably know already. They want context, perspective and opinion. And we’re going to give that to them. As long as it’s non-partisan, in the aggregate, from all ends of the spectrum.

In other words, we will continue to be non-partisan except when we’re being opinionated. And none of those pesky “facts” that clutter up the news.

Jautz did improve the standing of HLN. But he did it by ramping up the volume with shouters like Beck and Nancy Grace, and by diving head-first into the tabloid world of pop culture and celebrity gossip. Could that approach help to restore CNN’s prior leadership? Who cares? It isn’t what anyone who truly cares about responsible journalism would want.

And that’s the problem with contemporary corporate media: It is more interested in serving the shareholders than in serving the public. Unless Jautz has recently had a revelatory transformation, CNN has taken a giant step backwards by giving him the reins to the network. The prospect of the man who launched Glenn Beck’s television career running a cable news network is troubling, to say the least.

In related news, NBC/Universal has announced that it’s chief executive, Jeff Zucker, will also be leaving his post. This is an entirely different situation than the one at CNN. NBC is presently the number one network in evening news, morning news, and Sunday news. CNBC is still the top business channel. Plus, under Zucker’s reign, MSNBC moved up from third place to second. The staffing change at NBC is due to its imminent acquisition by Comcast. It remains to be seen who will be replacing Zucker.

Sometimes these sort of changes are merely shifts designed to put a new management’s imprint on the merged entity. But Comcast has baggage that makes it important to keep an eye on them. And they will have an unprecedented range of influence as a result of the merger. Stay tuned.