Laura Ingraham and white anxiety; NFL protests resume; "safe media spaces;" Sinclair's defeat; Avenatti in Iowa; Lowry reviews "BlacKkKlansman"

By Brian Stelter and CNN's media team
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Exec summary: Tribune is suing Sinclair, "BlacKkKlansman" is in theaters, Abby Huntsman is jumping networks, Twitter is feeling the Infowars heat, and more... Plus, my new podcast with Harry Enten...

White anxiety has a home on Fox News

Tom Kludt and I wrote this on Thursday:

It wasn't so much a dog whistle as it was an airhorn. Or perhaps a primal scream. But whatever it was, Laura Ingraham's forceful denunciation of "massive demographic changes" served as another raw example of a Fox News host echoing white nationalist language. Perhaps it was a glimpse into President Trump's well of support, too.

We'll get to Ingraham's walk-back in a moment. But here's the Wednesday night statement that was so startling: "The America we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don't like."

"We?" "Us?"

Ingraham knows her (almost 100% white, predominantly Christian) audience. On shows like "The Ingraham Angle" and "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the politics of white anxiety play out practically every day, as hosts and guests warn about the impacts of immigration and minimize or mock the perspectives of people of color. Whiteness under threat is a common theme, especially on Carlson's show. The segments are clearly intended to appeal to people who perceive they are losing their grip on power.

There's a big audience for this. IMHO, understanding it is crucial to understanding the USA in 2018. Van Jones' term "whitelash" comes to mind...
 

Why it went viral

A researcher for the liberal, anti-Fox watchdog group Media Matters flagged Ingraham's comments right away. That's a big part of why the clip went viral. Nearly 24 hours later, Ingraham's name was still a top trending topic on Twitter. Media Matters followed up with a video asserting that Ingraham's "anti-immigrant rant" was "ripped from white supremacists."

 >> Interviewed for my story on "CNN Tonight," the group's president, Angelo Carusone, said Fox's talk shows are "promoting ideas that derive from white nationalist places..."
 

How this is related to "perceived lack of status"

Trump tapped into this same vein during his campaign. "It was exactly these kinds of fears about cultural change, cultural displacement and immigration that were the key drivers of support for President Trump," Robert P. Jones, the head of PRRI, told me. And Trump continues to tap into it every time he brings up immigration or "Merry Christmas."

"When Ingraham talks about America not looking like the America it used to be, that does indicate a perceived lack of status," Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University, told Kludt. "And some people are motivated by a desire to regain that status." Here's our full story...

 >> FURTHER READING: Ezra Klein recently wrote about "white threat in a browning America..." David French wrote about "the great white culture war..."

Ingraham's response

On Thursday night, Ingraham said some people were "distorting" her views. To white nationalists, she said, "You do not have my support. You don't represent my views and you are antithetical to the beliefs I hold dear." She called out David Duke, who had complimented her Wednesday night commentary, as a "racist freak," refusing to name him.

Then she claimed her comments were about upholding the "rule of law" and "keeping America safe." Here's the video. But no matter what Ingraham says now, she was talking about "changing demographics" in the country being disturbing to her and to her audience. She can't take that back...
 

What about the Murdochs?

Ultimately the winners here are Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, who profit from Fox's right wing rhetoric. Do the Murdochs encourage Fox's prime time direction? Or do they hold their noses? That's unclear, even to experts who follow the industry closely. In the past, the Murdochs have expressed opposition to Trump's hardline immigration policies and rhetoric. But Fox absolutely knows what its audience wants...
 

Trump and Fox are "learning from one another"

Tom and I weren't the only ones thinking about this on Thursday. The WashPost's Philip Bump wrote, "Trump and Fox News recognize the value of marketing white anxiety to their shared base of supporters. Both are learning from one another about how those messages are refined..."
 

Meanwhile... NFL protests begin again

That's the top story on CNN.com right now. "Several NFL players took a knee, raised fists or did not take to the field while the National Anthem was played Thursday night before preseason games..." Read on...

Flashback to what Bill de Blasio said...

NYC mayor Bill de Blasio spoke with The Guardian's Ben Jacobs the other day about Rupert Murdoch's impact on American politics. "If you could remove News Corp from the last 25 years of American history, we would be in an entirely different place," de Blasio said. Agree/disagree? Would that "different place" be better or worse?
 

Booking alert: de Blasio on Sunday's "Reliable Sources"

An early look at Sunday's show: The mayor will join me live... along with some other headliners... So set your DVR or alarm clock for 11am ET Sunday...
FOR YOUR FRIDAY MORNING COMMUTE!

Fresh pod with Harry Enten

Polls! They got a bad rap after the 2016 elections. POTUS felt emboldened to call polls "fake." But the truth is... more complicated and more interesting. Polls about special elections and recent primaries have been "more accurate than usual," CNN's Harry Enten told me on this week's "Reliable Sources" podcast.

We taped this conversation on Thursday, in the wake of the nailbiters in Ohio, Kansas, etc. I asked five of the Q's that you all submitted via email. We talked about "blue waves," polling victories, and media misconceptions. I think you'll be entertained. Tune in via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or TuneIn...
 

WSJ editorial board calls out GOP's "safe media spaces"

This topic came up on the podcast too: The ludicrous talk of a "red wave" of GOP victories in the fall.

The WSJ's editorial board called this out on Thursday... And the criticism of "safe media spaces" is noteworthy:

"Our sense is that Republican voters haven't recognized how much jeopardy the party is in. Many are content to listen only to their safe media spaces that repeat illusions about a 'red wave' and invoke 2016 when the media said Mr. Trump couldn't win. Nearly all of the media does want Democrats to win again, and humility was one of the lessons we learned from the surprises of 2016. But that's not an excuse for ignoring the evidence of GOP trouble..."
For the record, part one 
 -- One of my favorite shows on cable, "S.E. Cupp: Unfiltered," is moving from HLN to sister channel CNN... It will air Saturdays at 6pm ET starting August 25... (Mediaite)

 -- Erik Wemple's latest: "60 Minutes" boss Jeff Fager "tolerated" years of allegedly abusive conduct by senior producer Michael Radutzky... (WaPo)

 -- Somehow I forgot to include this yesterday: Axios has signed a deal with HBO "to produce a limited-run series of news documentaries timed to the midterm elections..." (WSJ)

Tribune dumps Sinclair, then sues for $1 billion

The Sinclair/Tribune deal was doomed the moment the FCC said it had "serious concerns" over the transaction and referred it to an administrative law judge. But the official time and date of death was 6:34am Thursday, when Tribune announced that it had terminated the deal.

Hadas Gold emails: The two companies that were supposed to become a family are now adversaries. Tribune hit Sinclair with a harsh lawsuit for alleged breach of contract. The suit revealed that Tribune had threatened to sue Sinclair twice earlier this year if the buyer didn't make things right with regulators. But instead of following a "clear path" to approval, Sinclair "repeatedly and willfully breached its contractual obligations in spectacular fashion," Tribune charged.

So the company is seeking $1 billion plus other damages to be determined in court. Now the Q is: Who buys Tribune?

What Sinclair is saying

"No, I dumped YOU!" There was a hint of that in Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley's memo to staffers on Thursday. While Tribune cast the break-up as its decision, Ripley said "we," i.e. Sinclair, "did not think pursuing the merger" was wise, once the FCC referred the case to a judge.

He also denied claims that Sinclair was anything but transparent. "At no time did we act without candor or mislead the FCC," he wrote.

Ripley said Tribune's lawsuit is "entirely without merit, and we intend to defend it vigorously." In the memo, Sinclair said "welcome back" to the stations that were GOING to be sold as a result of the transaction. And he reassured staffers who are worried about layoffs and shakeups: "We have the strongest financial position and growth prospects in the industry." We'll see...

 >> David Zurawik's reaction: "Even I didn't think it would end this badly for Sinclair..."
Tribune spun off its newspaper biz four years ago... The biz became TRONC... So let's check in with that side now...

The bidder for Tronc is...

Reuters got the scoop "Donerail Group, an investment firm led by former activist hedge fund Starboard Value LP executive Will Wyatt, is in talks to acquire Tronc," Greg Roumeliotis reported Thursday.

So that's the mystery bidder, answering the question posed by the Chicago Tribune's story on Wednesday. 

Roumeliotis: "Donerail Group has secured financing for the deal and is in advanced negotiations with Tronc, the sources said, cautioning that a deal is not imminent and there is no certainty an agreement will be reached."

Will Tronc take the deal?

Donerail is a newly established firm, so it might take time "convincing Tronc's board of directors that it can go ahead with the deal," Roumeliotis reported. Earlier, the Trib said "a bid of between $19 and $20 per share is on the table." Will the Tronc board take it? The company declined to comment on Thursday's earnings call... Tom Kludt and Jill Disis have details here...
For the record, part two
 -- One of Friday's big political stories: Michael Avenatti in Iowa. He's doing interviews and addressing Dems at the Wing Ding dinner and "strongly considering" a 2020 run. A publicity stunt? "Anybody paying attention in the last six months knows the last thing I need is any additional publicity," he told the NYT's Jonathan Martin... (NYT)

 -- Daniel Dale's latest: "Trump just obliterated his old record for false claims in a week, with 132 last week. The list includes a staggering variety of big lies..." (Toronto Star)

 -- "White House officials and Republicans close to Trump are serious about reeling" Hope Hicks in "to play a role in Trump's nascent 2020 campaign..." (Politico)
THE WAR OVER INFOWARS

Twitter said InfoWars hadn't broken its rules, but...

Oliver Darcy emails: Twitter's VP of trust and safety, Del Harvey, told employees in an email Wednesday that if Alex Jones and InfoWars had posted to Twitter the same content that led YouTube and Facebook to take action, Twitter would have done something too. Well, guess what? I reviewed Jones' accounts and found that all of the videos that led the other tech companies to take action against Jones were, in fact, posted to Twitter. Full story here…

And that's not all our review found. Content that appears to violate Twitter's rules appears over and over again in the hundreds of hours of video available on the accounts that Jones and InfoWars maintain on Twitter and Periscope. Such content promoted Sandy Hook and Parkland conspiracy theories, attacked groups of people based on their gender identity and religion, targeted individuals for harassment, and glorified violence.

>> Worth noting: Almost every Infowars show in last year or so has been streamed live and archived in its entirety on Twitter's platform. There is probably a lot more content that violates Twitter's standards out there...
 

Why did Twitter's VP make that glaring error?

More from Darcy: Either Twitter is grossly incompetent, or the company has been intentionally misleading. Harvey and Twitter's trust and safety team should have known the content that led YouTube/Facebook to take action against Jones and InfoWars had in fact been posted on Twitter. Not only would a quick search have returned such results, but I explicitly noted this when I requested comment from the company Wednesday morning -- before Harvey had sent her note out. Question for Twitter: Why would Harvey feed her employees false info, and then post the note for the public to read?
 

Poof. What happened to the tweets?

Darcy adds: Almost immediately after our story went live on CNN.com, each of the 20 tweets included in our article were removed from Twitter. A Twitter spokesperson told me that Twitter had not removed the content, and that the company was still reviewing it. The Twitter spokesperson said that either Jones or someone with access to his accounts had likely removed the tweets. A spokesperson for Jones and Infowars did not respond for comment...
 

The unknown...

Darcy adds: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a Tuesday tweetstorm that the company had not taken action against InfoWars and Jones because he had not "violated our rules." Obviously, as our story points out, it appears Jones and InfoWars have violated Twitter's rules plenty of times. So how will Jack and Twitter respond? Will he take action? It will be interesting to see how he handles the issue, particularly during interviews scheduled in the coming days with NBC and CNN...
For the record, part three
 -- Fox News "is promoting two key members of its D.C. operation. Bryan Boughton has been promoted to SVP of the Washington D.C. bureau, and Cherie Grzech has been named VP of the bureau..." (TVNewser)

 -- Keach Hagey's newest scoop: "Sumner Redstone Trust Restricts Sale Options for CBS, Viacom" (WSJ)

 -- WATCH BACK: "NBCUniversal is considering the launch of a streaming service that would pay people to watch it..." (The Information)

Abby Huntsman to "The View"

"Fox News host Abby Huntsman is officially leaving the network to join The View," Mediaite's Aidan McLaughlin scooped on Thursday.

ABC hasn't announced her hire yet, but Fox confirmed that "this will be Huntsman's last weekend hosting the Saturday and Sunday editions of the network's flagship morning program."

Variety's Brian Steinberg notes that Huntsman will "bolster the ranks of young Republicans around 'The View's' table, joining Meghan McCain..."

News Corp earnings

Via the FT's Jessica Dye: "News Corp said on Thursday that quarterly revenue grew nearly a third thanks to 'robust performance' across its portfolio, including Australian pay-TV operator Foxtel, book publishing and its digital real estate segment." Most of the growth came from the Foxtel-Fox Sports Australia deal... (FT)

"Constructive conversations..."

Since News Corp CEO Robert Thomson has been one of the industry's sharpest critics of the "digital duopoly," it's always notable when he abstains from attacking. Here's what he said on Thursday's earnings call: "Constructive conversations are underway with Google, YouTube and Facebook to recognize provenance, counteract piracy and share the permissioned data that was generated by our journalism and our creative work. We sense that these companies are conscious that the editorial eco-system is changing and that IP is a priority, while piracy and pedantry are anathema to the growth of a healthy and harmonious community."

Thomson also said "we are watching closely as Amazon, a dominant horizontal platform, expands into more verticals, bringing the possibility of algorithmic abuse..."

"We are losing something..."

The latest edition of C-SPAN's "The Weekly" podcast, hosted by Steve Scully, features former W.H. press secretary Mike McCurry.

Scully: "Is the freedom of press under fire?"

McCurry: "Yes. When you have a president that declares the press the enemy of the people, and some portion of the American public, maybe say 25%, adhere to that belief, then we are losing something that is fundamentally important..."
The entertainment desk

Lowry reviews "BlacKkKlansman"

"Spike Lee films can be guilty of feeling didactic, but the material suits the message -- and the director's passion -- in 'BlacKkKlansman,' a fiery, wild true story infused by an overt cautionary warning that the past could be prologue," Brian Lowry writes. Tense, provocative and entertaining, it's not clear how well the movie will age, but Lee's latest joint feels tailor-made for the current moment." Read the rest here...
For the record, part four
By Lisa Respers France:

 -- The ex-couple who are the stars of "Flip or Flop" have announced they are back...

 -- Lindsay Lohan has been slammed for saying #MeToo makes women "look weak..."

 -- BET has been praised for "Killer Curves," a documentary about black market butt augmentation and the black community...

Can you solve this puzzle?

Hey, do you think you'll be able to solve this crossword puzzle? 😃 In this week's NYMag, #29 is "Brian Stelter's employer." Shout-out to my wife for spotting this in the magazine yesterday.


Thanks for reading! Email me your feedback... See you tomorrow...

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