Special election night; OH too close to call; Spike Lee's name for Trump; de Blasio v. Murdoch; Infowars update; AT&T buys Otter; Disney earnings

By Brian Stelter and CNN's media team
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Exec summary: Where did Trump get this fire idea from? Will Tribune walk away from Sinclair? What is Tamron Hall about to announce? How long will the CBS investigation take? Scroll down for questions and answers...

Too close to call

The small picture about Tuesday's special election in Ohio: "The Republican is ahead!"

The BIG picture: "The Democrat really shouldn't even be close."

At the time I'm hitting send, 11:25pm ET, Troy Balderson is slightly ahead of Democrat Danny O'Connor in OH-12. The RNC is saying Balderson won. President Trump is taking credit. But the major networks all say it's too close to call.

Per the DC bureau, CNN will not make a call on Tuesday night... And here's why: Balderson is ahead by 1,754 at the moment, and Ohio's Secretary of State says there are 8,483 outstanding ballots that may be counted...

"A very steep hill for Republicans this year"

But the point, no matter what, is that this race "should" have been a slam dunk for the GOP. That's the most accurate frame for this story, and for the most part, that's how journalists are framing it. 

"This district is ruby red Republican. The fact that it is so close is a big deal," John King said on CNN. A little while later, he told Don Lemon that it's a "moral victory" of sorts for the Democrats.

"The fact that this is so close tells you this is a very steep hill for Republicans this year," King said...

 >> Former RNC chief of staff/CNN contributor Mike Shields on "CNN Tonight:" The "historic average is that the president's party loses 26 seats. We need to beat history by four seats. Our base needs to watch tonight and say, you know what, other networks are telling them everything's fine -- it's not."

 >> Check CNN's live blog for the latest updates from the special election in Ohio... And from the primaries in other states...

 >> Perry Bacon Jr. on the 538 live blog: "The race in Ohio may not be the closest one tonight." Check out Kansas! "Kobach leads by .1 percentage points over Colyer with almost 60 percent of the vote counted..."

The pink wave...

Remember the brief government shutdown back in January? And the silly predictions that it would somehow sway the midterms? I remember asking on CNN, "What is the bigger story this weekend? Is it the shutdown, or is it actually the women's march?" My gut told me it was the march... And my gut has been backed up by all the signs since then... 

"The #PinkWave is the biggest story of 2018," Time's Charlotte Alter tweeted Tuesday night, linking to this info from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers: "It's official. With polls closed in KS, MI, MO, we've broken the record for women major party nominees for U.S. House in any year. The previous record was 167. With 5 women candidates unopposed and one all-female primary, we've hit 168 tonight with possibly more to come..."

About the polling...

I noticed CNN's Harry Enten and 538's Nate Silver noting the accuracy of the recent polling. I asked Enten to elaborate, and here's what he told me:

"The polling currently shows Democrats favored to take back the House in the fall. One hope Republicans have to hold onto the House is a polling error. You might recall that Trump was polling behind Hillary Clinton in a number of key swing states that he ended up winning. Yet, the polling in this year's special elections suggest that Republicans shouldn't get their hopes up. In Ohio 12's special election, the polling indicated a tight race. That's exactly what happened. When you look at the polling in all the special elections this cycle, the average error has actually been smaller compared to special elections in years past. Perhaps most importantly? The polling, if anything, has been biased against the Democrats. That is, they did better than the polling indicated in the average special election..."

CNN staying live overnight

Generally speaking, CNN and MSNBC are spending more time covering the special elections than Fox... 

CNN will stay live all night/early morning... Don Lemon is on from DC until 1am ET, and John Vause will pick up the coverage then...

One of the purposes of Trump's media bashing...

I think John Podhoretz was on to something the other day when he said that Trump's media bashing "is the predicate for the post election excuse for the blue wave."

First, Trump says the press is the "enemy." Then he can say the press doomed the GOP in the midterms.

Podhoretz elaborated in this NYPost column, calling the media bashing "an insurance policy of a kind." The idea: Come November, Trump and the GOP "won't have lost because of public disaffection or anger, but rather because they were propagandized into voting against him. The fix was in. The Fake News Made Me Lose. And now they really have to be stopped..."

Department of "You Can't Make It Up"

This had folks laughing on Tuesday. Oliver Darcy emails: On its website, Infowars lays out a host of various rules users must abide by on its site. It then states, "If you violate these rules, your posts and/or user name will be deleted. Remember, you are a guest here. It is not censorship if you violate the rules and your post is deleted. All civilizations have rules and if you violate them you can expect to be ostracized from the tribe."

So, in other words, exactly what Facebook and Apple and YouTube did...

Why the tech giants deleted Infowars

Last night Oliver Darcy asked: "Who ultimately made the decisions at these tech companies to take action? Did Tim Cook make the final call at Apple? Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook?"

Dylan Byers had answers in today's PACIFIC newsletter. Sources told Byers that Cook met with Eddy Cue over the weekend and decided to remove Jones' entire library of content from iTunes. Then, once Mark Zuckerberg got wind of Apple's decision, the Facebook chief ordered his company to unpublish the InfoWars content from his site. Similarly, Byers reported that YouTube's Susan Wojcicki and Spotify's Daniel Elk made the decisions to ban Jones only after seeing Apple's action...

LinkedIn and MailChimp join InfoWars ban

Oliver Darcy emails: LinkedIn and MailChimp joined the tech chorus on Tuesday and removed InfoWars' content from their platforms. Both tech companies said in statements that InfoWars had violated their terms of service...

Here's why Infowars remains on Twitter

"He hasn't violated our rules. We'll enforce if he does. And we'll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren't artificially amplified," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a series of posts on Tuesday night.

As CNNMoney's Rob McLean wrote here, "Dorsey called on journalists to 'document, validate, and refute' information posted by accounts like Jones' 'so people can form their own opinions.'" Hmmm. Do you all think that's the right solution to this problem?

"The tip of a giant iceberg..."

Oliver Darcy emails: Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted Monday night that InfoWars was just "the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies" that uses social media to spread its message and that big tech "must do more than take down one website." By Tuesday, some on the right were suggesting that Murphy was calling for the banning of all conservative media. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that Murphy had "openly admitted" as much and wondered "how long before big tech" moved to ban sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart. Which is interesting... Why would Trump Jr. and others worry that the banning of hate websites be a problem for conservative media?

What about the app store?

More from Darcy: While Apple did move to ban Infowars from iTunes, and Google banned the organization from YouTube, both companies still left the Infowars app available for download in their respective app stores. On Tuesday, the app climbed the charts. As I write this, the Infowars app is the fourth most popular news app in the Apple App Store, ahead of CNN, Fox News, NYT and others. The Verge reported that in the Google Play store, the app jumped from 31st most popular news app to the 11th most popular...
For the record, part one 
 -- Bill de Blasio v. Rupert Murdoch in a new interview: "If you could remove News Corp from the last 25 years of American history, we would be in an entirely different place..." (Guardian)

 -- Dan Abrams' "Live PD" continues to post big #'s for A&E... (Mediaite)

 -- Season six of "OITNB" "continues to be one of the most watched streaming original series," according to Netflix's data... The first episode of the season drew more than 5.3 million US viewers in its first three days... (Twitter)

 -- Dan Steinberg tweeted: "A Virginia Tech beat writer took a new job at the Athletic, and took 27,000 Twitter followers with him. Now his former newspaper is suing because it wants the Twitter account back." Here's Rick Maese's story... (WaPo)

"CBS board of directors takes over investigation into CBS News"

That's the headline from... CBSNews.com. This is about the Proskauer Rose probe of alleged harassment -- and mishandling of harassment claims -- by CBS News employees and execs. CBS Corporation ordered up the investigation back in March. It was expected to wrap up sometime this month. But now THAT probe is being "folded into the efforts of two other law firms hired last week by the CBS board, CBS News staffers were told Tuesday. CBS News management was not aware of a timeline for the new investigation..."

In other words, the law firms that are examining the claims in Ronan Farrow's story -- Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton -- are in charge of the CBS News review as well...

What about Fager?

Well, as I reported the other day, Jeff Fager is "staying on vacation" while the investigation is underway. (He has firmly denied all wrongdoing and criticized the accusers.) This is from the CBSNews.com story: "CBS would not say when Fager would return..."

Sinclair-Tribune breakup day?

Tribune Broadcasting can walk away from Sinclair on Wednesday. The $3.9 billion merger agreement allows either company to back out if the deal is not done by Wednesday... And Sinclair is facing months of FCC-related headaches. So what will Tribune do? My best source inside Sinclair is predicting that Tribune will walk on Wednesday... And strike a deal with Fox instead...

AT&T buys Otter

AT&T's long-expected acquisition of Otter Media is now official. The NYT's Brooks Barnes had the scoop on Tuesday. "Analysts valued the deal...at more than $1 billion," he wrote.

In an interview, Peter Chernin "predicted that AT&T would accelerate Otter's growth by combining it with its new entertainment empire," i.e. WarnerMedia.

Otter is a holding company that includes the Crunchyroll streaming service, "a studio and advertising agency for YouTube stars" called Fullscreen, the video makers at Rooster Teeth, and other streaming ventures. "Otter's streaming services have more than two million paying subscribers in total, on par with CBS All Access," per Barnes. There's a lot to be learned from what Chernin and co. have done for the past few years...

What's next for Chernin?

More from Barnes' story: "The Otter sale raises the question" of what Chernin will do next. "There has been speculation in Hollywood that he is planning to raise at least $500 million to invest in a new generation of media start-ups. Mr. Chernin declined to comment on the speculation. He said, however, 'I think we will continue to do a version of what we do, which is make movies and television shows, and we will look to continue to invest in consumer technology brands.'" His company's movie division is set up at Fox, so it'll soon be part of the Disney family...

On Disney earnings call, Iger touts streaming strategy

Disney had a "muted" Q2, Jill Disis reports. "The company failed to meet Wall Street's expectations on earnings and revenue, sending the stock down as much as 2% after hours." So Bob Iger was forward-looking on Tuesday's earnings call. While he's awaiting the final sign-offs for the Fox transaction, he told investors that Fox brings "even more opportunity to create original programming" for Disney's forthcoming streaming service.

 >> "We feel that it does not have to have anything close to the volume of what Netflix has because of the value of the brands and the specific value of the programs that will be included on it," Iger said...

 >> That yet-to-be-named service, ESPN+, and Hulu "will basically be designed to attract different tastes and different segment or audience demographics," he said...

Sky update

On the aforementioned call, Iger declined to discuss Sky. So far, Disney's pursuit of Sky has been "unfolding by proxy through Fox, which has agreed that it would sell the company to Disney if it succeeds in its takeover bid," Disis writes. "The companies had until the end of Thursday to take action on Sky. Comcast has already offered £26 billion ($34 billion), the highest offer. On Tuesday afternoon, Fox formalized a previous offer it made for Sky of £24.5 billion, or about $32.5 billion. That effectively extends the deadline it has to top Comcast's bid until September 22."

For the record, part two
 -- "Snap saw its first drop in daily users during the second quarter, a slip the company attributed to a rocky app redesign. Still, its revenue climbed 44% year-over-year," Kaya Yurieff reports... (CNN)
 -- "CBS Corp. is seeking information from AT&T about conversations it had in 2016 with National Amusements Inc., the controlling shareholder of CBS, about a potential acquisition of the media company, according to a court filing..." (WSJ)

 -- "In taking on private equity money (from Investcorp and PSP Investments) for the first time, UTA is angling to cement its position among Hollywood's top three agencies..." (THR)

-- IGN has dismissed Nintendo editor Filip Miucin amid accusations of plagiarism... (Kotaku)

What's Tamron Hall about to announce?

On Tuesday night TV host Tamron Hall posted this on Instagram... Saying "we all have 'one more round' in us..." I hear an announcement about Hall's next round coming soon...

Fox hires Trey Yingst

Media types have mocked the excessive Trump cheerleading of One America News, a small Fox News wannabe that's carried by some cable providers. But OANN's White House reporter Trey Yingst has stood out from the rest of the channel's offerings. He has earned the respect of his colleagues on the W.H. beat... I've wondered where he'd get hired... And on Tuesday we found out. Yingst is joining Fox as a general assignment correspondent based in Jerusalem.

In effect he'll be replacing Conor Powell, the Jerusalem-based correspondent who abruptly resigned from Fox News last Friday...

Conor Powell "hated what Fox News had become"

In yesterday's newsletter I mentioned the odd circumstances of Powell's exit. While he declined to comment, a close friend of Powell's who worked with him in the field told me this: 

"Conor hated what Fox News had become and it was just too much for him. This is a guy who years ago moved out to Kabul without a job, has been on countless embeds with US troops across Afghanistan, covered wars and uprisings across the Middle East. He's a journalist and knows that – with a handful of exceptions – there aren't any shows on FNC that do actual journalism anymore. Before Trump he could put his head down and focus on what he did well, managing to ignore most of the Fox noise, albeit with some embarrassment. All that changed after Trump was elected and he saw the mouthpiece for the White House that they became. He's not going off to some other job, he just left. That says all you need to know about what real journalists are -- or at least should be -- feeling at Fox News right now."
For the record, part three
 -- "The QAnon narrative shows the need for better practices in reporting on baseless claims and hoaxes," Whitney Phillips says. "Here's how the media can take action..." (Guardian)

 -- Speaking of Q, Will Sommer points out that pro-Trump media stars are trying to smother the QAnon conspiracy theory, but they're running into resistance from fans... (Beast)

-- Rick Wilson launched his book "Everything Trump Touches Dies" on Tuesday... And landed at No. 2 on Amazon...

"Documenting Hate" doc

Brian Lowry emails: Add to the list of anniversaries that TV recognizes the violence that erupted in Charlottesville last year, beginning with "Documenting Hate: Charlottesville," a deep dive that premiered Tuesday night, produced by Frontline and ProPublica. View clips and more here...

 >> MSNBC will have its own related doc this weekend, and PBS/Frontline will return to the subject with a look at Neo-Nazis in America this fall.

 >> Also, Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" opens this weekend, drawing a connection between the true events it documents in the past (it's set in the '70s) and racist movements today...

Chloe's interview with Spike Lee

Here's the lead of Chloe Melas's story: "Spike Lee hopes his new movie, 'BlacKkKlansman,' inspires Americans not to vote President Donald Trump into office for a second term."

Lee refuses to say Trump's name, she reports, and instead refers to him as "Agent Orange." "Still, Lee hopes Trump sees the film." Read and watch the rest here...

Where did Trump get this nonsense from?

 The headline of the day comes from CNN.com: "White House can't -- or won't -- explain Trump's wildfire tweets."

"Even the White House can't explain President Donald Trump's tweets suggesting California environmental laws have worsened wildfires raging in that state," Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak report.

Key graf: "Some White House officials admitted to being slightly perplexed at where Trump may have gotten the notion that California's long-running water crisis and a debate over how to divide limited supplies are somehow related to the out of control fires. While Trump's tweets can sometimes be linked to segments on Fox News, there have been no correlating segments linking the two issues in recent days on the channel that frequently serves as presidential inspiration." Picture a poor W.H. aide scouring the TiVo, searching Fox News shows, trying to figure out where Trump heard this stuff...
The entertainment desk

The Wakanda Effect? Black women are dominating magazine covers this month

I feel like an idiot for forgetting to include Beyoncé in last night's newsletter... By now, you've surely seen Vogue's September cover... And probably read the backstory from BoF... But here's an important followup by Lisa Respers France. "Black women are dominating magazine covers this month," she writes.

Rihanna is on the cover of British Vogue, Tracee Ellis Ross is on the cover of Elle Canada, Zendaya is on the cover of Marie Claire, and Tiffany Haddish is on the cover of Glamour...

He shoots, he scores (TV deals)

Brian Lowry emails: LeBron James is moving to L.A. to play for the Lakers, but his larger aim appears to be planning for life after basketball, and expanding his empire as a producer. That includes two new projects announced this week — a CBS reality show, "Million Dollar Mile," and a docuseries for its sister network, Showtime, "Shut Up and Dribble," with a title assist from Laura Ingraham...

Calling for better practices in telling of trans stories

Sandra Gonzalez emails: Big day for inclusion in Hollywood. First up, Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland, Ryan Murphy Productions, J.J. Abrams's Bad Robot and Greg Berlanti's Berlanti Productions are among the 45 companies and advocacy groups that signed an open letter released Tuesday that called for a more responsible approach in the telling of stories about the transgender community.

The open letter, which was spearheaded by Time's Up's 5050by2020 and GLAAD, comes just weeks after actress Scarlett Johannson opted to drop out of a film in which she was set to play a trans man and amid a larger conversation about the importance of involving members of diverse groups in the creative process when their stories are told in film or on television. My full story is here, and you can read the letter here...

Ruby Rose to play Batwoman for CW's superhero universe

Sandra Gonzalez adds: Elsewhere, "Orange is the New Black" alum Ruby Rose has been cast as Batwoman by the CW. The character, who will be an out lesbian with "a passion for social justice and a flair for speaking her mind," will debut in the annual DC superhero crossover in December. A possible series revolving around the history-making character is also in development. More here...
For the record, part four
By Lisa Respers France:

 -- Lance Bass says he can't even be mad that HGTV beat him out as the winning bidder on "The Brady Bunch" house...

 -- There's usually some controversy when the "Bachelorette" makes her pick, but this time the drama started after the first episode and played out after the finale...

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


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