Florence batters coast; Anchors in Carolinas; Trump denies Puerto Rico deaths; Dobbs defends; FOX4's tweet; Bezos speaks; Carlson & Avenatti clash

Hey there! Ignore that picture up top. This is Oliver Darcy, filling in for Brian Stelter who spent Thursday night away from his computer. (I kid not.) As always, I enjoy your feedback/tips. Shoot me an email or find me on Twitter. And now, for the news...


Hurricane Florence was a Category 4 hurricane two days ago. Now it has weakened to a Category 1 storm. The 11 p.m. ET report cited 90 mph sustained winds. But the wind speed belies Florence's strength and length. Storm surge is underway along the North Carolina coast. And the storm is slowing down, so the flooding event is just beginning. And tomorrow's coverage will look a lot like today's, which poses some journalistic and practical challenges for the crews in the field. Scroll down for details...

"Trump Denies Hurricane Maria Deaths As Hurricane Florence Closes In"

That was the chyron on MSNBC's "All in With Chris Hayes" Thursday evening as I sat down to begin writing this newsletter. President Trump began the day denying the official death toll of Hurricane Maria. The President actually tweeted that "3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," adding that the death toll had been inflated "by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible."

Thursday came to a close on a similar note. Cable-newsers fact-checked Trump's ridiculous claim alongside images of Hurricane Florence beginning to bear down on the east coast.

Cooper: "It's hard to even find the words"

Anderson Cooper did not mince words in Thursday's "Keeping Them Honest" segment titled "Disrespecting the Dead." Cooper opened his program noting that Trump's claim "would be stunning frankly at any time" but "at this moment" it is "hard to even find the words."

"It's unthinkable, really. Or at least it should be," Cooper said in his four-minute monologue. He concluded, "What we know for certain is that the president of the United States has disrespected the dead of Puerto Rico today, and he disrespected the living who will live the rest of their lives with the pain of loss and the pain of knowing that their president, in his heart, does not see their loss for what it truly, truly is."

Enter Trump cheerleader Lou Dobbs...

I said earlier that cable-newsers fact-checked the president. I perhaps should have been more careful with my choice of words. Not everyone was tuned into reality. In his own world with Trump was Fox Business host Lou Dobbs who called the Hurricane Maria death toll a "farce" and "an amazing tortured inflation." Dobb's tweeted that the death toll was "#FakeNews" -- a tweet that Trump chose to retweet.

>> BuzzFeed's Jon Passantino tweets: "What Dobbs fails to mention is the research was commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico, was conducted independently, and underwent peer review."

Anchors in the Carolinas

As I mentioned up top, Florence is pounding the Carolinas with wind and rain. CNN anchors John Berman, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, and Don Lemon are on the coast, along with more than a dozen correspondents. MSNBC has Craig Melvin and Ali Velshi anchoring from the Carolinas, and Fox News sent Bill Hemmer.

'Round the clock coverage

-- WCTI, the ABC affiliate in New Bern, NC, had to evacuate its station for the first time in its history...

 -- All the cable newsers will stay live all night/overnight...

 -- Friday's "Today" show will start an hour early at 6am...

 -- ABC is promoting a "special edition" of "GMA" too...

 -- The Weather Channel has an array of meteorologists broadcasting from seven different locations in the Carolinas...


 -- Steve Schmidt will join Showtime's "The Circus" when it returns on Sunday for the second half of its third season... (THR)

 -- Rachel Maddow extends her winning streak. For the third consecutive day, she had the most-watched program in cable news... (Contemptor)

 -- Fox News has announced a memorial scholarship named in honor of Charles Krauthammer... (Mediaite)

 -- Facebook has expanded its fact-checking to allow partners to debunk photos and videos... (Poynter)

Bezos: It's "dangerous to demonize the media"

Jeff Bezos was blunt on Thursday night during an on-stage interview in Washington, DC. The Washington Post owner said "it is a mistake for any elected official" to use their platform to "attack media and journalists."

>> "What the President should say is, 'This is right. This is good. I am glad I am getting scrutinized,'" Bezos said. Per Politico, Bezos added, "But it's really dangerous to demonize the media. It's dangerous to call the media lowlifes. It's dangerous to say they're the 'enemy of the people.'"

Dallas station's outrageous tweet

The Fox affiliate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas was widely criticized Thursday evening for a story and tweet about the shooting death of Botham Jean. The headline/tweet read, "Search warrant: Marijuana found in Botham Jean's apartment after deadly shooting." Jean was the person who was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer who entered the wrong apartment.

"How in God's name is that relevant or newsworthy?" asked Axios reporter Jonathan Swan. NBC's Hallie Jackson noted, "this tweet: the thing that has united people of every political stripe on my twitter feed. (Common thread: anger, incredulity, utter bewilderment as to why this is in any way relevant.)" I reached out to FOX4 in an effort to try to get comment. But multiple requests for an explanation did not prove fruitful. 

>> That said, while the Fox affiliate left its tweet up, it did quietly change the headline on its story...

Tucker and Avenatti clash in a dumpster fire interview

Tucker Carlson and Michael Avenatti traded insults and shouted at each other for most of what was a 10+ minute clash Thursday night on Fox News. Carlson accused Avenatti of taking advantage of his client Stormy Daniels. Avenatti fired back that Carlson had "attacked her for six months." At one point, there was a bizarre exchange in which Avenatti questioned Carlson on the last time he viewed porn. Here's the full video,,.

Throughout the segment, Carlson trolled Avenatti with a series of disparaging on-screen chyrons. Here are a few of the actual graphics that Fox News ran:




Avenatti turned to Twitter after the conclusion of the segment to call Carlson's actions "disgraceful" and say he is a "garbage host" who works for a "garbage network." Avenatti said the chyrons occurred after Carlson told him "he was not going to engage in 'name calling.'"

>> After watching the entire interview, it's not hard to see why people often don't recognize Fox News as a serious news organization. After all, it's own 8pm anchor doesn't seem to...



 -- Norah O'Donnell had a rare, two-part interview with FBI director Christopher Wray this week... Wray told her "that there are half a dozen active investigations into threats against journalists right now..." (Twitter)

 -- Endeavor "introduced a new division on Thursday dedicated to developing, financing, producing, distributing and marketing podcasts." Dick Wolf is a launch partner... (NYT)

 -- And another podcasting play: Radio giant iHeartMedia has purchased Stuff Media for $55 million... (WSJ)

-- Facebook says a post "winking at a possible firing squad execution" for a Philippine senator does not violate its rules... (BuzzFeed)

End of an era at GQ

Brian Stelter emails: Jim Nelson is stepping aside after 15 years at the top of GQ. The NYPost's Alexandra Steigrad had the news first on Thursday. She says his exit "marks yet another big name editorial departure at Condé Nast, as the publisher continues to cut staff and costs, including fat salaries left over from the glory days of magazine publishing." GQ Style EIC Will Welch is taking over...

NELSON'S MEMO: "Now feels like a good time for me to figure out the next chapter of my life. (It'll be a good one, I promise)..."

Nik Deogun leaving CNBC

Another one from Stelter: Nik Deogun has been running CNBC's business programming for the past eight years... And now he's leaving to become CEO of the Americas for the Brunswick Group. CNBC head Mark Hoffman says he'll be searching for a successor. Variety's Brian Steinberg has more info here...


-- The chief executive of IMAX says the company is "in active discussions with all of the streaming services" about having their movies premiere on the BIG screen... (THR)

 -- Get ready for vertical video ads on YouTube. The company just OK'd brands to begin using vertical video to "provide a more seamless mobile experience" for users... (The Drum)

 -- Mathew Ingram wrote about The Outline's fall and "the curse of media venture capital..." (CJR)

-- Streaming platform Twitch has hired its first head of diversity and inclusion... (THR)

Jericka Duncan: "I did" view Fager's text as a threat

CBS News national correspondent Jericka Duncan appeared on "CBS This Morning" Thursday and opened up about the moment she received Jeff Fager's stunning text message. "I was shocked," Duncan said, adding that she did view the message as a threat.

>> Norah O'Donnell at the conclusion of the segment: "We at 'CBS This Morning' support you, 100 percent, as well as at the news division."

Inside "60 Minutes"

"On Thursday, according to multiple people who work at the show, the mood inside the '60 Minutes' offices remained tense," NYT's John Koblin and Michael Grynbaum report. "The animating concern" was whether CBS News prez David Rhodes, "perceived by the show's staff as more of a technocrat than a reporter, planned to wrest control and finally fold the show into the news organization." 

Still, they point out, the rancor at "60" did subside somewhat "after staff members learned the exact words that Mr. Fager had used in his threat..." That's my impression as well...

Steve Kroft summed it up well

Veteran "60" correspondent Steve Kroft told Brian Stelter last night: "Over the years Jeff Fager has done a remarkable job managing '60 Minutes,' but the text message to Jericka Duncan was threatening and inappropriate. This whole situation saddens me deeply."


"I'm Julie Chen Moonves"

Les Moonves' wife Julie Chen has been off "The Talk" this week, but she hosted "Big Brother" on Thursday. At the end of the program, she said, "I'm Julie Chen Moonves. Goodnight."

Per THR's Brian Porreca, "It was off script from her usual sign off and the first time she has used the last name Moonves on the show..."

WaPo: Trump passes 5,000 false or misleading claims

Trump has hit a new benchmark. On Thursday morning, WaPo's fact checker declared that the President has now made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims. Contributing to that number? 125 false or misleading claims Trump made in one day at a rally earlier this month "in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes." That number alone was "a new single-day high." 

>> Per WaPo, the rate of which Trump makes false or misleading claims has significantly increased. WaPo's fact checker said throughout this presidency, Trump has averaged "8.3 Trumpian claims a day, but in the past nine days...the president has averaged 32 claims a day."

Trump tweets support of Gina Loudon

Trump tweeted his support for Republican commentator Gina Loudon on Thursday night, calling her "great" in a tweet. Trump's show of support came roughly 18 hours after a Daily Beast story said Loudon's new book had falsely claimed that she has a doctorate in psychology when she in fact does not. The publisher of the book took fault for the mistake and told The Beast it will be "updating" the book for future printings.

Stephenson's "sneaking suspicion"

Brian Stelter emails: A couple notable bits of news from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's interview with the WSJ: Stephenson said of the trial, "I have a sneaking suspicion that when we announced this deal had we said that we were selling CNN, I probably wouldn't have had the issues that I had surrounding getting this deal approved. I'm not suggesting that he interfered with the Department of Justice with any of this, but I think it's a logical conclusion."

Changes coming to TNT and TBS?

Stelter adds: This is the part of the WSJ story that Turner staffers are talking about: "Stephenson said in the Journal interview that AT&T, seeking to catch up to Netflix's larger customer base, might shift resources from creating original programs for its Turner cable networks to HBO. Those Turner channels, like TNT and TBS, could use some freed-up program time to air HBO reruns, which could in turn bring new viewers to HBO, he said."

"A lot of the content spend is in Turner, specifically TNT and TBS," Stephenson said. "Is that really the highest and best use of capital? Or is it more appropriate and best use to put it toward HBO?"

Where is Larry Page?

A new Bloomberg Businessweek story wonders aloud: "Where in the world is Larry Page?" Citing a "slew of interviews" with colleagues and confidantes, Austin Carr and Mark Bergen described the Google co-founder in their piece as "an executive who's more withdrawn than ever, bordering on emeritus, invisible to wide swaths of the company." Carr and Bergen wrote that "it's not just Washington" questioning his whereabouts (Page was a no-show when technology giants testified before Congress earlier this month) but folks in Silicon Valley as well...

Speaking of Google...

Are there any humans at Google avail to talk to reporters? I spent a good chunk of time on Thursday morning trying to talk to someone about the leaked video Breitbart obtained this week showing Google's top execs lamenting Trump's election. But it was all to no avail.

A request to speak with one of the executives featured in the video was not returned. And multiple requests sent to Google's generic press email to speak to a company representative on the phone were not answered. A bit strange that a multi-billion dollar company has clammed up to the point where it's not making any spokespeople available to even phone reporters...

"I hate the term 'fake news'. I hate it because I hate that the president can think something is fake news because he doesn't like it. I hate the term 'enemy of the people' about the media..."

-- Fox News anchor Bret Baier during a TimesTalks panel discussion on Wednesday...

"The Predator" misfires

Brian Lowry emails: "The Predator" has stirred controversy over the decision to cast a registered sex offender in a small role — since excised, after co-star Olivia Munn raised the issue. Setting that aside, director Shane Black's movie — a clear attempt to jump-start the 30-year-old franchise — is a nonsensical mess. Read Lowry's full review here...

Why Hollywood is enlisting veteran show runners

Lowry emails another one: This is a familiar story, but still a noteworthy one: While Hollywood has often practiced ageism against older writers, the abundance of TV series is inspiring studios to enlist veteran show runners to help ensure that series developed by younger talent — who lack that experience — stay on track.

The money quote in Lesley Goldberg's THR piece comes from CBS Studios chief David Stapf: "Showrunners don't just fall out of the sky, they're grown. There are so many shows now that the talent pool is thinner and people are getting opportunities maybe before they should be."
Thanks for reading! Email me your feedback... See you tomorrow...
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