Midterm countdown; Rush and Sean at Trump's rally finale; 'serial liar;' Bloomberg's big ad buy; 'Bohemian' box office win; 'Walking Dead' news

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Exec summary: Hope you had a great weekend! Scroll down for our media week ahead calendar, plus box office results and much more...
 

2018 MIDTERM ELECTIONS

The final countdown


I have finally found something that Fox, CNN and MSNBC hosts all agree on. Numerous voices on all three channels are calling this the biggest midterm election in recent memory. As Anderson Cooper said Sunday night, "There may be no election more consequential." President Trump knows it. Democrats know it. And voters know it too, judging by the remarkable amount of early voting that's going on.

While anchors are pushing ahead to Tuesday, promoting their special election night programs, the reality is that the elections are already well underway. "So many now vote early that it's no longer accurate to say 'the midterms are ON Tuesday.' Better to say that, for much of the nation, they CONCLUDE on Tuesday," Michael Smerconish said on CNN...
 

The BIG picture


538's Nate Silver tweeted Sunday night: "Democrats lead by 8.3 percentage points in our generic ballot average, a dramatic reversal from 10 days ago when they led by 8.2 percentage points."

There's a natural desire on the part of producers and pundits to portray last-minute drama, but the drama has been built in for months. Here's Harry Enten's latest CNN forecast: "Democrats are still favored to win the House. But it's far from a sure thing."


Balz brilliance


"A midterm election," Dan Balz says, "is like a pointillist painting, each individual race a dot that by Wednesday morning will add up to an image that will provide some answer to the question of the moment: the identity of America as it is today, its aspirations and values, the tone and tenor of the debate." More...
 
 

Hannity will be a "special guest" at Trump's grand finale rally


Fox News is apparently allowing host Sean Hannity to appear as a "special guest" at President Trump's final rally of the midterm season. Hannity's involvement was promoted in a Trump campaign press release on Sunday afternoon. Rush Limbaugh will also be there, the campaign said, promising "special guest appearances" by both men at the rally in Cape Girardeau, MO.

Obviously: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow was never a "special guest" at a Barack Obama speech. Fox's Bill O'Reilly was never a "special guest" at a George W. Bush event. So this is quite a sight to see. A Fox spokeswoman told me that Hannity is not sponsoring the rally or campaigning for Trump... He's hosting his 9 p.m. show from the rally and interviewing Trump there... But the campaign isn't making that distinction. (Hannity probably won't make much of one, either.)

 -- Reminder: Jeanine Pirro "has become a frequent fundraiser" for GOP candidates, as this Philly Inquirer story noted the other day...
 

The White House-Fox merger


This "highlights once again how little space now exists between the White House and conservative media," said Nicole Hemmer, who wrote the book "Messengers of the Right." Given the midterm trends favoring Democrats, she said their appearances are "more a show of solidarity than a celebration of success." Here's my full story...
 
 

Raising the curtain...


Most of CNN's programs, including "Reliable Sources," were live from DC on Sunday. It'll stay that way for the next three days. All the cablers had special shows on Sunday night. And NBC and ABC unveiled their election studios on Sunday...
ABC News has a brand new set at its Upper West SIde HQ -- a shift from past election nights in Times Square. Augmented reality tech will be used to display balance of power updates. TVNewser has details here.

NBC is using the "Today" show set, Studio 1A, for election night. Chuck Todd hosted "Meet the Press" from there on Sunday...


FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE

 -- Read Kevin Roose and Ali Winston on the "far-right internet communities" that have "been buoyed as their once-fringe views have been given oxygen" by POTUS and other prominent Republicans. (NYT)

 -- Read Philip Rucker on how Trump uses Air Force One as a campaign prop. It's "both a raw illustration of the power of incumbency and a reminder of Trump's dominant campaign theme: strength." (WaPo)

 -- Read Davy Rothbart on J. D. Belcher, "a local coal miner turned filmmaker" whose viral video gave a big boost to Richard Ojeda's campaign in WV. Now he's doing it for other Dems. (Topic)

 -- Read David Sims on the growth of "Pod Save America" as a media company. (The Atlantic)
 


Bloomberg's big ad buy


Michael Bloomberg, in a purple tie, is running a new ad urging Americans to vote for Democrats on Tuesday... And pitching himself to voters in the process.

Cristina Alesci emails: Ahead of his expected 2020 run, Bloomberg is making a "pretty bold statement: the biggest threat to America comes from within..."
 


TWO Swan profiles


Great media minds think alike! Both the NYT's Michael Grynbaum and the WaPo's Paul Farhi have brand new profiles of Axios scoop machine Jonathan Swan.

"His rise has come with accusations of coziness: that he favors access over accountability; that he irritates the White House, but rarely infuriates it," Grynbaum writes. 

Farhi incorporates that POV, too, while noting that Swan's peers describe him "as a rigorous and independent reporter." Read both pieces...
 

"Axios on HBO" debuted Sunday night...


...With Swan and Jim VandeHei's sit-down with POTUS among other segments. Note this: Trump said his admin "is looking seriously at antitrust investigations of Google, Facebook and Amazon. In the next breath, he argued they are great companies that he wants to help...
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO

 -- When Philip Rucker tweeted about Rihanna's song "Don't Stop the Music" being played at Trump's Sunday night rally, she responded, "Not for much longer..." (Twitter)

-- Jon Wertheim headed to Texas for Sunday's "60 Minutes:" In this "divided cultural and political moment, Cruz-O'Rourke has become a national barometer for American politics, in the unlikeliest of places..." (CBS)
 


"The president's apocalyptic attacks reach a new level of falsity"


That's one of WaPo's top headlines right now. In the story, the aforementioned Philip Rucker (he is all over this newsletter tonight!) tries to convey how Trump is "painting an astonishingly apocalyptic vision of America under Democratic control..." Read on...
 

"Serial liar"


On Sunday's "Reliable Sources," the Toronto Star's Trump-checker, Daniel Dale, said he is a very tired man. Trump has been getting worse, he asserted: "These are not simply the usual exaggerations of a crowd size and so on. He's making stuff up in the last couple weeks in a way that I don't think we've seen from a serial liar, the president, before..."
 

The happiest visualization of lies you'll ever see

Bobbie Nickel emails: Per the WaPo's fact-check team, Trump has gone from an average of 5 false or misleading statements a day… to 30. So on Saturday CNN's Victor Blackwell gave us a visual representation of the 6,420 falsehoods... Each gumball is a bogus claim...
 

They really approve these messages


The "Stand By Your Ad" provision in a 2002 law forced candidates to say "I approve this message" in every TV ad.

"The lawmakers' idea was simple," Jim Rutenberg writes. "A mix of shame and self-preservation would make candidates less inclined to put out ads that were false or just plain ugly." So much for that idea. Rutenberg says those words are no match for 2018... Here's his Monday column...
 

CNN declines to sell air time for racist Trump ad


Re: that racist "stop the caravan/vote Republican" ad promoted by the Trump campaign: On Saturday Donald Trump Jr. complained that "CNN refused to run" the ad.

CNN PR responded on Twitter: "CNN has made it abundantly clear in its editorial coverage that this ad is racist. When presented with an opportunity to be paid to take a version of this ad, we declined. Those are the facts. ๐ŸŽ"
 

About that apple...


Just in time for the midterms, CNN is out with a new installment of its "Facts First" campaign. This ad stays with the apple/banana theme and imagines a world where lies, a/k/a bananas, have replaced apples. The message: "Lies can become truth, if we let them."
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE


 -- "That was toward me." CNN producer Daniella Diaz said a Ron DeSantis supporter spat at her after calling CNN the "Castro News Network" the other day...

 -- Another day, another new Silicon Valley feature that inadvertently spreads hate and lies: The WSJ found instances of hate-speech spreading through YouTube's "Super Chat" feature for live video... (WSJ)

 -- HBO and Cinemax remain dark in Dish and Sling TV homes. How long will the blackout last?

 -- Megyn Kelly remains in NBC purgatory -- without a show and without an exit deal. Resolution coming soon? 


 

Media week ahead calendar


Monday: Web Summit begins in Lisbon...

Tuesday: Election Night in America!

Wednesday: 21st Century Fox and News Corp report earnings...

Thursday: Disney and Discovery report earnings... 
 



NYT Mag's next cover

This piece had been in the works for months. In light of the mail bombs and the synagogue shooting, the NYT sped up publication. It will appear in print next Sunday, but it's online already: "How law enforcement failed to see the threat of white nationalism."

The story, by Janet Reitman, lines up closely with what Don Lemon said the other night. Reitman has SO much reporting to share... So check it out here...

 



The Tallahassee killer was a misogynist YouTuber


Bobbie Nickel emails: As The Atlantic's Adam Serwer put it, "In the past week alone right-wing terrorists have carried out at least four attacks and killed more than a dozen people." BuzzFeed dug up the dark details about Friday's tragedy -- the misogynist YouTuber who gunned down a Florida yoga studio, killing two innocent women and then himself...
 
 

Hyperpartisan memes...


Following up on my lead story in Friday's newsletter, here's my full piece about the morphing and multiplying threats posed by misinformation. 

"It's not the 100% fabricated stories that we saw in 2016," Claire Wardle, the head of First Draft, told me. Instead, red-hot hyperpartisan content is scoring huge audiences. These "stand-alone visual posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram" disproportionately target female candidates and candidates of color, Wardle said. "Taking advantage of the deep partisan divisions, much of the content is designed to reinforce positions and denigrate the other side, using dog-whistles, logical fallacies and false equivalency." But "currently there is little the platforms can do with his type of content," she said. "It can not be fact-checked in a formal sense and some would argue that this type of content is 'politics as normal'. What we don't know is how to measure the drip, drip, drip of these divisive hyper-partisan memes on society."

Read more...

RELATED: Sarah Frier's latest for Bloomberg makes a similar point: Yes, FB has tamed "fake news" sites, but polarization thrives on the platform...
 


 

Soros rep says he can't get booked on Fox


On Sunday's "Reliable," the president of the George Soros-founded Open Society Foundations, Patrick Gaspard, said he's been trying to get booked on Fox News to rebut the network's constant anti-Soros smears -- but they "refuse to have us on." Read Jackie Wattles' story/watch the segment here...
 


More notes and quotes from "Reliable"

 -- "People are going to polls thinking about Trump," but politicians on the trail are focusing elsewhere, Molly Ball said...

 -- Eliana Johnson said "I think the president has raised the stakes of this election for himself" by being such an aggressive campaigner...

 -- David Zurawik said "there's a political strategy of lying and lying" until it becomes normalized. "At some point, if we in the press become exhausted, he wins..." He being Trump...

 -- Margie Omero and Harry Enten spoke with me about the ups and downs of polling... Watch...
 



Catch up on the show


Watch the video clips on CNN.com... listen to the podcast via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or TuneIn... or catch the full program through CNNgo or VOD...
 


Khashoggi's sons speak out

In their first interview since their father was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul a month ago, Jamal's sons Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi told CNN's Nic Robertson that "they have endured weeks of anguish and uncertainty following his disappearance and death." Read/watch here...
 

"This fight is a marathon, not a sprint."


WaPo global opinions editor Karen Attiah tweeted on Sunday: "I have not, and will never move on until we get the truth and #JusticeForJamal and justice for those under the Saudi regime who have been forcibly silenced. This fight is a marathon, not a sprint."
 

FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR

 -- Don't miss this in-depth look at how Der Spiegel is covering the US president Germans love to hate... (CNN)

-- A deep dive by Kurt Wagner: "HQ Trivia was a blockbuster hit — but internal turmoil and a shrinking audience have pushed it to the brink..." (Recode)
 
 

How two networks handled the Alec Baldwin news


NBC's "SNL" didn't have Alec Baldwin playing POTUS on Saturday night. But Kate McKinnon as Laura Ingraham made a joke at both Baldwin and Fox's expense. "When we come back," she said, "an update from disgraced former actor Alec Baldwin — seen here molesting a young Boy Scout." 

Per THR, "The show then jumped to a photo of a shirtless Baldwin sitting next to Adam Sandler from their 1994 SNL sketch, 'Canteen Boy.'"

ABC, meanwhile, went ahead with its scheduled airing of "The Alec Baldwin Show" on Sunday night...
 

'Bohemian Rhapsody' is box office champion, my friends


Frank Pallotta emails: "Bohemian Rhapsody," the Queen biopic, took the No. 1 spot with an estimated $50 million haul in the US and $141.7 million overall so far. That's great news for 20th Century Fox, which spent $52 million to make it. 

The story about '70s-era British rock group and its iconic front man, Freddie Mercury, exceeded expectations and nabbed a big box office despite mixed reviews. Read on...
 

Weak "Nutcracker" opening


Brian Lowry emails: Not to kick "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" while it's down, but its weak $20 million debut has to be put in context. Those who don't have Disney Channel-age children likely have no idea how much time the studio spends touting a movie like this to that audience. The tepid opening weekend — for a special-effects-driven fantasy that reportedly cost in excess of $100 million to produce — suggests that even 7-12-year-old kids weren't buying the concept or marketing, and it follows underwhelming results for another movie with a similar conceit, "A Wrinkle in Time." Disney's "Mary Poppins" and "Wreck-It Ralph" sequels are in the wings and should ensure a strong holiday season for the studio, but "Nutcracker" appears to highlight its limits in expanding beyond a certain kind of live-action franchise...
 
 

GOP group wants apology from 'SNL'


The National Republican Congressional Committee and other GOP outfits called out Pete Davidson for his "SNL" mockery of congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw. "Getting dumped by your pop star girlfriend is no excuse for lashing out at a decorated war hero who lost his eye serving our country," the NRCC said.

The group said Davidson and NBC should apologize, but I don't think that's likely. On Sunday there was outrage about the jokes... And outrage ABOUT the outrage... And so on. Details here...
 


Rick Grimes leaves "The Walking Dead"


Brian Lowry emails: "The Walking Dead" is heading into the most uncertain phase of its TV life. Sunday's episode marked the exit of its original star, Andrew Lincoln. The change came at Lincoln's request, and the show now faces a tricky balancing act – trying to honor the Rick Grimes character as he leaves, while resetting the table to establish that the AMC show has life beyond his departure at this late stage in its run, five episodes into its ninth season. Read Lowry's full piece, with spoilers, here...

BREAKING:

He will be back...


Minutes after Sunday night's episode, AMC announced that "a series of AMC Studios Original Films" starring Lincoln "are planned to continue the story of Rick Grimes, with the first expected to begin production as early as 2019."

Per Deadline, the movies "are among the first projects in development" from Scott M. Gimple "as part of a multi-year plan for The Walking Dead Universe, which also includes other projects currently in the works: additional films, specials, series, digital content and more." Gimple has a unique title: Chief Content Officer of TWD Universe...
 


Female-powered final season for 'House of Cards'


Have you started streaming the final season yet? Sandra Gonzalez spoke with some of the cast members... Here's her story, which has mild spoilers...
 

That's a wrap on today's newsletter... See you tomorrow on election eve! Email me feedback anytime... Your comments help make the newsletter better...
 
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