Scaramucci says ‘we are back in business’ with CNN; credits Jeff Zucker with helping him get job in White House

BuzzFeed reports: Anthony Scaramucci is already working to smooth over the administration’s rocky relationship with CNN.

In a transcript of comments Scaramucci made Sunday on a hot microphone between appearances on Fox News, CNN, and CBS News talk shows, Scaramucci described his mindset when he took the lectern at his first press briefing on Friday, hours after his appointment was announced and press secretary Sean Spicer resigned.

“In the back of my mind I have to call on CNN and send a message to [CNN President Jeff] Zucker that we are back in business,” Scaramucci said, according to the transcript obtained by BuzzFeed News. He referred to Zucker having “helped me get the job by hitting those guys,” a reference to the network’s decision to force the resignation of three employees over a retracted Russia article that mentioned Scaramucci.

According to the transcript, Scaramucci — who was filming the interviews remotely — joked that Zucker is “not getting a placement fee for getting me the job.”

Scaramucci confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he made the comments and said that some of his colorful remarks were jokes.

After his interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Scaramucci confirmed that he spoke on the phone with Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief. [Continue reading…]

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Can the tech giants be stopped?

Jonathan Taplin writes: I would date the rise of the digital monopolies to August 2004, when Google raised $1.9 billion in its initial public offering. By the end of that year, Google’s share of the search-engine market was just 35%; Yahoo ’s was 32%, and MSN’s was 16%. Today, under Alphabet, Google’s market share is 87% in the U.S. and 91% in Europe. In 2004, Amazon had net sales revenue of $6.9 billion. In 2016, its net sales revenue was nearly $136 billion, and it now controls 65% of all online new book sales, whether print or digital. In mobile social networks, Facebook and its subsidiaries (Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) control 75% of the American market.

This shift has brought about a massive reallocation of revenue, with economic value moving from the creators of content to the owners of monopoly platforms. Since 2000, revenues for recorded music in the U.S. have fallen from almost $20 billion a year to less than $8 billion, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. U.S. newspaper ad revenue fell from $65.8 billion in 2000 to $23.6 billion in 2013 (the last year for which data are available). Though book publishing revenues have remained flat, this is mostly because increased children’s book sales have made up for the declining return on adult titles.

From 2003 to 2016, Google’s revenue grew from about $1.5 billion to some $90 billion as Alphabet. Today, it is the largest media company in the world, collecting $79.4 billion in ad revenue in 2016, according to Zenith. Facebook is a distant second, with $26.9 billion.

The precipitous decline in revenue for content creators has nothing to do with changing consumer preferences for their content. People are not reading less news, listening to less music, reading fewer books or watching fewer movies and TV shows. The massive growth in revenue for the digital monopolies has resulted in the massive loss of revenue for the creators of content. The two are inextricably linked. [Continue reading…]

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Trump schmoozes with the press on Air Force One

The New York Times reports on Trump’s off-the-record turned on-the-record remarks to the press as they flew to Paris together this week: For reporters who covered Mr. Trump before he became president, there was a familiar discursive rhythm to his remarks.

They ranged from quirky boasts — “I’m a tremendous fracker” — to frustrated outbursts. “What do you do?” he asked after recounting that President Vladimir V. Putin twice denied to him that Russia had meddled in the presidential election. “End up in a fistfight with somebody?”

They revealed a man getting a crash course in the world — “They have an 8,000-year culture,” he said of the Chinese — but one who still sees things through a real estate prism. The White House was built largely in 1799, he noted, so China views it “like a super modern building.”

And they showed someone who recognizes that his observations occasionally edge into the surreal. “As crazy as that sounds,” Mr. Trump said, after explaining why the border wall with Mexico needed to be transparent: to prevent drug dealers from throwing 60-pound sacks of drugs over it and hitting unsuspecting Americans on their heads.

Ever the negotiator, Mr. Trump shared his tradecraft for trying to pin down Mr. Putin on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

“I said to him, ‘Were you involved in the meddling with the election?’” he recalled. “He said, ‘Absolutely not. I was not involved.’ He was very strong on it. I then said to him, in a totally different way, ‘Were you involved with the meddling?’ He said, ‘I was not — absolutely not.’” [Continue reading…]

The same words “in a totally different way”? Are we to imagine that Trump adopted his rarely used falsetto in a cunning effort to throw Putin off balance?

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Syria and the case for editorial accountability

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: On June 29, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) published a comprehensive report confirming that the nerve agent used in the Syrian regime’s April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed 92 was sarin. The conclusion was no surprise. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF) had already found the symptoms of the victims consistent with exposure to a nerve agent. In a separate analysis, the French government had matched sarin samples from the site to regime stock. A Human Rights Watch investigation also found the regime responsible for this and three other chemical attacks since December, and said the latest attack was “part of a broader pattern of Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons”.

However, the response from the regime and its supporters followed a familiar pattern. There was denial, deflection and deception. There were conspiracy theories. There was whataboutery. But effluvia from this dung heap merely fouled the air until it was ignited into a noxious fire by an inveterate pyromaniac. Enter Seymour Hersh.

Seymour Hersh, a once celebrated journalist, has been reluctant to cede the limelight. But the pride of place that he earned through hard work he now wants to keep by trading on his legacy alone. Hersh, who once did the legwork for his stories – finding sources, corroborating claims, verifying evidence – is now relying on the uncorroborated claims of anonymous sources to tell tall tales that contradict available evidence. The man who broke world-changing stories from My Lai to Abu Ghraib now hops from publication to publication, writing sensational drivel, sullying his reputation and diminishing his publishers’.

His latest story, published in the German daily Die Welt, was a colourful rendition of an extant conspiracy theory: that the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun did not result from a chemical attack but were caused by toxic discharge from a conventional attack on a jihadi facility. Based on the baroque testimony of an anonymous source, Hersh concludes that there was no sarin involved. [Continue reading…]

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Syria, Seymour Hersh and the Sarin denialists

Brian Whitaker writes: Do news organisations have a duty to publish stories from anonymous sources when there is reason to believe they are untrue? Apparently some people think so.

Yesterday, following scientific tests, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed that inhabitants of Khan Sheikoun, in the Syrian province of Idlib, had been “exposed to Sarin, a chemical weapon”, during an attack last April. Reports at the time said at least 74 died and hundreds were injured.

The news that Sarin had definitely been involved caused a buzz on Twitter from people refusing to believe it. Many pointed instead to an article in a German newspaper last weekend which quoted an unnamed “senior adviser to the American intelligence community” as saying no chemical attack had taken place.

The article, by veteran American journalist Seymour Hersh, suggested that Syrian forces using a conventional explosive bomb had accidentally hit a store of “fertilisers, disinfectants and other goods” causing “effects similar to those of sarin”.

Hersh’s version contradicted evidence from a range of sources and, in the light of yesterday’s announcement from the OPCW, is clearly untrue. As far as some people were concerned, though, it said what they wanted to hear and, even after the OPCW reported its findings, they were still complaining that mainstream media had failed to take Hersh’s ridiculous story seriously. [Continue reading…]

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Brian Karem says Sarah Huckabee Sanders confrontation was ‘a long time coming’

 

 

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The National Enquirer’s fervor for Trump

Jeffrey Toobin writes: As the meeting wound down, the discussion turned to the following week’s issue [of the National Enquirer]. Someone suggested a story about a video from Donald and Melania Trump’s first overseas trip. The video, which had just gone viral, showed the couple walking down a red carpet on the airport tarmac in Israel. When Donald reached for Melania’s hand, she slapped it away with a sharp flick of her wrist.

“I didn’t see that,” [David] Pecker [chief executive of American Media, Inc., which owns most of the nation’s supermarket tabloids and gossip magazines] said, on the speakerphone.

The half-dozen or so men in the room exchanged looks. One then noted that the footage of Melania’s slap had received a good deal of attention.

“I didn’t see that,” Pecker repeated, and the subject was dropped.

It was a telling moment. Even if the leader of a celebrity-news empire had missed the viral video from the President’s trip, Pecker’s decision to ignore the awkward moment for the First Family was not surprising. The Enquirer is defined by its predatory spirit—its dedication to revealing that celebrities, far from leading ideal lives, endure the same plagues of disease, weight gain, and family dysfunction that afflict everyone else. For much of the tabloid’s history, it has specialized in investigations into the foibles of public personalities, including politicians. In 1987, the Enquirer published a photograph of Senator Gary Hart with his mistress Donna Rice, in front of a boat called the Monkey Business, which doomed Hart’s Presidential candidacy. Two decades later, the magazine broke the news that John Edwards had fathered a child out of wedlock during his Presidential race. When Donald Trump decided to run for President, some people at the Enquirer assumed that the magazine would apply the same scrutiny to the candidate’s colorful personal history. “We used to go after newsmakers no matter what side they were on,” a former Enquirer staffer told me. “And Trump is a guy who is running for President with a closet full of baggage. He’s the ultimate target-rich environment. The Enquirer had a golden opportunity, and they completely looked the other way.”

Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, the Enquirer embraced Trump with sycophantic fervor. The magazine made its first political endorsement ever, of Trump, last spring. [Continue reading…]

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Wall Street Journal fires chief foreign affairs correspondent, Jay Solomon, over ethics conflict

The Associated Press reports: The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday fired its highly regarded chief foreign affairs correspondent after evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one involving arms sales to foreign governments — with an international businessman who was one of his key sources.

The reporter, Jay Solomon, was offered a 10 percent stake in a fledgling company, Denx LLC, by Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation magnate who has ferried weapons for the CIA. It was not clear whether Solomon ever received money or formally accepted a stake in the company.

“We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgment of Jay Solomon,” Wall Street Journal spokesman Steve Severinghaus wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. “While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards.”

Azima was the subject of an AP investigative article published Tuesday. During the course of its investigation, the AP obtained emails and text messages between Azima and Solomon, as well as an operating agreement for Denx dated March 2015, which listed an apparent stake for Solomon.

As part of its reporting, the AP had asked the Journal about the documents appearing to link Solomon and Azima. The relationship was uncovered in interviews and in internal documents that Azima’s lawyer said were stolen by hackers. [Continue reading…]

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I helped draft Clinton’s impeachment articles. The charges against Trump are more serious

Former Republican Congressman, Bob Inglis, writes: House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) asserted last week that if the president were a Democrat, the House wouldn’t be pursing impeachment. He must know that’s not true.

If FBI Director James B. Comey had angered a President Hillary Clinton by restarting the investigation into her private email server and she had fired him, Republicans would be howling. Rightly so.

Instead, Donald Trump won the election. Comey was pursuing an investigation into Russian meddling. It angered President Trump, and he fired Comey. But rather than howling, Republicans are whimpering. The chair of the Republican National Committee has even called for a halt to all investigations of collusion with Russia. That’s a problem.

I was on the House Judiciary Committee that began the consideration of impeaching of President Bill Clinton. Armed with information from independent counsel Kenneth Starr, we were convinced the president had lied under oath. We drafted articles of impeachment, and a majority of the House concurred with our assessment. The Senate subsequently determined that there wasn’t sufficient cause to remove him from office. In retrospect, a public censure or reprimand may have been more advisable.

Regardless, Clinton was impeached for charges less serious than the ones before us now. In the current case, Comey was exploring the possibility of American involvement in the Russian plot, a treasonous offense. While it’s not time to start drafting articles of impeachment, it is time to pursue this investigation into Russian meddling in our presidential election with vigor, without friends to reward and without enemies to punish.

Confronting Trump will take more courage than it took when Republicans told President Richard Nixon that it was time for him to leave office. Not that Trump is more imposing than Nixon; Nixon was a serious president with significant accomplishments. The difference, now, is the presence of sycophantic media. [Continue reading…]

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Whatever we call Trump, he stinks just as bad

Shakespeare, a master of insults who could have prolifically composed tweets and might have described Donald Trump as an “unwash’d maggot-pie,” or a “goatish bat-fowling moldwarp,” an “idol of idiot-worshippers,” whose “name blisters our tongues,” and who is not “clean enough to spit upon,” would have run into trouble if he worked for CNN or the New York Times.

The Times reports that the presenter of CNN’s weekly show “Believer,” Reza Aslan, got fired for writing tweets in which “he described the president as ‘an embarrassment to humankind’ and compared him, using profanity, to a piece of excrement.”

In point of fact, this reporting is inaccurate. Aslan didn’t compare Trump to a piece of shit — he said he is one. Aslan was using a metaphor, not a simile. He wrote:

This piece of shit is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind

A succinct, objective, fair assessment that in global terms cannot be seen in any sense as controversial — except for this: including the word “shit.”

But in reference to Trump, how on earth can the word “shit” be described as profane? I know he has lots of supporters, but he’s not exactly a figure of reverence. Indeed, many of those supporters regard his crudeness as one of his principle virtues.

Donald Trump is the embodiment and arguably purest distillation of vulgarity and yet the prissy gatekeepers of American mainstream-media civility have a problem when vulgar language is used to describe a vulgar man.

What other kind of language is in any sense appropriate?

Some will argue we shouldn’t stoop to Trump’s level, yet this kind of self-imposed restraint plays straight into the orange man’s little hands.

He shameless exploits the respect offered to his office, while using this as a shield behind which he can constantly lob provocations with relative impunity.

In other words, if people like CNN’s Jeff Zucker get their way, Trump can carry on being a piece of shit while anyone in the media who wants to keep their job must be afraid of calling him the way he calls to be named.

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Breitbart lost 90 percent of its advertisers in two months

The Washington Post reports: The number of advertisers on the alt-right site Breitbart.com has dropped 90 percent in recent months, from 242 in March to 26 in May, according to data from MediaRadar, a New York firm that tracks online advertising. Among those that continue to advertise on the site include a gentleman’s club in Northern Virginia, a golf resort near the coast of Spain and the conservative foundation Judicial Watch.

“Liberal activists want to destroy Breitbart, but we won’t be cowed,” the foundation’s president Tom Fitton said in an interview. “We advertise widely on the internet, and we’re proud of the relationship and the partnerships we have.”

Fitton said Judicial Watch had been advertising on Breitbart for years, but would not elaborate on the company’s strategy or where else it places ads. “I’m not talking about the details of our internal decision-making with the anti-Trump Washington Post,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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Fox News staffers ‘embarrassed’ by Hannity’s conspiracy theory crusade

The Daily Beast reports: Fox News staffers are growing increasingly dismayed as network star Sean Hannity and others continue to promote the unfounded conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered last year for talking to WikiLeaks.

The Daily Beast spoke to nearly a dozen reporters, pundits, and hosts inside Fox News who all conveyed the same sentiment: Hannity is “embarrassing” the network, and the promotion of the Rich conspiracy theory is senselessly cruel to a grieving family.

“ARE WE STILL AIRING THAT SHIT?!” one Fox News political reporter, who says they are furious that the conservative cable-news giant is entertaining the conspiracy theory, messaged The Daily Beast when informed of recent coverage. [Continue reading…]

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Comey letter probably cost Clinton the election. So why won’t the media admit as much?

Nate Silver writes: Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28. The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.

The letter isn’t the only reason that Clinton lost. It does not excuse every decision the Clinton campaign made. Other factors may have played a larger role in her defeat, and it’s up to Democrats to examine those as they choose their strategy for 2018 and 2020.

But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

And yet, from almost the moment that Trump won the White House, many mainstream journalists have been in denial about the impact of Comey’s letter. The article that led The New York Times’s website the morning after the election did not mention Comey or “FBI” even once — a bizarre development considering the dramatic headlines that the Times had given to the letter while the campaign was underway. Books on the campaign have treated Comey’s letter as an incidental factor, meanwhile. And even though Clinton herself has repeatedly brought up the letter — including in comments she made at an event in New York on Tuesday — many pundits have preferred to change the conversation when the letter comes up, waving it away instead of debating the merits of the case.

The motivation for this seems fairly clear: If Comey’s letter altered the outcome of the election, the media may have some responsibility for the result. [Continue reading…]

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Fox News executive, Bill Shine, departs amid turmoil

The New York Times reports: Fox News on Monday removed one of its most powerful executives, Bill Shine, another seismic shake-up at a network that remains in crisis mode as its owner, Rupert Murdoch, moves to steer it past the sexual harassment scandal that first engulfed it last summer.

Mr. Shine, a network co-president and a longtime lieutenant to its disgraced former chairman, Roger Ailes, was viewed by some employees as a symbol of Fox News’s old-guard leadership even as its parent, 21st Century Fox, pledged reforms to the company culture and a new era of civility in the newsroom.

But there were signs that the pressure on 21st Century Fox might not let up soon. One veteran executive who was promoted on Monday, Suzanne Scott, has, like Mr. Shine, been cited in lawsuits as a figure who enabled and concealed Mr. Ailes’s harassing behavior toward women. [Continue reading…]

The Daily Beast reports: Sean Hannity is looking to leave Fox News, according to sources, following the resignation of Fox News co-president Bill Shine officially on Monday.

Shine was Hannity’s long-time ally whom he personally recommended the network hire two decades ago to produce Hannity & Colmes. In recent days, Hannity warned it would be the “total end” of Fox News should Shine leave, and he rallied conservative activists to back him up.

Initially, insiders said, Hannity’s army of lawyers had hoped to discuss with Fox ways of protecting his 8-year-old primetime show, amid fears that Lachlan and James Murdoch—fresh off the ousting of Bill O’Reilly—were looking to push the network away from hard-right politics.

However, with Shine’s departure on Monday, one source told The Daily Beast, there’s no reason for Hannity to stay. [Continue reading…]

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White House has considered restricting press freedom

ABC News reports: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the Trump administration has “looked at” changes to libel laws that would curtail press freedoms, but said “whether that goes anywhere is a different story.”

President Trump frequently slams the press for its coverage of him and in March suggested changing libel laws.

Libel is when defamatory statements about someone are published. But the American press enjoys some protection from lawsuits claiming libel because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights. [Continue reading…]

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Hasan Minhaj at WH Correspondents’ Dinner: ‘I am watching the news, but it feels like I am watching CNN watch the news’

 

Hasan Minhaj: My favorite entertainment channel is in the building tonight — CNN is here, baby.

Now, you guys have some really weird trust issues going on with the public.

I am not going to call you fake news but everything isn’t breaking news.

You can’t go to DEFCON 1 because Sanjay Gupta found a new moisturizer.

Every time a story breaks you have nine screens — nine boxes on the screen! I am trying to watch the news not pick a player in Street Fighter. It’s giving me anxiety.

If you have nine “experts” on a panel, what is your barrier of entry?

“Here to talk about transportation infrastructure is my Uber driver, Gary. Gary, what ‘a you got?” — it just says Gary 4.8 stars.

“I dunno know — I got a mint.”

“Thanks Gary, let’s go to the next countdown clock.”

All you guys do is stoke up conflict.

Don [Lemon], every time I watch your show it feels like I am watching a reality TV show.

CNN Tonight should just be called “Wait a second, now hold on, stop yelling at each other, with Don Lemon.”

You know your news, right? Come on. But every time I watch CNN it feels like you are assigning me homework.

“Is Trump a Russian spy? I don’t know, you tell me. Tweet us at AC 360.” No, you tell me.

I am watching the news, but it feels like I am watching CNN watch the news.

Just take an hour, figure out what you want to say, then go on the air.

We are in a very strange situation where there is a very combative relationship between the press and the president, but now that you guys are “minorities,” just for this moment, you may understand the position I was in. It is the same position a lot of minorities feel like they are in in this country. And it’s: do I come up here and just try to fit in and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say how I really feel? Because this event is about celebrating the First Amendment and free speech.

Free speech is the foundation of an open and liberal democracy, from college campuses to the White House.

Only in America can a first-generation Indian-American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the president — the orange man behind the Muslim ban.

And it’s a sign to the rest of the world — it’s this amazing tradition that shows the entire world that even the president is not beyond the reach of the First Amendment.

But the president didn’t show up. Because Donald Trump doesn’t care about free speech. The man who tweets everything that enters his head, refuses to a knowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.

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Trump puts on a big show of assaulting his ‘opposition’ in the media. Inside the White House, it’s a different story

Politico reports: Seven days before Donald Trump took office, the inauguration festivities got off to a low-key start inside a modest conference room at the Capitol Hill offices of the American Trucking Association. There, a hundred-odd familiar faces from the Washington set gathered to fête one of their own, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

The party spilled out into the hallway as entrepreneur Susanna Quinn, ubiquitous Republican consultant Ron Bonjean and Spicer’s wife, Rebecca, a staffer at the National Beer Wholesalers Association, rubbed shoulders with CBS’ White House correspondent Major Garrett and its political editor Steve Chaggaris, Time’s Zeke Miller and several journalists from CNN, including Washington bureau chief Sam Feist. Spicer arrived late, but in good spirits, and after 20 minutes of schmoozing he strode to the front of the room to deliver brief remarks.

In public, Trump’s team and the press had been engaged in bitter clashes for months. Just two days earlier, during a contentious transition-team news conference, Spicer had threatened to eject CNN’s Jim Acosta from Trump Tower. But in the end, ratings were up and Trump was president-elect.

The overlit conference room was a safe space, not a war zone. Spicer made light of the Acosta incident, jokingly threatening to eject Feist from the room. Feist took Spicer’s teasing in stride, briefly turning as if to make for the exit, and the room laughed along. Spicer cracked that he looked forward to serving in his new post for “eight years,” an unheard-of tenure in the notoriously trying job of White House press secretary. This prompted more knowing laughter. One heckler shouted, “Tell the truth!”—an arch reference to the angry chant Trump supporters had been raining down on reporters at campaign rallies.

Then, a week later, a grim-faced Spicer took to the podium in the White House briefing room for the first time and angrily denounced the news media’s reporting of Trump’s inauguration crowd, uttering several easily debunked falsehoods. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period,” he said, flanked by twin monitors displaying a deceptively flattering overhead photo of the crowd on the National Mall—instantly becoming a national punchline on Twitter and late-night television. He did not take questions, let alone make jokes.

“It was a bit of a shocker,” said one veteran Washington journalist who had attended Spicer’s party. “Especially given what had happened that night at the get-together.” [Continue reading…]

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