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Reliable Sources: Kavanaugh gives unprecedented interview to Fox's Martha MacCallum

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. ...

Posted: Sep 25, 2018 11:24 AM
Updated: Sep 25, 2018 11:25 AM

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Kavanaugh speaks

If you thought this was unprecedented, you were right: "It is unheard of for a Supreme Court nominee to give interviews during the confirmation process."

That's according to WaPo's recap of Brett and Ashley Kavanaugh's emotional interview with Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum.

From the standpoint of the Trump White House, going with MacCallum made a ton of sense: MacCallum is a well-credentialed female anchor who hails from the news side of Fox, not the opinion side.

I'd love to know Bill Shine's level of involvement in the interview. It aired in full at 7 p.m. ET, but I noticed that Fox shared several clips from the interview in time for the network evening newscasts...

Behind the scenes...

Via CNN's Kevin Liptak: "One WH official says Trump has been pushing to take a more offensive approach in defending the nomination and that this was how aides interpreted his command. It's not clear that he specifically instructed Kavanaugh to sit down with Fox (though it's possible) but it was the result of his desire to be assertive in combatting the claims rather than just playing defense..."

"Not a good look for the Supreme Court..."

Law prof/CNN contributor Steve Vladeck texts me: "The interview is a microcosm of everything that's been wrong with this confirmation process. We shouldn't prevent nominees from speaking publicly, but to do so under these circumstances, in that context, and in a manner calculated to exacerbate the partisan divide over the nomination, is not a good look for the Supreme Court in the long term, even if it helps the political calculus for the nominee in the short term. It reinforces the view that nothing in this process matters at all except getting 50 votes by any means necessary..."

>> Another view, via CNN contrib Matt Lewis on Twitter: "People are more likely to rally to your defense if they see you're fighting, instead of being passive." So the TV interview was wise for Kavanaugh. "He hasn't controlled the narrative for a week, now..."

Latest developments

-- WaPo's Erik Wemple tweeted: "I would have liked to see Martha MacCallum press Kavanaugh on his relationship with Mark Judge. In all, though, I thought she did a good job -- and certainly didn't serve up only softballs, as many predicted."

-- Brian Fallon, one of the left's leading anti-Kavanaugh organizers, tweeted that "MacCallum is pressing Kavanaugh more than I would have guessed..."

-- Perhaps the most memorable Q&A was about Kavanaugh's virginity... He said he didn't have "anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter..." Of course, intercourse isn't at issue here...

-- The TIME'S UP initiative just came out and said "the time has come" for Kavanaugh to withdraw...

-- Earlier in the day, Mitch McConnell said "Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor..."

-- A WaPo reporter found Mark Judge "holed up in the house of a longtime friend in Bethany Beach, nearly three hours" from DC...

-- Trump's best/worst typo ever? At 10:37 p.m. ET, he tweeted that the Dems are pushing "False Acquisitions." He meant "false accusations." He deleted and reposted the tweet...

Debating the New Yorker's decision

Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer spent much of Monday explaining and defending their reporting about Deborah Ramirez. Charles C.W. Cooke, channeling many conservatives' reactions to the story, said it "looks reckless beyond all reason." Drudge's Monday evening headline asked, "RONAN MISFIRES?"

Beyond the partisan battling, many journalists raised questions about the lack of corroboration of Ramirez's account, and the fact that it took time for Ramirez to assess her own memories. Some suggested that their news outlets would not have published the story. Mayer rejected that -- and pointed out that she "found a classmate who heard the identical story at the time." Farrow said on "New Day" that "this is a fairly high level of evidence for this kind of a case." And David Remnick noted that the pair "wrote with fairness and transparency about what doubts there might be."

Other arguments in the mag's favor: Ramirez agreed to go on the record. And Democratic senators were aware of the allegation and were already looking into it. So the debate continues...

>> The NYT said that it "had conducted numerous interviews but was unable to corroborate" Ramirez's story. Some folks tried to turn this into the NYT v. TNY. But the paper dismissed that, noting that it "did not rebut her account and, unlike The New Yorker, was not able to obtain an interview with Ms. Ramirez..."

>> BTW: Given Farrow's very public dispute with NBC News, Monday's TV rollout made sense: Mayer was on NBC and MSNBC's morning shows while Farrow was on ABC and CNN. Mayer also did CBS...

>> Correction: Yesterday I said that this was Farrow and Mayer's second co-production. It was actually their third story together...

"The weaponization of haste"

Megan Thomas emails: This is a really good one from The Atlantic's Megan Garber on "#WhyIDidn'tReport and the weaponization of haste." This line stands out: "The game clock, the time bombs, the midterms, the calendar, the fleeting moment, the lifetime appointment, the mechanical tickings of political partisanship..."

All eyes on Rod Rosenstein

I was on a plane half the day, blissfully free of WiFi, so when I landed and loaded Twitter, I was super confused. There were tweets about Rod Rosenstein resigning, not resigning, thinking of leaving his job, staying in his job, etc. The tweets were out of order, of course, because of Twitter's terrible algorithmic timeline. News apps were a much better way of finding out what really happened. By the end of the day, the NYT and CNN had excellent tick-tocks...

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday

Trump is set to meet with Rosenstein on the very same day that Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford are set to testify.

>> Jim Acosta on "AC360" Monday night: "It's almost going to be like watching tennis, looking up and down Pennsylvania Avenue."

>> NYT's James Poniewozik had the tweet of the day: "Thursday would be a good day for CNN to launch CNN8, 'The Ocho.'"

"Anyone's guess"

Maggie Haberman on "AC360:" "What will happen on Thursday is anyone's guess. People I've spoken to around the president are not certain what will happen. They're not certain whether Rosenstein will really walk in and say 'I'm resigning...'''

FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE

-- Ed O'Keefe called this a "metaphoric moment at the White House today." While he was live on CBSN, "discussing a false alarm shakeup at the Justice Department, they tested the alert system on the White House grounds. It was only a test. All of it..." (Twitter)

-- "Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the co-founders of the photo-sharing app Instagram, have resigned and plan to leave the company in coming weeks," Mike Isaac scoops... (NYT)

-- A must-read: Robert Silverman on the "culture of online hate" promoted byBarstool Sports... (Beast)

SiriusXM is Pandora's savior

They're billing the combo as "the world's largest audio entertainment company." SiriusXM is paying $3.5 billion in an all-stock deal for Pandora that had been foreshadowed for a while. As Chris Isidore reports here, "Pandora's ability to stay an independent company was very much in doubt. SiriusXM had already invested $480 million to buy 19% of Pandora's stock last year, and it was widely reported to be looking at a full purchase..."

-- Peter Kafka tweeted: "Giant satellite audio company buying giant internet audio company could be an antitrust problem, but this one seems to pass what economists call the Trump/Murdoch test..."

Telegdy and Cheeks promoted at NBC

"Two veteran NBC executives — George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy — were named co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment on Monday, replacing Bob Greenblatt at a time of upheaval in network television," the LAT's Meg James writes.

It was reported on Friday that Greenblatt was ready to step down, and was going to talk with Steve Burke about it over the weekend. "But if his departure is not a surprise, the suddenness is. His last day is Monday, the same day the 2018-19 television season begins," the NYT's John Koblin writes.

Greenblatt said something similar in interviews with both Timeses: These jobs are challenging and tiring, and he's ready to try something new...

>> Other factors noted by Koblin: "Greenblatt wanted to see if Comcast's last-minute bid for 21st Century Fox's properties would work and could possibly expand NBC's portfolio. (It did not.) And two of Mr. Greenblatt's close friends — the producer Craig Zadan and the Broadway star Marin Mazzie — have died in the last five weeks..."

Lowry's take

Brian Lowry emails: Telegdy's promotion at NBC Entertainment reflects a slightly wider lens in terms of the path to top entertainment jobs at the broadcast networks. Telegdy comes out of the reality/alternative area, just as CBS Entertainment prez Kelly Kahl rose through the ranks in scheduling. Both are paired with a veteran development executive, in Telegdy's case, Cheeks...

NBC gets a huge Tiger bump

Frank Pallotta emails: Tiger Woods' first victory in five years came with a huge ratings boost for NBC. The network's coverage of the Tour Championship on Sunday earned a 5.2 overnight rating, a 206% spike over last year's tournament. 206%! The telecast peaked at a 7.1 rating as Woods finished his round, ending his long victory drought. As a golf fan, I'm happy to see Tiger back but likely not as happy as NBC execs...

>> USA Today's Dan Wolken: "Tiger Woods' first win in five years feels like a new beginning, not the end..."

FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO

-- Ryan Broderick's latest: "Reddit's largest pro-Trump subreddit appears to have been targeted by Russian propaganda for years..." (BF)

-- "Sky shareholders are having a great day. Comcast investors? Not so much." Here's Hadas Gold's full story... (CNN)

-- "James Lipton is leaving the Actors Studio." The program's new home on cable, Ovation, says "a rotating roster of hosts still to be determined will replace Lipton," effective next fall... (EW)

ABC touting its nightly news win

Nightly news #'s for the full 2017-18 broadcast TV season will officially come out on Tuesday... ABC's "World News Tonight with David Muir" will be celebrating its second yearly win in the total viewer category... "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt" remains #1 in the 25-54 demo (22 seasons in a row!), but ABC has been making gains in the demo too...

Read more of Monday's Reliable Sources newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

The big picture: Some of the 6:30 viewership gains of the past few years have dissipated. CBS has lost both total viewership and demo audience in the past year. NBC is basically flat in total viewership and down a bit in the demo. ABC is up year-over-year in both measurements...

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