Michael Wolff To Sharon Waxman: “Man Up And Sue Us, Any Time”

The growing battle over content aggregation, web ethics and linking legality between TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman and Newser’s Michael Wolff continued this morning on CNN’s Reliable Sources.

Howard Kurtz served as “referee,” but the battle was mostly a rehash of both sides’ talking points.

Waxman led off, summing up her point of view as “just give us proper credit and linkage or don’t use our content, and that seems to be a problem.”

Wolff, naturally and unsurprisingly, disagreed, calling the point “bull,” and expanding on all the great linkage that occurs at Newser.com. “On every story we’ve done over two and a half years, there are at least two links to the original and most often three.”

That doesn’t seem remotely accurate. Without going through the entirety of Newser’s content, a glance at the current front page shows most stories contain just one link to the original, and usually by way of one word. This is still the case with the Beyonce post that started the war of words between Waxman and Wolff. If, like Wolff contends, there is at least one more link somewhere in the Newser post back to the original, it has been hidden so thoroughly it is essentially useless.

Then there’s the case of the cease-and-desist letter sent by Waxman, which Wolff essentially laughed at. “Man up and sue us, any time,” he said. (Or, design your own cease-and-desist letter!)

Wolff apparently thinks he saw the judges’ scorecard and came out victorious. “Damn that was easy,” he tweeted. He certainly said more words than Waxman, interrupting her throughout the entire segment. It was quite an un-Newser-like way to argue.

Check it out, and decide for yourself:


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Thinking Outside The Box: Paul, Blagojevich, and Ventura Storm Larry King Live

After getting unsolicited advice on how not to collapse from almost every media source out there, CNN took Larry King’s absence last night as an opportunity to bring out the big guns, and it made for some great TV. Come step into the alternate universe where Jesse Ventura, Ron Paul and Rod Blagojevich have a TV show where they engage in civil, intelligent discussion on the tough issues facing America today.

Ventura, filling in for Larry King, hosted a discussion with the two explosive personalities along with liberal radio host Stephanie Miller and Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros. While the topics of conversation remained strictly political, Rep. Paul controlled the tone, proving how he managed to win the CPAC presidential straw poll and why, at 74 years old, he continues to enjoy an immense popularity that may carry him to a 2012 run. In fact, he managed to get the group to rally around his “core belief in freedom and liberties and principles that our country were founded on,” and got them all to agree that a libertarian Supreme Court justice would “please everybody” (though he lost them when he suggested regular Glenn Beck substitute host Judge Andrew Napolitano).

As for Blagojevich, this was one of the first times he was given a platform to engage in intelligent policy discussion, rather than recite poetry or suck up to Donald Trump. Free of his Apprentice shackles, he provided the kind of insight many people often complain they don’t see enough of in these types of political discussions. And, despite admitting to being a big-government liberal, he agreed with Paul on constitutional issues and personal freedoms. Can you say Paul/Blago ‘12?

The entire exchange is a learning experience for the avid media consumer, and a sign that CNN is finally taking the hint that cable news consumers love compelling personalities. Watch the discussion on the replacement of Justice John Paul Stevens below and it’s impossible not to wonder why it is that commentators like Blagojevich, Ventura, and Paul are marketed in the mainstream media as raving lunatics and more established but incoherent pundits enjoy an assumption of sanity from their viewers.


Anderson Cooper To Film Two Live Audience Specials In April

The experimentation over at CNN to find a hit show continues, with the network now trying to save its brightest star, Anderson Cooper, from the first quarter crash that saw his 10 PM program lose more than 40% of his viewers. For a change of pace, Anderson Cooper 360º is now set to film two talk-show style live audience specials later this month.

From the Hollywood Reporter report:

The network is recruiting a crowd for two shows that will serve as a testing ground for a potential new primetime talk format.

CNN is calling the trial episodes “specials” to keep expectations low in case the project doesn’t make it to the series stage. But, really, expectations couldn’t be much lower for Anderson — his show has recently been beaten by repeats of programs on MSNBC and HLN.

A studio audience for a serious news program is a bit like adding a laugh track to a eulogy, so it’s unclear how this is going to work with Anderson, who’s an agreeable enough newsreader and interviewer but not exactly the sort of chap you can picture wooing a live audience. The network would only confirm the format will be “conversational.”

TV Newser has published the official listing for the events, pictured above, from publicity company Stargazer Entertainment, which specializes in live audience events. The ad doesn’t give away much of anything on how the format would work, especially since Cooper is first and foremost a hard news reporter, so a shift to an Oprah Winfrey-like setting seems out of character. That said, Cooper has done quite well moderating presidential debates with live audiences before, so the key to putting together a couple of successful audience specials might hinge upon Cooper moderating an interaction between the audience and a few key partisan guests.

It is as of yet unclear whether the specials will air at all or whether they are trials, though chances are that decision will be made after producers view the final product. For now, the audience shows are scheduled to be taped on April 15th and 22nd.


Breaking: Four Remaining WV Coal Miners Found Dead, 29 Total Casualties

The search for bodies in the wake of an explosion in a West Virginia coal mine last week has ended. Authorities announced earlier this evening that the four remaining men still missing were found dead. While the reason for the explosion are still unknown, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin said in a press conference this evening: “this journey has ended, and now the healing will start.” Watch Governor Joe Manchin’s press conference below.



CNN Attacks Bill Press, Reacts to Erick Erickson Shotgun Comments

There is a trend emerging that seems to indicate a strategic shift at CNN from self-professed neutral, objective journalism to a desire to actively court conservative viewers. First, there was CNN’s hiring of Redstate chief Erick Erickson (and accompanying apologism), embedded (and wide-eyed) coverage of the Tea Party Express bus tour, email shot at “the left” to Brent Bozell, and now, their attack on liberal radio host Bill Press for his question to Robert Gibbs about their employee’s threat to census workers.

CNN is very concerned about fact-checking Press. Fair enough. I will fact-check Press and CNN, and give you the latest reaction from CNN on Erickson’s comments.

Fact Check – Bill Press:

Bill offers his own fact check at HuffPo, but there are a few differences. Here is what Bill asked Robert Gibbs, annotated for offers of fact:

Robert, on the Census, Erick Erickson, a commentator for CNN(1), a couple of days ago(2), he said he was not going to fill out his Census form(3), and if a Census worker(4) came to the door, he said he would “pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little twerp likes being scared at the door.”(5) So my question is, do those remarks concern the White House?…Any thoughts about protection for Census workers?

1. TRUE – Erick Erickson is a commentator for CNN. According to Press, CNN has echoed criticisms made by Newsbusters, including that he was trying to turn the whole thing into an attack on CNN.

2. Push – Press asked his question on April 6, while Erickson’s comments were made on April 2. Although not literally “a couple” of days, the term is commonly used interchangeably with “a few.”

3. FALSE – As I pointed out here and here, Erickson actually encouraged listeners to fill out the actual census form. His objection was to the supplemental ACS survey, also administered by the Census Bureau.

4. TRUE – Although Press concedes this point, he needn’t. The people who administer the ACS are employees of the Census Bureau, so the term “census worker” is accurate. Had he said “census taker,” CNN might have a point.

5. TRUE MOSTLY TRUE – This is an exact quote. (audio here) Update: Newsbusters points out that Press omits “ACS” from Erickson’s “ACS twerp” quote.

In any case, the distinction between the ACS and the census form is ancillary to Press’ question, which was about whether Erickson’s threat to pull a shotgun had caused any security concerns. The fact that Gibbs chose to answer the question more broadly, saying “there are a lot of people that get on cable TV and say stuff,” is hardly Press’ fault. It is reasonable to conclude that had Press said “ACS” instead of “census,” Gibbs’ answer would have been the same.

Fact Check – CNN:

Your Commentator Threatened to Pull a Shotgun on a Federal Employee – That’s pretty much it, although it is curious that CNN would consider mentioning their affiliation to Erick an “attack.”

A source at CNN tells Mediaite,”We think its important that Erick explain those comments, and he has done just that.”

I asked Bill Press to comment on CNN’s response, and he responded, “In other words, according to CNN, it’s ok to pull a shotgun on a federal employee, as long as you explain it.”

That’s what it sounds like, so let’s see how Erickson explains:

ACS Surveyors are getting belligerent and have showed up on people’s doorsteps to harass them and threaten jail. I said if some ACS person showed up on my doorstep to try to arrest me for not wanting to tell the government how often I flush my toilet I’d get out my wife’s shotgun and get them off my property.

The key distinction he appears to be making is the qualifier “try to arrest me,” but if you listen to the complete audio, Erickson never alleges that any ACS census worker tried to arrest anyone, or threatened anyone with jail time. You know why? Because they can’t. There is no jail penalty for failure to answer the ACS. There are for aggravated assault.

In CNN’s defense, they aren’t required to agree with everything their commentators say. MSNBC doesn’t have to answer for everything that comes out of Pat Buchanan’s mouth, for example.

On the other hand, their decision to attack Bill Press for asking about it kind of opens the door to the question. Apparently, they are satisfied with Erickson’s answer.


CNN’s Topical Discussion Of The Day: What Caused The Civil War?

Attacking CNN for its programming nowadays is the moral equivalent of kicking puppies, but it seems that every day the network is coming up with stale, centuries-old news. Last night’s topical discussion on Anderson Cooper 360: what caused the Civil War? Brag Bowling, Commander of the Virginia Division of Confederate Veterans, and CNN commentator Roland Martin weigh in.

The entire conversation is a mismatch because Bowling refuses to acknowledge that slavery was actually at the heart of everything that was wrong with the Confederacy. In fact, he seems to prefer brushing aside that whole slavery thing entirely. Bob McDonnell’s decision to declare April Confederate History Month, he argues, had nothing to do with slavery and everything to do with honoring American patriots like his forefathers (and, we learn, Anderson Cooper’s forefathers also). His argument hits a bit of a roadblock when Martin points out that those “patriots” are almost universally perceived outside of the South as traitors and “domestic terrorists.”

Watch the video below:



CNN’s Phillips Does Mea Culpa for Ex-Gay Story While Scolding E-Mailers

CNN’s Kyra Phillips has done an on-air apology for having an ex-gay activist on her show without a countering expert, but said she was hurt by the “hateful messages” she received from viewers who were upset about the show.

Phillips has been under fire since Tuesday when she had a segment on a California law that requires research into curing homosexuality.  Her main guest was Richard Cohen, a therapist who says gays can be cured.  The segment created a huge uproar, especially in the LGBT blogosphere, because Cohen went largely unchallenged and no mention was made that Cohen has been expelled by the American Counseling Association for unethical behavior.

Since the segment, CNN and Phillips became the subject of a Gays & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation “call to action” and Phillips says she’s received an avalanche of  “vicious emails” over the interview.

“I wish all of you knew my heart,” Phillips said at the end of her interview with the American Psychological Association’s Clinton Anderson, adding that she has a long track record of responsible reporting on gay and lesbian issues.  She said she had ” unswerving support for all communities in the battle for human rights, including gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals.

Responding to the controversy, she acknowledged that Cohen was not “the most appropriate guest” but was taken aback by the ugly response from those who didn’t like the segment.

“If we cannot treat each other in a civil manner, even when we disagree, we will never move forward and have a world where all people are treated with the respect they deserve,” Phillips concluded.