From the Beast’s media desk
Welcome to this week’s edition of Confider, the media newsletter that pulls back the curtain to reveal what’s really going on inside the world’s most powerful navel-gazing industry. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
EXCLUSIVE — EX-ABC NEWSER RAID, PART ONE: Rolling Stone’s big scoop last week, headlined “FBI Raids Star ABC News Producer’s Home,” read like a Tom Clancy thriller and raised serious concerns that the feds raided a journalist over his work. However, there’s more to the story than meets the eye, ABC reporters, producers, and executives told Confider. The article opened with a dramatic retelling of the April raid on ABC News investigative producer James Gordon Meek’s Arlington apartment, complete with quotes from a “self-described police-vehicle historian” neighbor and a claim that the feds had found “classified information” on his laptop. “Independent observers believe the raid is among the first—and quite possibly, the first—to be carried out on a journalist by the Biden administration,” the magazine reported. Inside ABC News, however, staffers were baffled by this framing, since Meek resigned from the network via email on April 27—the same day as the raid—citing “personal reasons” and told friends it was to “save colleagues and the company any embarrassment,” according to two people familiar with the situation. Although the FBI declined to comment on the probe, the DOJ was more forthcoming, suggesting in a statement to Confider that the raid was not actually about Meek’s reporting work, despite what the Rolling Stone article seemed to indicate. “While the department cannot speak to any specific case or activity, the Department strictly adheres to the Attorney General’s July 2021 memorandum prohibiting the use of compulsory process with regards to members of the news media acting within the scope of newsgathering activities,” wrote Dena Iverson, principal deputy director in the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs. ABC News sources similarly poured cold water on the idea that Meek was being probed for his journalism: “If the purpose of the FBI's search is to find classified documents the first call you'd be making would be to ABC's lawyers because you want the protection of the company," one such insider told Confider. “We would’ve defended him; ABC’s lawyers would be right there,” another network insider said.
EXCLUSIVE — EX-ABC NEWSER RAID, PART TWO: There’s plenty more about the Meek ordeal that is sure to raise eyebrows. For starters, Confider has learned that while reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NBC News have chased the story over the past few months, ABC News has not at all investigated the raid on their own ex-colleague even though network boss Kim Godwin had been briefed on the matter. Meek, who according to multiple sources has since deleted photos of firearms and ammunition from his personal Facebook page, has not been charged with any crime. Notably, the Rolling Stone report originally stated that Meek “frequently collaborated with ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir,” but that line was quietly removed from the story without any editor’s note, according to a cached version of the story archived in the Wayback Machine. And while the Rolling Stone story—authored by ace investigative scribe Tatiana Siegel—further claimed that Meek has “vanished,” his friends told Confider that he is living with his mother. Meek and his attorney, Eugene Gorokhov, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. ABC News declined to answer several questions from Confider, instead saying via a statement: “He resigned very abruptly for personal reasons and hasn’t worked for us for months, and we don’t comment or report on speculation.” A rep for Rolling Stone did not respond to a request for comment.
EXCLUSIVE — THE BUCK STOPS WITH LARA: Newsmax has further distanced itself from Lara Logan after banning her from its airwaves last week when she went full QAnon and invoked blood libel—but there will be no repercussions for Eric Bolling, the host who brought her on for the unhinged segment, Confider has learned. Asked whether Bolling or the network plans to address the ordeal on-air, a flack said Newsmax’s statement condemning Logan’s “reprehensible statements” will suffice, before emphasizing that the network is actually “not ‘cutting ties’ with [her] because we have no ties to her and have never had ties with her.” Furthermore, the spokesman claimed, “Newsmax never had a relationship with her at all,” instead pointing out that she was a frequent presence on rival Fox News (which also ditched Logan last year after she compared Dr. Anthony Fauci to a Nazi doctor). While Newsmax execs were clearly upset over Logan’s comments, insiders fully believe Bolling is not in any trouble for airing them in his pre-taped interview—in which he himself pushed the racist “Great Replacement” theory and touted Logan as a “good friend of the show” and “investigative journalist extraordinaire.” In the end, this appears to be yet another example of right-wing cable news outlets kicking unpaid commentators to the curb for on-air extremism while tolerating or encouraging similar commentary from their paid talent. Bolling declined to comment when reached. And Logan, who had been a guest on Bolling’s show three times in the past month, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
EXCLUSIVE — SUBTLE WSJ UNION BATTLES: Photo editors at The Wall Street Journal have launched a public campaign pushing management to let them join the company’s union, arguing their “editor” titles apply only literally to the images they work on. It’s the result of a half-decade of bargaining over what the title means, and it came after the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees—the Dow Jones/Journal union—provided testimonials backing the editors’ case. “Photo editors are not managerial employees, and they believe they should be included in the same bargaining unit,” said Tim Martell, the executive director of IAPE. Despite management’s silence on the union push, however, photo editors have noticed subtle internal attempts to elevate the nature of their editor roles, multiple employees told Confider. One common practice for photo editors involves looping in either the director or deputy director of photography when an image needs to be cleared by the paper’s standards department. However, in an email sent out to staff late last month, which Confider obtained, photo director Lucy Gilmour urged photo editors to “talk with your Lead Colleagues, and/or Deputy, or me” before running to standards—a practice some viewed as an attempt to rewrite the responsibilities of lead photo editors and make them more like managers. “It’s such subtle dumb shit because it’s so inside baseball for the Journal, but it’s our understanding of how things are supposed to work,” one employee told Confider. It is unclear whether the alleged anti-unionization sentiment is coming from photo management or higher up the chain. The Journal has brought in labor attorney Daniel Johns to represent it in National Labor Review Board hearings that begin Tuesday. Johns declined to comment and the Journal did not respond to a request for comment.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Staff at Bustle Digital Group, the Bryan Goldberg-owned online publisher that counts among its titles Gawker, Mic, and Elite Daily, are preparing to unionize… Seth Dillon, CEO of transphobic conservative satirical news site The Babylon Bee, recently donated $40,000 to the PAC for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-election campaign.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: Sen. Ted Cruz, a Houston Astros fan, at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, sitting behind home plate for ALCS Game 4. He left early and got a Bronx cheer as he exited. His presence was noted by Hunter Walker, who used video of Cruz to (for the millionth time) promote a book he co-wrote with his own Jan. 6 reporting source… Axios reporter Jonathan Swan out and about on Saturday near the Container Store in Arlington, pecking away at his smartphone (star journos—they’re just like us!).
More from the Beast’s Media Desk
—Ted Cruz was on The View today and, as one could easily guess, it was a shitshow, complete with Whoopi Goldberg yelling at hecklers to shut up and the senator being his unfortunate self. Confider is eternally grateful, however, that Meghan McCain wasn’t also at the table. Read about it and watch some clips here.
—Sean Hannity, Ben Shapiro, and Mark Levin are among the many right-wing windbags who’ve done paid endorsements for mobile operator PureTalk, calling it a conservative-friendly alternative to “woke” AT&T. Just one problem: PureTalk is basically just AT&T. More here.
—The newly launched Semafor (which on Monday debuted a climate newsletter sponsored by Chevron—yes, really) kicked off last week to a fair amount of criticism. The most scathing turn came from Defector’s Laura Wagner, who wrote that the Ben and Justin Smith-helmed project’s pretentious concept—reimagining the article form and “reducing polarization”—simply masks yet another big-money-backed reinforcement of the status quo. More here.
—BBC anchor Martine Croxall has reportedly been benched for an unspecified amount of time after she could barely contain her glee on-air while discussing the news that Boris Johnson had withdrawn his name from the Tory leadership race. Watch that here.
—Tucker Carlson is extremely mad that a GOP strategist suggested in a Daily Beast story last week that the Fox star’s son, Buckley, 25, has benefited from nepotism. According to Axios, Carlson has privately lashed out at and threatened Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), believing his camp to have been the source of the offending quote. More here.
**WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?**
“Has the bisexual Brazilian immigrant been vetted?” Fox News host Jesse Watters remarked Friday night with his trademark frat-bro grin, taking aim at Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman’s wife. Watters, who has repeatedly been condemned for his openly racist, sexist, and xenophobic rhetoric, devoted a lengthy segment to suggesting Giselle Barreto Fetterman is a foreign operative all while tossing out crass misogynistic insults at her. “When Hunter [Biden] finds out she’s bisexual, he’ll make a run,” the Fox primetime star snarked alongside a graphic blaring “The Real Housewives of the Campaign Trail.” He continued: “I'm sure the Chinese already have a folder on her. Who knows, the Chinese may already have hacked into his computer translator machine. I'm sure the FBI's all over that. She's definitely not a Brazilian Fang Fang. That would really make the next season interesting!” Fetterman wasn’t the only woman of Latin-American descent whom Watters gleefully mocked with his bigoted, faux-outragd commentary. While airing footage of right-wing protesters interrupting her recent town-hall event, the Fox News star claimed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) “went full taco” in her response. Classy stuff!
Confider will be back next week with more saucy scooplets. In the meantime, subscribe here and send us questions, complaints, or tips here.
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