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.
LACHLAN HELPED DADDY’S DIVORCE: Mega-mogul Rupert Murdoch will soon be without a head of state on speed dial in the U.S., Australia, or the U.K. following Boris Johnson’s resignation, but at least he can always count on eldest son Lachlan Murdoch—who played a key role in advising his father to divorce Jerry Hall, Confider has learned. While many were surprised by the split, the couple started drifting apart in the fall, according to two people familiar with the matter. A key sign that things were over was Hall’s absence at Rupert’s summer party at the Serpentine Gallery, which BoJo attended, in London last month, multiple sources said. But it was Lachlan who helped advise his father, 91, to pull the pin on his six-year-long fourth marriage, even playing a part in legal and PR strategies, according to those familiar with the matter. The Daily Mail previously reported that Hall, 65, blamed Murdoch’s children for the split, which was apparently initiated via an email from Rupert. The divorce will not affect the family’s ownership in companies like Fox News or the Wall Street Journal. The elder Murdoch has since focused his attention on helping to steer his multimillion-dollar investment in talkTV and rejigger its ratings-challenged star Piers Morgan’s show. The mogul is committed to the show, sources said, but he thinks it is too heavy on entertainment, although it was Morgan’s interview with singer Macy Gray, in which she made transphobic remarks, that generated worldwide headlines. But there are some signs of improvement with Morgan appearing more across Fox News Media platforms and cracking 100,000 YouTube subscribers. A spokesperson for Murdoch did not respond to a request for comment.
WAPO’S PANDEMIC WHIPLASH: “The pandemic is not over,” The Washington Post’s editorial board declared late last week. And yet, internally, Post staffers worry the paper’s management seems to be treating their concerns about COVID-19 as a thing of the past. A June 22 edict mandating staffers come to the offices three times a week or risk “disciplinary action” has left many frustrated and fearful, according to multiple current and former staffers who spoke with Confider. These sources said the company will monitor office attendance via individual badge-swipe data. “Everyone is scrambling right now,” one reporter told The Daily Beast. “They’re trying to reorient their lives” to fit with the paper’s demands, which many believe originated with publisher Fred Ryan and is being enforced by the Post’s HR chief Wayne Connell, who has vigorously defended the policy internally. The policy is apparently controversial among middle management as well, as one staffer told us: “There’s not much desire, at least from national editors, to play truancy officer.” But the rules have so incensed staffers that on July 7 the PostGuild sent a letter to Ryan and other top brass lamenting “a lack of concern for the ongoing pandemic; an absence of trust in employees; a gross misunderstanding of how employees do their jobs and a willful disregard for the constantly evolving needs of employees.” The memo, which Confider obtained and reviewed, continued: “Threatening to punish Post employees who have for the last two years exceeded all expectations in the face of unprecedented circumstances signals to workers that producing Pulitzer Prize-winning work, outperforming sales goals, increasing subscriber numbers and boosting retention rates are not enough to earn the trust, empathy and support of their own.” A Post spokesperson wrote in a statement: “We always work to prioritize employee safety in any decision regarding the office. We have taken a number of precautions, including requiring vaccination and weekly testing, adding air filters and following local guidance on masking. We first informed employees that they would be required to come into the office at least three days a week back in May 2021. We moved the office return date several times in response to pandemic conditions, and set the March 15 date this past January. We are now ensuring this is being enforced evenly across the company.”
CUOMOH GOD NO: Disgraced ex-CNN host Chris Cuomo issued a vague threat to the world over the weekend, posting to Instagram a video claiming “Something’s coming… Summer ’22,” accompanied by terrifying selfies of himself sucking on a cigar, flexing a bicep, and screaming—possibly during some tough reps or merely into the void. Multiple media insiders speculated to Confider that the attention-starved former cable-news host may be plotting a return to the podcast game. It would make sense: Cuomo previously hosted a SiriusXM radio show as well as a joint podcast with his now-ex BFF Don Lemon. But if you have any clue what is going on, send us tips here. After all, as Chris would say: “Let’s get after it!”
THE HERB’S ‘GRIM REAPER’: Employees at G/O Media are alarmed by CEO Jim Spanfeller’s hiring of a consultant with a reputation of being the “grim reaper” and slashing staff wherever he goes. Spanfeller, who is derisively referred to as a “herb” by some staffers, has given Terry Jimenez, who previously worked at the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News, a mandate to “retool the sites for growth,” according to the people familiar with the situation, but staffers fear he is getting ready to lop heads at the media company that includes Gizmodo and Jezebel and is already in the grips of a hiring freeze. “Terry has been working with us for many months,” a G/O spokesperson emailed Confider. “This is hardly a new appointment and we have no plans for downsizing any staff. We are looking to better understand our audiences and to drive higher user engagement above the already best in class engagement numbers that we already have.”
THANK YOU FOR TRYING: Nearly a decade ago, New York Times correspondent Mark Leibovich set fire to the Beltway power-lunch crowd with the endlessly juicy This Town, but his latest book—due out tomorrow—underwhelms, we’re sad to report. Confider obtained an advance copy of Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission and while Leibovich, now an Atlantic staff writer, lends his trademark flourishes to wince-inducing tales about Trump’s sleaziest hangers-on and enablers, there’s little in the way of revelatory information. Where hope for new info is found, most often it’s cited to other reporters’ work. Perhaps the most newsworthy detail from the book has already leaked: Fox Corp board member and former House Speaker Paul Ryan confessed to Leibovich that he was “sobbing” as he watched the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection unfold.
GLENN, NÃO: Ex-Intercept editor Glenn Greenwald has long accused Jair Bolsonaro of personally wanting him dead, but the star journo turned heads last week by defending Brazil’s far-right president as a “victim of censorship”—and doing so on Tucker Carlson’s Bolsonaro-friendly show. “Facebook and Google are essentially dictating to Brazilians what they can and cannot hear from their democratically elected president,” Greenwald told Carlson of the Brazilian leader’s COVID misinfo being removed from various platforms. “No matter what you think of Bolsonaro, you should have to think it’s a pretty serious problem,” he said before likening the situation to how “the entire establishment essentially united against Trump.” Greenwald soon came under fire from Brazilian media, both because of his outspokenness about Bolsonaro’s attempts to silence him and because of Carlson’s fawning over the right-wing leader. As one such critical outlet noted, the Pulitzer Prize winner “has already gained the sympathy of some bolsonaristas” for his comments. The backlash prompted damage control from Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, a prominent left-wing Brazilian lawmaker and Bolsonaro critic. “There is no doubt for me or my husband... of how much the Bolsonaro government was and is harmful to the Brazilian people,” Miranda tweeted late last week in Portuguese. “This is indisputable. But I admire and always will admire Glenn’s defense of free speech.” In a separate tweet, Miranda added: “We all have the right to express ourselves. Which does not justify Bolsonaro's irresponsibility and even crimes.” Greenwald publicly defended himself, too, telling one critic that “there’s more to say about a major country of 230 million beyond what happened to me.”
More from the Beast’s Media Desk
—Fox News host Emily Compagno drew backlash last week from African news outlets and social-media users after she dismissed concerns about U.S. women’s rights by floating a wholly unverified claim that pregnant women in Kenya are not allowed to leave home. Through a network spokesperson, Compagno defended herself by essentially saying she read it on the internet so it must be true. Read more here.
—Semafor’s big D.C. pre-launch event last week concluded with co-founder Ben Smith interviewing Tucker Carlson from what appeared to be the inside of a closet. Naturally, the Fox News blowhard “steamrolled” Smith, according to critics of the interview who wondered whether it was a responsible decision for a news org to platform Carlson’s fact-free shtick in the first place. More on their uncomfortable interview here.
—Joe Rogan seems to have made an enemy out of MAGA world. The star podcaster threw his weight behind Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis for president and then admitted he’s rejected Donald Trump’s many requests to appear on The Joe Rogan Experience. None of that sat well with Steve Bannon, who accused Rogan of taking “blood money” to “trash talk” Daddy Trump. Read more about the beefing here.
—British filmmaker Alex Holder’s much-hyped Discovery+ documentary, Unprecedented, featuring “extraordinary” new footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and baffling levels of access to the Trump family during those events, premiered Sunday night to mediocre reviews. More on that here from Columbia Journalism Review.
—Elon Musk doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about the legal mess he’s caused after pulling out of the Twitter deal. On Monday, the billionaire spent his morning shitposting to Twitter about the news that the social-media platform is lawyering up to take him to court over the aborted sale. Naturally, this included a Chuck Norris meme. The Guardian has more here.
—Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg earned rave reviews for his performance on Fox News Sunday, in which he firmly defended abortion-rights protesters having gathered outside the chain restaurant where Justice Brett Kavanaugh dined last week. Read more about that here. This is by design, as The Daily Beast reported in 2020 how Buttigieg is the Biden surrogate most called upon to deftly swat away Fox News talking points.
**WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?**
After spending the last few months propping up Elon Musk as a “free speech” messiah, conservative media had a tough time coming to grips with the SpaceX founder calling it quits on his Twitter deal. The reactions were all over the place. Some suggested it was all part of Musk’s genius plans (“If he buys Twitter he wins, if he doesn’t buy Twitter, he still won because he did a number of things,” Fox News host Greg Gutfeld declared just moments after Musk pulled out), while others lamented that Twitter was going “left again,” and a few even acknowledged that Musk may have taken them for a ride. Others fully melted down. “Holy shit. The party is really over here. The purge is coming,” tweeted perpetually aggrieved media grifter Dave Rubin, alongside a link to his own social-media site, of course. “WTFuck @elonmusk ?????!!!!! Now You're NOT buying Twitter? I AM SO SCREWED. What happened? Was this a PUNK? Maybe you've been SNIFFING too much of that ROCKET FUEL. Thanks. FOR NOTHING!! #boycottTesla,” raged the cartoonish Newsmax host Greg Kelly in a since-deleted tweet.
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