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 — CLOSE TO THE VEST: After Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav said during a company-wide town hall last week that he would give branded vests to all employees, some CNN staffers have a message for their overlords: Keep your cheesy gifts. Indeed, while layoffs and cutbacks continue to roil CNN, as Warner Bros. Discovery slashes billions from the budget, some network staffers have grown tired of Zaslav’s approach. During last week’s town hall, he reassured staffers that despite the recent penny-pinching “we are not for sale”—an attempt to squash rumors of a Comcast merger—and made no mention of any pending layoffs. While trying to lighten the mood, Zaslav, who is famously fond of wearing branded vests, declared he would give one away to everyone. Some CNN staffers mocked the idea: “Vest + layoffs we love to see it. True start up energy,” one network employee snarked in a CNN group chat, adding: “A fucking vest??!” One CNN on-air talent told Confider that network staffers who participated in the call “felt it had no relevance to us” and that even though Zaz mentioned CNN at the top of the call, they felt like they’d “tuned into the wrong town hall” given how little it concerned them. Meanwhile, a Warner-branded vest isn’t the only tone-deaf swag being offered from on high, apparently. A former CNN staffer, who was laid off in April when CNN+ was abruptly shuttered, called the gifts a “cruel joke” and then shared with Confider images of a Warner Bros. Discovery-branded plaque they recently received, months after being canned. The front of the plaque treats a tweet from former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar with bizarro reverence, displaying a photo he took of the NYC skyline captioned by the full metadata for his tweet: “Don’t forget to look up. No better city. New York City, NY • 4:57 PM • Sept 10, 2021 • Twitter for iPhone.” The back of the plaque is equally strange, featuring an all-white background and the text of a rambling Kilar quote praising the doomed CNN+ staff: “Amazing things are inevitable when a talented, world-class team — that is unlike any other — passionately pursues a worthy mission, together. No finer mission, no better team. With so much thanks — Jason.” It is unclear whether this truly cursed plaque was meant to be delivered before or after CNN+ went belly up. “There is no such thing as an assurance from Zaslav because his actions have spoken a lot louder than his words and his talk is cheap,” the laid-off staffer said. “If I were still a staffer there, I would never feel a sense of calm. These gifts are bullshit.” A Warner Bros. Discovery rep did not respond to a request for comment.
EXCLUSIVE — IT’S A WAR OUT THERE: Being a foreign correspondent and reporting from war zones can be a risky business—just ask CNN’s chief natsec correspondent Jim Sciutto. He was the subject of a CNN internal investigation earlier this year, Confider has learned, after he had a serious fall in Amsterdam enroute home from a reporting trip to the Ukraine. Despite colleagues taking direct flights home from Poland, Sciutto and his producer made a stopover in the Dutch capital where the accident occurred. We hear Sciutto has since recovered from the incident but has been directed by CNN to address a “personal situation.” Sciutto and CNN did not respond to requests for comment.
CUOMOH NO HERE WE GO: Disgraced cable-news host Chris Cuomo‘s new show debuts tonight on NewsNation, despite his litigious claim that his CNN ouster rendered him unhireable. NewsNation appears to be going all-in on the ex-guv’s bruv, as Confider has noticed an astonishing amount of national promos for the debut—whether it be TV spots, a full-page Sunday spread in The New York Times, or ads in places like the Capital One Arena in D.C. and Atlanta bus stops. This may be the splashiest push by the fledgling cable outlet since it ran ads for Dan Abrams Live on places like Mediaite.com, the media news site owned by Dan Abrams. Confider will (regrettably) be watching tonight.
CANCELED BY THE ANTI-CANCELERS: The Intercept reported last week on how Katie Halper, a leftist Jewish writer, was fired by The Hill TV after it censored her Rising monologue defending Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s description of Israel as an “apartheid government.” Rising has long postured itself as a non-censorious alternative to the mainstream media: Current co-hosts like Robby Soave and Batya Ungar-Sargon, for example, have made careers railing incessantly against “cancel culture.” While the likes of Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald have both tweeted their support for her, Halper’s cause has not exactly seen the levels of fervor one might expect from more right-wing anti-”cancel culture” warriors. “Of course some of the loudest voices decrying cancel culture will ignore this story because it doesn’t fit into what they consider worthy speech,“ Halper told Confider. “It’s ideologically and politically inconvenient.” Nexstar has yet to comment on the entire ordeal.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Puck, the fledgling digital-media company that features the “peerless” (hmm) reporting (hmmmmm) of Dylan Byers, refuses to divulge subscriber numbers to prospective advertisers… The New York Times real-estate writer Joyce Cohen, who was sued over allegations she stopped paying rent, has been benched from writing the paper’s house-searching column called The Hunt.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: Beleaguered actor Alec Baldwin lunching with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel star Tony Shalhoub and theater producer David Pugh at Michael’s on Thursday.
More from the Beast’s Media Desk
—CNN killed off the last remnant of its CNN+ staff last week, handing out pink slips to roughly 20 staffers, including members of the Interview Club, which launched alongside the failed streamer and was supposed to“allow subscribers to drive the conversation and be part of the story.” More here.
—A U.S. district judge ruled last week that fired Fox News reporter Ed Henry must face “revenge porn” allegations, despite his attempt to dismiss the claims in an ongoing sexual-lawsuit lawsuit from former Fox News colleague Jennifer Eckhart. Read about that here.
—Felicia Sonmez and the Washington/Baltimore NewsGuild have taken their fight with The Washington Post to the feds, filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over her firing. It’s a counterpunch after the Post refused to arbitrate her grievance since the Post Guild’s contract lapsed. Read more here.
—Is Lachlan Murdoch trying to pull a Peter Thiel on Aussie news website Crikey? Read Joe Pompeo’s postcard from down under for the latest on the thin-skinned Murdoch's legal mess.
—If you thought Trevor Noah’s Daily Show exit felt unexpected, you’re not alone. His own staffers felt blindsided by the abrupt announcement, which apparently came with no prior warning for some, per Deadline. Although surely his rumored girlfriend Dua Lipa was aware. Read more here.
—Vanity Fair profiled a year of a reinvented Rolling Stone under its suspiciously Daily Beast-like new direction, steered by one Noah Shachtman. Wait—Noah who? More here.
—The Onion filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in defense of a Parma, Ohio man who created a parody website of his local police department and got arrested for doing so. Their filing is as hilarious and scathing as you’d expect. Read some highlights here.
**WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?**
No week in this hellworld would be complete without the absolute dumbest possible right-wing outrage cycle and last week delivered a doozy. Pop star Lizzo, a classically trained flutist in her own right, had a delightful moment Tuesday in D.C., giddily playing a 200-year-old crystal flute once owned by America’s fourth president. “Bitch, I just twerked and played James Madison’s crystal flute from the 1800s. We just made history tonight,” Lizzo, who is Black, declared to her concertgoers before returning the flute to a Library of Congress minder. “History is freaking cool!” Cue the usual gaggle of right-wing muppets absolutely losing their shit, including The Daily Wire boy king Ben Shapiro and his casually bigoted podcasting pal Matt Walsh, who both railed against Lizzo’s nice moment as if it were a harbinger of some mega-apocalypse. Read all about these dweebs here.
Confider will be off next week for the holiday, but check back in two weeks for more saucy scooplets. In the meantime, subscribe here and send us questions, complaints, or tips here.
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