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 — IGER’S LIVE-ACTION REBOOT: ABC News staffers at all levels were just as surprised as everyone else to learn that Bob Iger is returning to run The Walt Disney Company. News boss Kim Godwin addressed the shock development during ABC’s 9 a.m. editorial call, telling staffers there was “no warning” and imploring them to focus on their work, according to people who were on the call. Speculation within ABC News has turned to who else could return now that Iger is once again running the show. A Confider spy-witness recently saw Iger dining in L.A. with Peter Rice, the former Disney TV exec who was unceremoniously fired by Bob Chapek just five months ago. However, ABC News staffers who spoke with Confider doubt he will make a return to overseeing the network. One person that our insiders do expect back in some capacity, however, is the much-feared Disney flack Zenia Mucha, who Confider learned has been quietly advising Iger and handling press calls for him even after he stepped down from Disney and after she “retired” last winter after nearly 20 years at the company. Mucha’s initial successor, Geoff Morrell, only lasted a few months in the job, as Confider previously reported. For ABC staffers there was one silver lining to a wild 24 hours at their Mouse House: “My stock is up,” one journalist quipped. A rep for ABC News declined to comment and a rep for Disney didn’t respond to a request for comment.
EXCLUSIVE — DOWN TO THE WIRE: The Associated Press scared much of the world last Tuesday when it alerted readers that “a senior U.S. intelligence official” said “Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people.” That report, which was widely cited across the internet and on cable news, was taken offline the following day and replaced with an editor’s note admitting the single source was wrong and that “subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.” On Monday the AP fired James LaPorta, the investigative reporter responsible for that story, Confider has learned. The piece, which was originally co-bylined with John Leicester (who is still working at the AP), attributed the information to a single “senior U.S. intelligence official,” despite the AP’s rule that it “routinely seeks and requires more than one source when sourcing is anonymous.” The only exception, according to its statement of news values and principles, is when “material comes from an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy”—a situation that seemingly did not occur, as the report was fully retracted last Wednesday. When reached for comment, an AP spokesperson did not comment on LaPorta’s ouster, but instead wrote: “The rigorous editorial standards and practices of The Associated Press are critical to AP’s mission as an independent news organization. To ensure our reporting is accurate, fair and fact-based, we abide by and enforce these standards, including around the use of anonymous sources.” LaPorta, a former Daily Beast contributor, declined to comment.
EXCLUSIVE — 30 ROCKED: There is a crisis of confidence in leadership at the NBCUniversal’s news division following a series of recent bungles and, according to six staffers (including reporters and producers) who spoke with Confider, 30 Rock insiders are blaming NBCU News Group Chairman Cesar Conde. The top exec pledged in 2020 to have a 50 percent diverse workforce and has made headlines with the high-profile, abrupt firings of a star Black anchor (Tiffany Cross) and an LGBTQ anchor (Shepard Smith) in quick succession, leaving some at the network questioning the boss’ commitment to diversity, these staffers told Confider. Another bone of contention has been Conde’s decision to pay Rachel Maddow $30 million to work less—a move that the staffers said has been particularly galling at a time when many NBC employees enter the holidays fearing they’ll soon face layoffs. Such worries come as rumors swirl that Noah Oppenheim, whom staffers have previously been accused of “self-dealing,” will soon exit as president of NBC News and be replaced by Libby Leist, an SVP who currently oversees the Today show. “We are proud that the NBCU News Group continues to have the most diverse on-air representation than any other news organization—and that’s in addition to the 30+ executives and leaders that have been hired and promoted within the past two years,” a NBC News spokesman emailed Confider. “On the recent two-year anniversary of the 50 percent challenge, we announced that over the last two years, nearly 48 percent of new hires have been people of color and almost 65 percent have been women. Over the same period, we have increased our team members of color by 5.9 percent and women by 5.6 percent.” The network was also quick to defend Maddow from dissatisfied staffers. “Not only has Rachel been busier than ever on a multitude of NBC projects—including her podcast which quickly became #1 on Apple’s podcast chart—but she was also in the anchor chair when MSNBC beat CNN for the first time on an election night,” the flack emailed.
EXCLUSIVE — TABLOID RETREAT: The publisher of supermarket tabloids Us Weekly, Star, and In Touch is ditching its downtown newsroom at 4 NY Plaza telling staffers they will not renew the office’s lease when it expires at the end of December. “We plan to find a new office location in New York City,” a360media HR Director Ken Slivken wrote in a memo obtained and reviewed by Confider. “We are searching for a hoteling and conference center type office location. However, near term with so many employees working remotely, it’s not at all clear how much space is needed for a new office.” The New York Daily News shuttered its newsroom in the same building back in 2021. A rep for a360media did not respond to a request for comment.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: CNN is desperately trying to get weekday anchor Ana Cabrera to re-sign with the embattled network… The Hill’s general manager Jason Jedlinski may be on his way out, as executives from parent company Nexstar eye potential replacements.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: News Corp mega-mogul Rupert Murdoch roaming the Fox News offices on Wednesday, the morning after Donald Trump announced his 2024 run… Democratic candidate Adam Frisch at a Semafor event in D.C. on Friday, just hours after he called to concede his U.S. House race to loony Lauren Boebert.
More from the Beast’s Media Desk
—On Oct. 27, Tucker Carlson warned his viewers that the U.S. would collapse when diesel fuel runs out “by the Monday of Thanksgiving week.” Well, that was today. Yet more proof for what Fox News lawyers have argued: You can’t actually believe anything he says on-air. Read more about his failed doomsday prediction here.
—The aforementioned missiles in Poland led to a flood of misinformation, fake reports, and panic on Twitter. “It’s not hard to imagine how much worse this could get” under Elon Musk’s new regime that has gutted disinfo rules and allowed fakes to thrive, wrote Tyler Austin Harper. More here.
—The Murdoch empire seemed to make it clear last week that it’s dumping Trump. The New York Post came out swinging at the disgraced ex-prez after he announced a 2024 run but, as Matt Lewis wrote here, it won’t make up for the tabloid’s role in creating the Trump monstrosity in the first place. Additionally, as Clive Irving wrote, this new post-Trump era of the Murdoch family is just the start of something new and ugly. Read that here.
—The Wall Street Journal reported that several Disney execs first learned of the Iger news via his email, which landed in their inboxes while they attended Elton John’s final concert at Dodger Stadium. Ousted CEO Bob Chapek was set to attend and introduce Rocket Man on a Disney+ livestream of the event but, uh… yeah, that didn’t happen. More here.
—She Said was a box-office bomb. The Universal Studios journalism drama, based on Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s book about their New York Times investigation exposing Harvey Weinstein, brought in only $2.25 million across just over 2,000 theaters. More on the flop here.
—The New York Times has a fascinating read on how grave miscalculations and a plainly obvious mismatch made AT&T’s ill-fated purchase of Time Warner potentially “the worst merger ever.” Read that here.
**WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?**
In what’s become an annual tradition rivaling the “War on Christmas” or the “cancellation” of Columbus Day, Fox News has kicked off its faux-outrage about liberals supposedly hoping to destroy Thanksgiving. Naturally, this year’s rage-baiting is all based on a single tweet. During Monday’s broadcast of Fox News daytime chatfest Outnumbered, the entire panel took aim at actor John Leguizamo for tweeting, “Happy indigenous survivor’s day! F*ck thanksgiving!” Describing Leguizamo as a “man named John whose name I cannot pronounce,” ex-Trump flack-turned-Fox News host Kayleigh McEnany snarled that the film and stage star’s name was “not worth pronouncing.” Noting that an MSNBC guest said last year that the holiday represents “genocide,” co-host Jackie DeAngelis claimed that Thanksgiving is the “next thing on the list to be canceled.” Former Real World star Sean Duffy, meanwhile, added this was just another example of how “the left is coming for America.” Ex-NFL sideline reporter Michele Tafoya wondered what was stopping Leguizamo from “looking at the history of the world and how much blood has been shed in every continent through every religion and every imperialistic dictator authoritarian.” Getting in one final shot at Leguizamo, DeAngelis noted that Leguizamo “probably hates Elon Musk” but was still tweeting on the edgelord billionaire’s platform. You sure got him.
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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