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 — THE BATTLE OF REDSTONE: A bombshell new book about the battle for power at the Paramount Global entertainment empire will lay bare never-before-reported allegations of sexual assault against the late Sumner Redstone, Confider has learned, and one woman mentioned in the book has already issued legal threats to its authors. Unscripted: The Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalists James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams, isn’t due to hit shelves via Penguin Random House until February, but it already has Tinseltown power players nervous about some of its salacious revelations. Redstone’s ex-fiancée Sydney Holland—nearly 50 years his junior—has lawyered up, hiring pit-bull defamation attorney Larry Stein and sending Stewart and Abrams a legal threat over the participation of her ex-boyfriend George Pilgrim in the book, two people familiar with the matter told Confider. Pilgrim is viewed as the man who broke up Redstone’s engagement to Holland back in 2015, but sources claim the ex-con has a deeply personal agenda to hurt Holland and there may be legal action if certain claims made by him feature prominently in the hotly anticipated book, which is already being shopped to streamers for a TV adaptation. Stewart, Abrams and Stein declined to comment. Reps for Penguin, Redstone and Pilgrim didn’t get back to us.
EXCLUSIVE — ROYAL RESTRAINTS: Meghan Markle’s father has hit back after a Hollywood paparazzi took out a restraining order against him claiming he was in fear for his life after Thomas Markle said in a new book that he would “kill him.” Jeff Rayner, owner of tabloid photo agency Coleman-Rayner, got the restraining order approved for two years, according to court docs obtained and reviewed by Confider—but Markle claims it’s all a PR stunt because he’s incapable of actually inflicting violence. “I’m 78 years old. I have a heart condition and I had a stroke two months ago,” Markle told Confider from his home in Mexico. “He is trying to get attention. I’ll kick in ten bucks for his laundry because I heard he wet himself and has soiled his underwear.” Markle said he was joking when he told British journo Tom Bower in his book, titled Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors: “If they tell me I've got terminal cancer, then I'll kill him because I have nothing to lose." The elder Markle also told us his daughter looked “uncomfortable” at the queen’s funeral. “Harry and her are outsiders to the royals now. The royals don’t know what to do with them,” he claimed. “They are in a fix.” Rayner declined a request for comment.
EXCLUSIVE — RAIN ON THIS PARADE: Beloved national Sunday newspaper magazine Parade is the latest victim of the digital-first revolution, Confider has learned, and will end its historic print run this fall. Up to 10 staffers have been laid off as part of the transition, and the Nov. 6 issue will be the last print edition of the 81-year-old magazine, syndicated in newspapers across the country and well-known for its celebrity interviews, comics, and puzzles. Parade’s ownership in The Arena Group sees the switch as a way to boost the brand. “In just five months, we have validated the current popularity and the incremental potential of the Parade brand. Using our proven playbook, we have nearly tripled the number of unique visitors to the established Parade digital assets by further investing in our rapidly growing Lifestyle vertical,” The Arena Group chairman and CEO Ross Levinsohn told Confider. “The ongoing evolution of both the media business and consumer behavior, along with macroeconomic factors contribute to this shift in strategy. We will continue to build on the iconic Parade brand to meet consumers how and where they engage with content."
EXCLUSIVE — ONE DESANTIS NETWORK: Far-right channel One America News (OAN)–currently in the midst of an existential crisis—may be cartoonishly loyal in its efforts to boost all things Donald Trump, but it appears as though the network’s founder and boss is playing footsie with the ex-president’s top potential 2024 primary rival. According to Florida election filings shared with Confider by the liberal American Bridge 21st Century PAC, OAN founder and CEO Robert Herring earlier this month cut a $20,000 check to Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC, the Florida governor’s state-level political action committee currently boosting his gubernatorial re-election campaign. The donation is especially notable considering OAN and Herring’s unyielding loyalty to Trump and the many ways in which the former president has quietly stewed over the emergence of DeSantis as a wannabe heir to the MAGA throne. As The Daily Beast has reported, the mere prospect of a Trump vs. DeSantis 2024 race has already begun to create rival factions among right-wing media diehards. When asked about the donation, Herring emailed Confider: “It means that we support De Santis as a vice President. I believe that President Trump was the greatest President in My eighty years.”
SEMAFOR STARTER PACK: Last week, new media outlet Semafor finally revealed its founding editorial team in advance of its October launch. The list included bigger poachings like Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel and NBC News scribe Benjy Sarlin, but it also included lesser-known but noteworthy hires like that of Shelby Talcott, senior White House correspondent for The Daily Caller, the right-wing news site founded by Tucker Carlson. Talcott, a former pro tennis player, may come to prove Semafor co-founder Ben Smith’s knack for finding talent in unusual places. While most of her future colleagues come from mainstream outlets, Talcott has been a fixture at the Caller and across conservative cable: During the 2020 and 2021 racial-justice protests, for example, she often beamed into Fox News primetime from the scene; and in 2019, she appeared on far-right OAN to rail against late-term abortions because “history has shown that women have not made that decision very well.” Past rhetoric aside, Semafor obviously sees something special in Talcott. She wouldn’t be the first journalist plucked from the Daily Caller to then become a heavy-hitting mainstream reporter. Years ago, after cutting her teeth writing trollish clickbait for the Caller (infamously including “13 Syrian Refugees We’d Take Immediately”), Kaitlan Collins transitioned to the briefing room before being poached by CNN, where she proved herself a formidable reporter, rising the ranks to chief White House correspondent and co-host of a soon-to-be revamped morning show. A rep for Semafor declined to comment.
WE HEAR WHISPERS: Representatives of the Saudi Tourism Authority are aggressively pitching travel writers on press junkets to the kingdom just weeks out from the four-year anniversary of the crown prince-approved murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: Disgraced comedian Louis C.K. trying out new material in a surprise stand-up set at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village… NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ chief of staff, Frank Carone, lunching at The Odeon in Tribeca on Tuesday and then Casa Cipriani on Thursday… Neil deGrasse Tyson and funk legend George Clinton hanging out together on Tuesday at a party celebrating five years of Ari Melber’s MSNBC show. Network chief Rashida Jones, her boss Cesar Conde, and newly minted host Jen Psaki also made appearances… Dave Weigel roaming the aisles of Politics and Prose bookstore in D.C. during a Q&A event for Andy Kroll’s new book about the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.
More from the Beast’s Media Desk
—NY1 weatherman Erick Adame mysteriously disappeared from the air in recent months. Turns out, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Beast, he was fired after nude screenshots from a webcam chat were anonymously sent to his bosses and his own mother. More on that here.
—CBS White House reporter Major Garrett has a new book about the Big Lie and how we got here. Notably, however, he does not take aim at the media outlets, like his former employer Fox News, that have played a key role in boosting lies. Garrett and his co-author spoke with The Daily Beast about where this is all headed—and it’s not peachy. Read more here.
—MyPillow mogul Mike Lindell got his phone seized by the FBI while he was at a Hardee’s drive-thru, officially making him (and the mediocre fast-food chain) relevant again. Fun fact: Despite beefing with Fox News last year over his election lies, Lindell is now running ads on the network at the highest clip ever—mostly on the show (Tucker Carlson Tonight) that groused the most about his FBI run-in. More here.
—As Confider reported last month, new CNN boss Chris Licht’s next big shakeup was set to involve “blowing up” New Day, the network’s ratings-deficient morning show. Last week, that finally happened as CNN announced a completely reworked show hosted by Kaitlan Collins, Poppy Harlow, and Don Lemon, who will give up his 10 p.m. primetime slot. Read all about it here.
—The hits keep coming for Politico’s billionaire owner, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner. Last week, his Trump fandom was outed by WaPo in a thoroughly embarrassing way. And now FT reports that he “used his best-selling tabloid to campaign against the decision by Adidas to stop paying rent during the coronavirus pandemic, without disclosing that he was the company’s landlord.” More here.
—Press Gazette investigated the question many observers had about British media after Queen Elizabeth’s death: How and when did U.K. outlets know she was gone? And were they told before the public knew? Read the findings here.
—The New Yorker has a very subtly incisive review of Smart Brevity, the new book from Axios co-founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz touting the supposed wisdom of their hyper-concise editorial model. “Readers may want brevity, but the times call for nuance,” notes staff writer Clare Malone. Read her full review here.
—Tech news website Input is out. Bustle Media Group will shutter the tech-and-pop-culture outlet, AdWeek reported on Monday, and will also lay off “at least 10” staffers at Mic, the once-prominent and oft-gutted millennial news site it rebooted last year. More here.
**WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?**
Disney last week revealed the first footage of Halle Bailey as the titular character in its new live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Because Bailey is Black and the original (and very fictional) cartoon mermaid was white-skinned, naturally the usual suspects spent all week having a tantrum about it. The two goofiest examples came from stars at The Daily Wire, conservative boy-king Ben Shapiro’s culture-war grievance factory. Self-described “Disney child” Candace Owens went on a bizarre rant against a Black Ariel—again, a completely fictional children’s movie character who lives under the sea—because it is "not common for Black people to have red hair… It is, in fact, a Nordic trait, if you will. Irish, in fact, if you’re going to talk about specificities.” Owens concluded: “But they're going to make her black because everything must be Black. If it’s not Black, they can't produce it.” Her colleague, fellow Daily Wire podcaster and generally hateful troll Matt Walsh spent Monday earnestly whining about a supposed double standard in Ariel (a fish, mind you) being Black while it would be “horribly racist” for a white actor to portray Black Panther (a superhero specifically of African descent). The next day, however, he retreated behind the cloak of “just kidding” after making a trollish remark about the “unscientific” casting of a Black mermaid. The whole episode was as tedious as ever, but what’s especially noteworthy was that it all was too aggressively stupid to ever make its way to Newsmax or Fox News, cursed to forever live at the bottom of the fever swamp.
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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