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 — PULLING TAFFY: Esteemed New York Times Magazine writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner has been the subject of countless headlines for her hit FX series Fleishman Is in Trouble, adapted from her bestselling 2019 novel—but one seems to have struck a nerve. A Jewish Telegraphic Agency profile of Brodesser-Akner, written by freelance journalist Sarah Rosen and published on Nov. 15, was quietly deleted by the outlet the next day, with its nearly 2,000 words of text replaced by a vague statement: “A story about the FX series ’Fleishman is in Trouble’ has been removed because it mischaracterized elements of an interview with the show’s creator.” The original piece featured Brodesser-Akner allegedly expressing to Rosen over Zoom how, despite reviews focusing on the Jewish essence of her book and show, she doesn’t think of it as an especially Jewish work of art. “‘Fleishman is in Trouble’ hits FX Thursday. Just don’t call it a Jewish series, says its creator,” read the original headline, which was also scrubbed. The decision to wholesale delete the profile left Rosen confused, she told Confider, as she felt the interview went off without a hitch. “Nothing was mischaracterized,” she asserted. “We had a lovely conversation and I wrote the article with respect and integrity. Then, the next thing I’d heard, it had been taken down.” Rosen said she originally pitched the profile to JTA news director Gabe Friedman after learning the book, which she had loved, would become a series. After an editing process Rosen described as “totally typical,” the piece was published on Nov. 15 at 12:30 p.m., two days before the show’s premiere. Rosen sent the piece to FX press staffers at 12:51 p.m., prompting a congratulatory response, according to an email reviewed by Confider. “Thanks Sarah! Great piece!” a publicist wrote. But by the following day, the piece was gone. “I’ve just been reading press about the show and so many interviews,” she said. “That makes this situation so surprising and confusing to me.” Neither JTA nor FX offered any clarity when reached. “After the story was published, the subject reached out to us with concerns about the story,” Philissa Cramer, JTA’s editor in chief, said in a statement. “We reviewed the story and determined that during the editorial process some elements of our interview had been mischaracterized. We then decided to remove the story.” Brodesser-Akner did not respond to multiple requests for comment and FX merely pointed to JTA’s posted explanation.
EXCLUSIVE — FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: Fox News’ own lawyers have argued that viewers shouldn’t believe anything Tucker Carlson says, but that hasn’t stopped the Kremlin from hanging on his every word. A month after it embraced Carlson’s attempt to blame the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline on Biden, Russian state TV found another Putin-friendly talking point to amplify from the Fox star it eagerly describes as the “most popular American news host.” At the end of October, Carlson—or Такер Карлсон, per Russia TV—breathlessly warned viewers that the U.S. was on the cusp of running out of diesel fuel due to President Joe Biden’s “jihad” in Ukraine. “Diesel fuel is not just low in this country,” he exclaimed. “It’s low in every Western nation that is aligned itself with Ukraine. All these nations preparing for ‘World War Trans’ are running out of diesel fuel.” While Carlson’s fear-stoking declaration that the U.S. was 25 days from economic collapse and Mad Max-like dystopia proved wildly incorrect, it did not stop Moscow’s propaganda machine from repeatedly blasting it out. Confider found via the Internet Archive’s TV records that Carlson’s monologue, in which he also suggested Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-NY) wanted to destroy Russia over its traditional Christian values, was featured at least eight times across three different state networks over multiple days. Among those boosting Carlson’s comments was Russia-1 TV host Vladimir Solovyov, who recently pushed for air strikes against several countries after “Russian-made” bombs killed two in Poland. Russian TV has long had a love affair with Carlson, especially in the run-up to Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, though, the state’s propagandists have at times warned that Carlson’s pro-Putin bias may be too blatant.
IT WASN’T ME, BABE: The world was given a rare public statement from Bob Dylan on Friday when the bard copped to a massive “error in judgment” in using a robot to autograph special copies of his new book, Philosophy of Modern Song, after suffering a bout of vertigo. The admission has shocked fans, but industry insiders who spoke with Confider were slightly bemused, noting how the use of autopen tech is actually far more widespread than people realize—and is used in all parts of the entertainment industry. One insider pointed to how Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards used an autopen for signed copies of his memoir and Sinead O’Connor admitted to using one for hers last year. The difference here, of course, is that Simon & Schuster charged an eye-watering $600 for the “hand-signed” Dylan books. “It took Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift for us to finally have a conversation about ticketing,” an insider said, “and it’ll take Bob Dylan fucking up for people to finally talk about the autopen.”
CHIEF TWITS ABOUND: It appears as though Elon Musk’s Twitter isn’t the only social platform facing a downward spiral. After peaking in August, Truth Social, the right-wing Twitter knockoff created by former president Donald Trump, has experienced two straight months of decline in unique visitors. According to Comscore data reviewed by TheRighting, a watchdog that reports on and analyzes trends in right-wing media, Truth Social went from 4.02 million visitors in August to 3.38 million in September and then 2.85 million in October. “It suggests a decreasing interest in what Trump is saying on his platform,” Howard Polskin, a lifelong media vet and founder of TheRighting, told Confider. “If the numbers keep declining, he may be tempted to go back to Twitter to reach a much larger audience.” Musk restored Trump’s banned Twitter account last week, leading many to wonder whether the ex-president would return to his beloved soap box or stick with his own flailing platform. A Truth Social spokesperson wrote to Confider that the platform “continues to see increased traffic and gain more new users than will ever read this hit piece.”
More from the Beast’s Media Desk
—Forever proving correct the ironic meme about how “the right is starting to get better at comedy,” conservative site The Babylon Bee took a big swing-and-a-miss at Stephen King over the weekend with a cringey, comedy-free attempt at comedy. The actual humor came via the severe roasting the right-wing site took in response, which you can read about here.
—It didn’t take very long for Fox News to suggest the LGBTQ community was to blame for the mass shooting during a drag show at an LGBTQ night club in Colorado last week. One frequent Tucker guest, Jaimee Mitchell, founder of a totally-not-hateful group called Gays Against Groomers, warned that such massacres won’t stop until “we end this evil agenda” of drag shows. More here.
—Dr. Anthony Fauci’s final White House briefing descended into chaos as press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was forced to shout down several gadfly reporters who repeatedly interrupted the retiring chief medical adviser. “I’m done with you,” Jean-Pierre said to a trio of “disrespectful” journos from The Daily Caller, New York Post, and Today News Africa. Watch here.
—Disney’s Bob Iger kicked off the live-action reboot of his CEOship on Monday with a staff-wide town hall, during which he confirmed that Bob Chapek’s hiring freeze will continue, that the Disney+ streamer will focus on profit over subscriber growth, and that the Mouse House will not back down from its “core values” of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the face of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ tantrums. Read all about the town hall here.
—CNN on Monday publicly dunked on Elon Musk after he posted a lame, clearly fake image of an on-air chyron, “Musk could threaten free speech on Twitter by literally allowing people to speak freely,” with an image of Don Lemon speaking to camera. “This headline never appeared on CNN. Be better,” the network’s comms arm directly replied to Musk and his meme more befitting of an annoying uncle on Facebook than the supposed richest person in human history. Read more here.
—The New Republic has a fascinating read on how the Chautauqua Institution, aka the tony intellectual retreat where Salman Rushdie was stabbed in August, has become the latest target of conservative whining about “wokeness,” with a “splinter group” that favors the likes of Candace Owens, election/climate denier John Droz Jr., and MAGA blog The Federalist. More here.
**WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?**
If there’s one surefire way to draw faux indignation from the right-wing outrage-industrial complex, it’s to be a celebrity who refuses the God-given duty of standing for the “Star Spangled Banner” at a football game. Prior to a recent Colts-Eagles game, famed Indiana rocker John Mellencamp was spotted taking a seat while the national anthem played, prompting backlash from the usual suspects. “Mellencamp wrote a lot about being American and living and growing up in America. He marketed himself as kind of an all-American guy from the Midwest,” right-wing sports site Outkick wrote last week. “But he conveniently forgot to write about how he doesn’t want to stand for 90 seconds to honor America.” Newsmax anchor Rob Schmitt, who also hails from Indiana, grumbled that he was “sad” to share the same home state as Mellencamp before blasting the “Pink Houses” singer. “He had all those great songs about how great America is,” Schmitt fumed (ignoring that, like Springsteen, many of Mellencamp’s seemingly patriotic hits were meant as scathing critiques). “Now he says he’s too cool to stand up. He’d rather eat his popcorn in his luxury seat. How sad it is.” Never one to pass up an opportunity at performative outrage, the hosts of Fox News chatfest Outnumbered tried to one-up each other in dragging Mellencamp. “Ah, man, now I regret seeing his awesome concert in college!” Emily Compagno exclaimed, prompting colleague Cheryl Casone to declare, “I will say this: Jack and Diane would have stood for the national anthem.”
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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