The Congress News


Fox scoop; what the feds are asking; Hannity tweets support for Shine; first 99 days; Floyd Abrams interviewed; Diane Rehm engaged; “Gods” reviewed

By Brian Stelter and the CNNMoney Media team. View this email in your browser!
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Exclusive: Federal probe of Fox News expands

My scoop from earlier this evening: The U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of Fox News has widened to include a second law enforcement agency, the United States Postal Inspection Service, according to four sources connected to the investigation. Mail fraud and wire fraud cases are part of the USPIS’ purview. 

The DOJ, USPIS and Fox all declined to comment when I reached out. But investigators from both the USPIS and the Justice Department have been conducting interviews in recent weeks — including with some former Fox staffers — to obtain more information about the network’s managers and business practices, the sources said.

We’ve known since February that the government is looking into Fox’s handling of settlement payments, but the sources say that’s not the only thing the agents and attorneys are examining…

What about the “Friends of Roger?”

Investigators have been probing possible misconduct by Fox News personnel… asking Q’s about the overall environment at the network… and about the mysterious confidants of Ailes who were known inside Fox as “friends of Roger.”

As reported last summer, Ailes employed a number of longtime friends as consultants. They started to leave the network after he was forced out of Fox last July… Here’s my full story…

No comment from Fox 

Back in February, when the existence of the federal investigation was first revealed in February, 21st Century Fox said no one at Fox had been subpoenaed, but “we have been in communication with the U.S. Attorney’s office for months — we have and will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with any interested authorities.” Is that statement still applicable now? A 21CF spokesman declined to comment…

Critics wonder: Is Bill Shine the Man Who Knew Too Much?

Dylan Byers emails his latest: In the post-Ailes, post-O’Reilly era, Fox News co-president Bill O’Reilly is the network’s most valuable player, widely seen as the only man capable of running the company… But Shine, who is named in at least four lawsuits or allegations related to alleged sexual harassment or racial discrimination at the network, is also Fox’s most vulnerable player.

Shine’s promotion has left the Murdochs vulnerable to accusations from media insiders and even their own employees at Fox News that while they may be unwilling to tolerate alleged sexual harassment, they are at least willing to tolerate those who allegedly helped to cover it up. “Shine is strike three,” an industry insider who has spoken with one of the Murdochs recently told me.

Read Dylan’s full story here…

Sean Hannity tweets: #IStandWithShine

More from Dylan: Sean Hannity thinks somebody at Fox News is trying to get Shine fired — and he claims to know who it is. Hannity tweeted Thursday afternoon that Shine was the target of a smear campaign led by “somebody high up and inside FNC.” He also portrayed Shine, a longtime friend of Hannity’s and his former producer, as an essential member of Fox News, and said the network would “end” without him. Were these tweets supposed to be DMs? It sure felt like it. Whatever the case, when I reached out to Hannity, he very quickly went off the record and refused to comment. Fox was non-responsive…

Jesse Watters update

Jesse Watters‘ time off is definitely unusual, since he just got a promotion to prime time. But The Daily Beast’s Andrew Kirell says “multiple sources” told him “Watters’ vacation is for real,” and that he’ll be back on Monday. Keep in mind: until last week he didn’t know he’d have this new weekday gig…

The bottom line?

Former Fox regular, now CNN contributor, Margaret Hoover talking with Brooke Baldwin on Thursday: 

“The culture has to change,” but it’s not going to change “until a lot of the folks who were there, that worked for Roger, who were his lieutenants, still in place, frankly, leave…”

Wednesday’s #’s 

Via TVNewser’s A.J. Katz: “Fox News won prime time despite being down from the prior night. Rachel Maddow was No. 1 in the demo across all of cable news…”

The spin room

Politico’s Josh Dawsey tweets: “White House officials (Bannon, Kushner, Cohn & Priebus) have held separate evening briefings w/media this week to spin 100-day narrative…”

“A new challenge for citizens and journalists”

One of BuzzFeed‘s first-100-days features is a list of “100 Lies and False Statements.” The site catalogues the falsehoods and calls this “A new era in American politics. And a new challenge for citizens and journalists.” 

Floyd Abrams talks Trump

On this week’s “Reliable Sources” podcast — our mid-week show in between Sunday TV episodes — I spoke with the famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams about what he called Trump’s “daily denigration of the press…” what the president has done and what he hasn’t done… plus Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and the theme of Abrams’ new book “The Soul of the First Amendment…”

Listen to the full podcast here

You can download/stream the discussion through iTunes and through a number of other sites…

Zucker’s remarks at OPC dinner 

CNN prez Jeff Zucker at the Overseas Press Club’s annual awards dinner in NYC Thursday night:

“We honor and support our colleagues at a time when journalists are under fire — both literally and figuratively — around the world like never before. Here at home, as we all know, journalism itself is being threatened, too. By officials at the top of our own government. In the face of that, each of us has risen to the challenge by doing what we do best: credible, objective, accurate, fearless reporting and analysis…”

ESPN the day later 

One day after the layoffs began…

 — James Miller to the Hartford Courant: “It’s rare when you look at a company going through a metamorphosis in real time. That’s what’s going on right now.”

 — Paul Farhi tweets: “Really struck by how classy the farewell tweets were by laid-off folk at ESPN. Good luck to all of them!”

 — Richard Deitsch tweets: “One thing that will happen at ESPN sooner than you think: People re-signing contracts. New hires (at a lower rate than previous hires).”

For the record, part one

 — A must read for TV news junkies: Marisa Guthrie asks NBC News prez Noah Oppenheim about Megyn Kelly, Tamron Hall, Fox, and much more… (THR)

 — IBT Media is now the Newsweek Media Group… (AdWeek)

 — In an interview with Marie Claire, Emily Steel describes how she flew cross-country and signed up for a Pilates class to win the trust of O’Reilly accuser Wendy Walsh… (Marie Claire)

Brian Lowry emails: “Having just hit my one-year anniversary at CNN, I can honestly say ‘Take Your Child To Work Day’ is way cooler with cameras and TV studios!”

#WHCD dinner weekend begins…

Dylan Byers and I will have dispatches from DC in Friday’s newsletter and again on Sunday…

Diane Rehm’s new love story

“Honey, I’m 80 years old, for God’s sake! I’m shocked.” But “very very happy.” That’s what Diane Rehm told the WashPost’s Roxanne Roberts. This is such a beautiful story about love after loss… Click here, you won’t regret it…

Night #4 for Bill O’Reilly’s podcast 

Bill O’Reilly is encouraging his fans to sign up for memberships, because starting Monday his nightly podcast will only be available to paying subscribers. “We are working on making it a video display,” he said on Thursday. “We’re going to expand the concept on, and maybe go into some other networks as well… We’re going to expand the franchise where we don’t have to cater, we can just let it fly…”

Speaking of O’Reilly…

Book about Clinton beats book by Warren

After three weeks atop the NYT bestseller list, Bill O’Reilly’s “Old School” fell to #5 this week… the new #1 title is Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’ “Shattered,” about the Clinton campaign… the #2 title is Elizabeth Warren‘s “This Fight is our Fight…” and #3 is David Grann‘s “Killers of the Flower Moon…”

Barrett Brown re-arrested

“Award-winning journalist Barrett Brown was re-arrested and taken into custody Thursday, the day before he was scheduled to be interviewed for a PBS documentary,” The Intercept’s Alex Emmons reports.

Context: “According to his mother, who spoke with Brown by phone after his arrest, Brown believes the reason for his re-arrest was a failure to obtain ‘permission’ to give interviews to media organizations. Several weeks ago, Brown was told by his check-in officer that he needed to fill out permission forms before giving interviews.” Glenn Greenwald, via Twitter, called this “outrageous…” 

Trump and the media
Heckuva way to start a story 

Sitting across from Donald Trump in the Oval Office, my eyes are drawn to a little red button on a box that sits on his desk. ‘This isn’t the nuclear button, is it?’ I joke, pointing. ‘No, no, everyone thinks it is,’ Trump says on cue, before leaning over and pressing it to order some Cokes. ‘Everyone does get a little nervous when I press that button.'”

–The FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo at the beginning of this profile, “100 days in the court of King Donald…”

“Turning the lens on Trump”

Check out this CNNPolitics feature about photographers who cover the White House: “We asked some of them to share what they feel is their most memorable photograph from Trump’s first 100 days, and why…”

Caption contest! 

W.H. director of regional media Carolina Hurley shared this photo of Sean Spicer holding a mock briefing on Bring Your Kids To Work Day…

“The truest reality television show there is:” The NFL Draft

Frank Pallotta emails: On Thursday night, ESPN and the NFL Network are spending several hours televising a man in a suit standing at a podium and calling out the names of other men, who are also in suits, for hours on end. And for some reason millions of people will watch. You know this event as the NFL Draft. How could this be? Well, it’s because the Draft is one of the most unpredictable nights of year for America’s signature sports league — and, as Trey Wingo, ESPN’s host for the draft, told me this week, “the truest reality television show there is.”

Check out Frank’s full piece here…

Burke “optimistic” a writers strike can be averted

Brian Lowry emails: NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told analysts he’s “optimistic” that a writers strike can be averted. The studios and the Writers Guild of America are back at the bargaining table this week, working against a May 1 deadline on their existing contract. Burke also pointed to NBC’s killer sports lineup during the coming season, with the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl, as well as the FIFA World Cup on sister network Telemundo…

The entertainment desk
Watson + Hanks

Chloe Melas emails: Emma Watson and Tom Hanks talked to me at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of their new film “The Circle.” They weighed in on our culture’s social media obsession…

Lowry reviews “American Gods”

Brian Lowry emails: Starz execs are hoping “American Gods” will be their latest prestige offering, but the challenge of adapting Neil Gaiman‘s unwieldy novel for TV has largely flummoxed the producers, resulting initially in a pretty-to-look-at but almost wholly incoherent series. Read more here…

 — Lowry adds: To be fair, a lot of the early reviews have been more positive than mine, although even many of them acknowledge how disjointed and confusing the whole thing is…

For the record, part two

 — Vulture’s Kevin Lincoln asks a big, important question: “Does Netflix need movie theaters?”

 — Megan Thomas emails: “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle is developing a musical TV drama set in Paris. No, Ryan Gosling has not been cast. Yes, there will be jazz…

 — More from Megan: For a deep dive into pop culture meta, Vulture has the story on the perfect “Scandal” parody in the new Netflix series “Dear White People…”

 — Via Chloe Melas: Kim Kardashian claims she’s “such a different person” after being held at gunpoint during that robbery in Paris…

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