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THE HILL TO DIE ON
Staffers at The Hill have complained to management about one of the hosts of the D.C. outlet’s popular web show over her fringe views and misinformation, Confider has learned. Rising co-host Kim Iversen brands herself as a “tell it like it is, no b.s. broadcaster” and spoke at this month’s anti-vax “Defeat the Mandates” rally in Los Angeles and then raved about it on Rising. She was briefly suspended by YouTube last month for COVID misinformation. And Iversen has further sparked uproar among colleagues for parroting Kremlin talking points about Ukrainian neo-Nazis and seemingly defending the Chinese government’s brutal treatment of Uyghurs (for which co-host Ryan Grim confronted her on-air). According to multiple sources at The Hill, who described her rhetoric as “toxic” and “dangerous,” numerous staffers have “expressed serious concerns” about Iversen to management. The complaints have gone “above” Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack, one high-level staffer told us, with “senior people” having taken their concerns directly to the outlet’s parent company Nexstar. “Kim is a conspiracy theorist,” the senior staffer asserted. “I think she’s really bad news.” In a statement to Confider, Iversen said her co-workers’ “feelings aren’t a secret” to her. “Everyone has witnessed the disdain on air,” she wrote. “And yes, I’m aware of the whining to management. This isn’t news.” Insiders further noted how YouTube suspended The Hill’s account last month after it aired Trump peddling election lies. And while Grim and co-host Robby Soave criticized YouTube’s decision as “maddeningly hypocritical,” Hill staffers are concerned that Iversen’s continued presence could result in further penalties from the tech giant. Comparing the Iversen situation with that of former Hill columnist John Solomon, whose questionable and conspiratorial claims about Ukraine underwent a thorough and scathing review after colleagues revolted, an insider lamented: “I don’t know what the attraction is that some people in our operation have to conspiracy theorists, but it’s just not helpful. It’s not a good thing.” Representatives for The Hill declined to comment.
WHEN THE CNN+ VIBE SHIFTED
The New York Times seemingly wrote the definitive yarn on the CNN+ collapse, but one key element missing from most coverage has been the perspective of the staffers who put together the ill-fated project. By all accounts, in the months leading up to launch, CNN+ staffers were excited and optimistic, even after key booster Jeff Zucker abruptly exited the company and questions arose about how incoming Discovery overlord David Zaslav (who we reported early on as not wanting to keep CNN+ boss Andrew Morse around) would handle the product. Even the unflattering initial viewership data leaked to CNBC didn’t deter the internal buzz among CNN+ production. However, a vibe shift set in, staffers told us, after Warner Bros. Discovery brass failed to defend CNN+ or push back on reports suggesting the ratings data was indicative of failure. “We felt hung out to dry,” one such staffer said. “The collapse was still shocking but there was a lingering worry after that.” And inside the greater CNN newsroom, a current on-air star relayed, there now lives a general sense of “resentment, bitterness, confusion, chaos, frustration” towards new management. “It just feels like everyone’s along for this ride and no one even knows who’s driving.”
THE BURIED TRUTH
It’s too early to tell what exactly Elon Musk will do with Twitter now that he bought it for $44 billion, but the most likely losers resulting from the deal may be Trump’s Truth Social platform and other blundering right-wing Twitter knockoffs, including Parler and Gettr. MAGA acolytes have put their faith in Musk restoring “free speech” (and presumably Trump’s account) to Twitter and thus see there potentially being no need for any competing platforms. But even though he’s only posted once so far to Truth Social, Trump told Fox News on Monday that he has no plans to rejoin Twitter. Users on his app, however, appeared unconvinced about the future of Truth Social, according to a bevy of posts reviewed by Confider. “TruthSocial will fold once Elon buys Twitter and Donald Trump is tweeting,” one user wrote. “It will go the way of Parler and Gettr.”Another pro-Trump user wrote: “I was hoping Elon would sell his shares, delete all his accounts, [and] come to Truth Social.” Former Trump adviser and Gettr CEO Jason Miller remained steadfast that a Musk-owned Twitter won’t harm his app. “[T]he solution to America’s free speech crisis doesn’t lie with Twitter,” he wrote in a blog post. “It lies with alternative platforms that the free market has built to compete with Twitter, challenge the existing Big Tech orthodoxy and leverage its fundamental failures against it.” Meanwhile, Fox News host Dan Bongino, a Parler investor, seemed excited about the news: “Elon Musk owns the libs.”
THE WAPO VARIANT
Earlier this month, The Washington Post canceled its pre-WHCD reception, citing general concerns about increased COVID-19 transmission, but Confider has learned that the move came as at least four key people atop the masthead, including Executive Editor Sally Buzbee, got the virus. WaPo staff returned to offices last month after management made a concerted push to do so. The strongest voice behind that push was publisher Fred Ryan, who, according to two sources familiar with the matter, was also among those who recently tested positive for the virus. “We returned to the office more than a month ago and have a number of safety protocols in place, including requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated and boosted, as well as requiring weekly testing, which we provide for free,” a WaPo spokesperson told Confider. “We have always said we would put employees’ health first, which is why we have asked employees to quarantine after attending large events and have decided not to add to the crowd at Saturday night’s celebration.”
Fox News may be unwilling to tell anyone whether they’ve officially dumped Fox Nation host Lara Logan, but on Monday afternoon she made her first appearance on wannabe rival channel Newsmax, beaming in for an interview with Eric Bolling, who was fired by Fox News in 2017. Logan confessed this month that she was “pushed out” by Fox after comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Her Newsmax debut comes just two months after network staffers joked to The Daily Beast that the channel may as well go full batty and hire Logan next.
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NEWSMAX TO NUPTIALS
Speaking of Newsmax, Heather Childers exited as co-host of midday news show American Agenda, telling viewers on Friday that she is leaving to get married and move to North Carolina but will “continue to be part of the Newsmax family.” Prior to joining the little-watched right-wing network in November 2020, Childers spent more than a decade at Fox News, mostly as a morning host, until she was sidelined at the outset of the pandemic, reportedly over COVID concerns. After publicly lobbying the network via Twitter for weeks to let her back on the air, Fox News eventually “parted ways” with Childers that summer. “Heather is going to continue to work with Newsmax, she is just not going to be continuing to host American Agenda,” a network spokesperson told us. Childers added in a statement: “I’ve been blessed with a remarkable career, well over 2 decades, with the past 12 years as a national news anchor in New York. Thank you to everyone who has followed and supported me over the years. I’m excited to now continue my career on a national level from my hometown!”
IN PLAIN SIGHT
All that’s old is new again as Tina Brown will host a star-studded event Tuesday at media power meal spot Michael’s to launch her juicy new book about the royals. “I want to party like it’s 1997,” Brown told The Financial Times earlier this month.
MORE FROM THE BEAST MEDIA DESK
—“‘Extra’ Boss Runs Show Like ‘Mafia,’ ‘Threatened’ Mario Lopez.” Dozens of current and former staffers decried a “toxic” work culture at the long-running tabloid TV show and alleged that showrunner Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey “bullies” employees, including former star host Mario Lopez, whom she allegedly threatened with pushing negative stories about him if he left for a competitor. Warner Bros. Television Group said it has been investigating the show, and through her attorney Marty Singer, the Extra boss vociferously denied all claims.
—“Tina Brown Recalls the Day Jeffrey Epstein Threatened Her.” In her new book, titled The Palace Papers, Brown recalls how Jeffrey Epstein showed up unannounced at her office in 2010 to threaten her as The Daily Beast was about to publish a series of stories on his role in sex-trafficking young girls.
—“Gutfeld Spends Entire Show Gloating at Chris Wallace Over CNN+ Demise.” The death of CNN+ means roughly 100 people will lose their jobs, but that didn’t stop Fox’s resident snotball Greg Gutfeld from seizing the opportunity to gloat, particularly at his former colleague Chris Wallace, the veteran newsman who left Fox after 18 years to host a talk show for the ill-fated streamer.
—The Verge dug deeper into the collapse of Arsenal Media Group, the Republican marketing group co-founded by serial plagiarist Benny Johnson, painting a grim picture in which the self-styled memelord (who has suspiciously backed away from associating with the firm) bullied, humiliated, and screamed at staffers. Karl Slater, a freelancer, spoke on-record about taking Arsenal to court for failing to pay him for $8,975 worth of work. Slater confirmed to Confider on Monday that he still has not been paid.
—As we wrote above, The New York Times had the most essential read on the CNN+ demise. Among the revelations: Ousted CNN+ boss Morse twice attempted to pitch his vision to Discovery brass in February and March but was rejected; Zaz made the call to kill the product the same afternoon he was introduced to newly merged staff in a flashy town-hall meeting featuring Oprah Winfrey; and the shutdown has all but destroyed Zaz and Zuck’s longstanding close friendship.
—We’ll spare you a rehashing of last week’s discourse over The Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz unmasking of the creator of “Libs of TikTok,” a popular social account that guided the conservative anti-LGBTQ agenda, and instead recommend Alex Pareene’s deeply incisive column on the bad-faith motivations behind right-wing media criticism.
WHAT ARE WE OUTRAGED ABOUT NOW?
As is standard operating procedure on GOP-related scandals, Fox News virtually ignored last week’s bombshell tapes revealing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy planned to push for Trump’s resignation shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Though the top Republican was caught blatantly lying about having never said what he was on tape as having said, Fox News media host Howard Kurtz later justified the network’s lack of coverage by asking if it was really a “big story.” The contortions that the cable giant took to avoid covering the story appeared to reach a cartoonish climax on Friday afternoon when—at the height of the unfolding audio tape scandal—midday panel show Outnumbered devoted an entire segment to mocking Gen Z’ers for apparently not knowing about Nicolas Cage.