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Oh my: Sinclair making a play for Hannity?

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I say this no more than half-jokingly: The only proper replacement for Hannity at 9 p.m. on Fox would be Trump broadcasting live from the White House for an hour, riffing on whatever he wants to riff on. A nightly national rally, five nights a week.

Well, four nights. Hosts often get Fridays off, especially during the summer. Jared could sit in for him.

Hannity is supposedly signed at Fox through 2020, which means one of two things is true. It could be that Sinclair is thinking long-term here. They’re plotting to build a national competitor to Fox but it won’t be ready tomorrow. It might not be ready at all, in fact, if their merger with Tribune Media isn’t approved by the feds. Maybe they’re not expecting to launch until 2020 at the earliest anyway and are approaching Hannity now because it’s never too early to start pitching him on a career-changing idea.

The other possibility is that Hannity has an out clause in his contract, possibly a “key man” provision tied to Roger Ailes, and Sinclair is aiming to swipe him right out from under Fox later this year or next. Hmmmm.

As its executive chairman David Smith prepares to launch a competitor to Fox News, he has met in the last few months with the executive producer of Hannity’s top-rated show on Fox, Porter Berry, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Berry is not the only person connected to Hannity who Smith has gone after. The Sinclair boss has also been wooing Sean Compton, a Tribune Media programming executive who is close friends with the Fox host…

Smith has yet to settle firmly on his plans for a Fox News rival, which are contingent on Sinclair’s $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media being approved by the Federal Communications Commission, but he has been laying out a vision for a three-to-six hour primetime conservative cable news block.

Third possibility: Sinclair would like to sign Hannity but more than anything they want it known to Trump that they’d like to sign Hannity (and Jeanine Pirro, whom they’ve also been sniffing around), whether they actually do or not. If you’re a conservative media company awaiting merger approval from Trump’s FCC, it can only help your chances if the president knows you’re a fan of his favorite TV host — and “shadow” chief of staff — and are eager to amplify his message if approval is granted.

The benefits to Sinclair of landing Hannity are obvious. It would put them on the conservative media map instantly, announcing their arrival as a rival to Fox with fanfare. And Hannity’s the one host at Fox who might be capable of taking his audience with him if he left. Other big-name Foxies like O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly have either dived overboard or been tossed and the FNC juggernaut has sailed on, assured that their viewers will stay put because in the end they’re the only right-wing game in town on cable news. (Sorry, OANN.) If Sinclair touches down and Hannity climbs aboard, though, that changes in the biggest possible way. Hannity also occupies a niche that literally no one else in television shares, including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham: His nightly message is invariably in sync on every point with that of his close personal friend, the president. If you’re a Trump junkie, you simply will not find a hit as potent anywhere else on television. And needless to say, if Sinclair landed him it would immediately raise their stock in the eyes of Trump himself, which might lead to some presidential plugs on Twitter or an exclusive interview or two. Gaining Trump’s public approval would be important to the network as de facto “permission” for longtime Fox fans to give the new network a try. Hannity could deliver it.

What does Hannity get out of the deal, though? He’d be taking a major professional risk, and for what? He doesn’t need the money. Sinclair could promise to make him the face of the network but he’s already the biggest name at Fox and seems to operate with complete freedom in his 9 p.m. enclave. (I remind you that he wasn’t so much as wrist-slapped by Fox for covering Michael Cohen on his show without ever mentioning that Cohen considers him a client.) The lure, I assume, would be the pure challenge of trying to launch a fledgling Fox competitor to the top of the ratings, but that might end up with him having a smaller audience in perpetuity than he ever had at Fox. Not all of his viewers will follow him, after all; depending upon who replaces him at 9, Fox fans might conclude that the new guy delivers the daily talking points about as well as Hannity does and therefore there’s no need to change the channel. Hannity jumping ship would essentially be a test of whether his brand or the Fox brand is chiefly responsible for the size of his audience at 9. Literally every time that test has been taken by other hosts, the Fox brand has won. It could be different with him, but how much of his stature would he want to bet on it?

As for Fox, who could they conceivably get to replace him? I don’t think you could sub in a generic talking-points machine like Tomi Lahren at 9 p.m. to replace the biggest name on the network. They’d either need to get someone who already has a big following (Mark Levin, maybe? Would he be willing to compete with Hannity?) or, more likely, they’d move Ingraham to 9 and give someone less tested like Lahren the 10 p.m. slot to see what she could do with it.

Here’s Hannity yesterday congratulating Ingraham on how rockin’ Fox’s primetime ratings have remained despite losing three-quarters of the line-up in the past few years. Maybe four quarters soon!

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Lesley Stahl: Trump told me he attacks the media so that people won’t believe us when we report bad news about him

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I mean, obviously. A scandalized shiver runs through the room in the clip after Stahl says this but nothing about Trump is as transparent as his strategic goal in gaslighting people about “fake news.” Here’s something I’ve linked before, written two days after his inauguration and attempting to explain why Sean Spicer held that embarrassing “these were the biggest inauguration crowds ever!” press conference. Among the suggested reasons:

The point of carping about “fake news” isn’t to discredit the stories that are false, it’s to discredit the stories that are true. It’s the same as the “witch hunt” rhetoric about Russiagate, which has already produced five guilty pleas and 17 indictments. Any politician pinned to the wall by damaging news would kill to have a reservoir of suspicion about the media among their base that they can call on in a pinch to defuse that news. The goal isn’t necessarily to get people to disbelieve a story but to stoke enough doubt about the reliability of its narrators that the public will conclude there’s no way to know what’s truth and what isn’t. That’s the art of the gaslight. And the author I quoted above also anticipated that:

If ever there was a “tell” about Trump’s strategy, it was this tweet posted 17 days after he was sworn in. It’s one thing to claim that reporters are slanting their coverage to disfavor him, as that obviously does happen. It’s another to suggest that pollsters are engaged in willful fraud, en masse, to make him look bad by manipulating their data and willing to risk their professional reputations in doing so:

Everything that’s bad for him is “fake” and you shouldn’t believe it, and if you do you’re siding with Them over him. He’s not coy or in any way subtle about this. This is a guy, remember, who back in the day used to dial up reporters posing as his own PR flack to tout his wealth or his womanizing or whatever. Subtlety’s not his thing, certainly when dealing with the media. The reason there are murmurs in the room after Stahl tells her story, I think, is just because he’s willing to cop to the gaslighting openly, even to a member of the media itself. It’s all just a game, played to a strategic end. Why pretend otherwise?

In lieu of an exit question, something unrelated but fun. Apparently Trump’s inimitable Twitter style is, in fact, imitable:

“West Wing employees who draft proposed tweets intentionally employ suspect grammar and staccato syntax in order to mimic the president’s style, according to two people familiar with the process,” the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports.

The details: “They overuse the exclamation point! They Capitalize random words for emphasis. Fragments. Loosely connected ideas. All part of a process that is not as spontaneous as Trump’s Twitter feed often appears.”

That’s GOP-style populism in microcosm. You’ve got one guy, the populist-in-chief, whose grammar and spelling are not the best but whose style is “authentic” and “relatable.” And then you’ve got a coterie of well-educated phonies and cronies mimicking him, pretending to be stupid in the same way because that’s what he wants and they’re convinced that that’s what the people want. No one has any incentive, political or financial, to be better. Sad!

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Trump Goes Scorched Earth on FBI Spy Campaign: ‘Follow the Money, the Spy Was Only There to Help Crooked Hillary Win’

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President Trump unleashed on the FBI’s infiltration of his campaign Tuesday evening in a pair of tweets.

The President said, “Follow the money!” the spy wasn’t there to find ‘Russian collusion,’ he was there to help Crooked Hillary win the election!

President Trump, please never stop tweeting!

President Trump lit up Twitter Tuesday evening after he tweeted what we are all thinking–the spies infiltrated his campaign for political purposes to help Hillary Clinton win the election.

Trump tweeted: If the person placed very early into my campaign wasn’t a SPY put there by the previous Administration for political purposes, how come such a seemingly massive amount of money was paid for services rendered – many times higher than normal…

Trump then slams Crooked Hillary: …Follow the money! The spy was there early in the campaign and yet never reported Collusion with Russia, because there was no Collusion. He was only there to spy for political reasons and to help Crooked Hillary win – just like they did to Bernie Sanders, who got duped!

The informant, Stefan Halper, was paid a total of $411,575 in 2016 and 2017 for work with the US government that included spying on the Trump campaign.

It was a lucrative business for Stefan Halper.

Now the Democrats are in spin mode.

They went from ‘there was no spy inside of Trump’s camp’ to ‘the informant was there to help protect Trump against the Russians.’

Former DNI Chief James Clapper is claiming embedding spies is “a standard investigative practice.”

Hillary Clinton wanted to spy on her political opponent and she accomplished her goal with help from Obama’s weaponized intel agencies.

President Trump is right; Spygate is worse than Watergate.

Earlier Tuesday, President Trump told reporters, “If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country.”

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Shouldn’t Publix be forced to bake the Latin cake?

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Palette cleansers don’t usually come this sweet … if we’re still permitted to use that phraseology. A family celebrating the graduation of their son with high honors had ordered a cake made from the local Publix supermarket, using their online system to proudly display Jacob Kosinski’s status as a summa cum laude student. Just one problem, the online system responded — they don’t allow obscenities on their cake designs.

Shouldn’t they be forced to bake the Latin cake?

Cara Koscinski organized a graduation party for her 18-year-old son. For the occasion, she ordered a cake online from her nearest grocery store, Publix, which lets customers build their own cakes complete with a customized inscription, which they enter into a message box marked “cake message option.”

Carefully, she typed in the words she wanted on the cake: “Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018.”

Publix’s online system was unhappy with the word “cum.”

Good Lord. This is less about mandatory cake-baking than it is about cultural ignorance and classical illiteracy. We stopped teaching Latin as a compulsory subject in most schools decades ago, but this Latin phrasing in particular remains very common — used in all college and university graduations, and many high school degrees, too. Magna cum laude is understood by most people not to be a reference to a particular prophylactic, for Pete’s sake.

Publix apologized and returned the family’s money, which is as much as they can do for this particular error. It should remind them to pay attention to the special instructions in their own flippin’ system, however, especially when the customer calls to explain it to them in plain English. If Publix doesn’t want to make cakes for a particular special occasion or to proclaim a particular message, they shouldn’t be forced to do, and neither should anyone else. But is it too much to ask that they check out requests to ensure that they really object to it?

At least Jacob has a pretty clear understanding about the nonsensical levels of political correctness and ignorance he’ll encounter in the wider world. It might keep him more grounded than most other high school graduates entering colleges and universities this fall. In the meantime, let’s offer a Latin lesson for bakeries around the country, just in case they need to conjugate. In the language sense, that is.

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