Reliable Sources: Bad optics for White House

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. ...

Posted: Aug 28, 2018 7:50 PM

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

"None of this should have been hard"

John Berman opened up "AC360" Monday night perplexed. Perplexed as to why it took the White House a storm of controversy to do what was right and offer praise for Sen. John McCain. "What took so long? And why was the president in the wrong place two full days after the senator died?" Berman asked. "What was so hard?"Berman added, "None of this should have been hard."

He's right -- none of this should have been hard. But the White House chose to begin the week with another self-inflicted PR wound, instead of doing what was right from the start. While the federal buildings in the surrounding area continued to lower their flags in honor of McCain, the White House did the opposite Monday morning. The flags were raised to full staff, igniting a whirlwind of controversy -- a controversy the White House ultimately had to quell by lowering the flags back to half staff and issuing a statement from the President. Talk about a PR blunder...

Bad optics

Throughout the day, at several different times, reporters asked Trump if he had any thoughts to share on McCain. Each of those times, Trump declined to comment. At one point he just chose to stare straight ahead as ABC's Jon Karl questioned him just a few feet away. Video of reporters asking Trump questions about McCain and the president awkwardly ignoring them played on cable news throughout the day. The optics were bad, to say the least.

Behind the scenes

NYT's Katie Rogers, Nicholas Fandos, and Maggie Haberman published new reporting Monday night about what was taking place behind the scenes at the White House. According to their reporting, Trump initially "refused repeated requests" from VP Mike Pence and John Kelly to acknowledge McCain's death with a statement...

The tipping point

Something changed later in the day, and Trump finally released a statement lauding McCain's military service and ordering the flag to be lowered until Saturday. So what happened? That part is unclear. Asked about Trump's change in heart, Sarah Sanders told CNN that Trump's decision and statement "speaks for itself."

>> Jim Acosta on Twitter: "Make no mistake. The president and his team had every opportunity to get this right. It took nearly 48 hours for WH to do what should have been done Saturday -- issue a full, respectful statement honoring McCain along with a proclamation that orders flags to fly at half-staff."

Bloomberg reassigned reporter after Wells Fargo CEO called to complain

Wells Fargo and Bloomberg News are facing some heat. Earlier today, I reported via sources that a Bloomberg News reporter who covered Wells Fargo was reassigned earlier this year after the bank's CEO phoned the news organization's editor in chief and complained about the reporter. That incident, I'm told, rocked the banking team and was a contributing factor in the departures of some of the unit's veteran reporters. You can read my full story here...

What happened

>> The Bloomberg News reporter, Shahien Nasirpour, wrote a story in March that called Wells Fargo the "preferred financier for the U.S. gun industry."

>> After his story, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan sent an internal memo to employees reacting to the story.

>> The Wall Street Journal obtained Sloan's memo and published a story on it. Nasirpour asked Wells Fargo PR for a copy of the memo, but the bank declined his request. A heated conversation ensued between Nasirpour and a spokesperson for the bank.

>> Following the contentious convo, a member of Wells Fargo PR contacted Caroline Gage, global executive editor for finance at Bloomberg News. Gage asked Nasirpour to apologize to Wells Fargo PR. Nasirpour agreed to do so and did.

>> Later in the month, Bloomberg EIC John Micklethwait summoned Nasirpour for a convo. He told Nasirpour that Sloan had called to complain about his conduct. Then, to Nasirpour's surprise, he said he had made the decision to reassign him to cover the Trump Organization.

"We make decisions...purely on what is best for our readers"

In a statement, a Bloomberg News spokesperson told me, "Bloomberg publishes 5,000 stories a day and, like every news organization, we get push back from the companies we cover. We make decisions about how we cover those companies based purely on what is best for our readers." A Wells Fargo spokesperson declined comment.

Read more of Monday's Reliable Sources newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

Warren slams Wells Fargo CEO

Reacting to the news, Sen. Elizabeth Warren issued a fiery tweet, writing that Wells Fargo customers "would be better off if CEO Tim Sloan focused more on addressing the dozens of scandals plaguing his bank, and less on getting a good journalist reassigned for doing his job (which includes reporting on those scandals)."

I'm curious...

This whole episode has me wondering: How often does Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan phone news outlets to complain about reporters/press coverage?

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 90017

Reported Deaths: 2017
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25857922
Ramsey10492318
Dakota7125125
Anoka5753132
Stearns377023
Washington357355
Scott242633
Olmsted228727
Nobles193116
Blue Earth15986
Wright15337
St. Louis135234
Carver13517
Rice13018
Mower12864
Clay126140
Sherburne109314
Kandiyohi9312
Winona85018
Lyon6464
Waseca5328
Steele5212
Freeborn5163
Benton5113
Watonwan5054
Nicollet49916
Todd4792
McLeod4462
Chisago4441
Le Sueur4444
Crow Wing43318
Otter Tail3924
Beltrami3764
Goodhue3309
Martin3199
Pine2810
Itasca27713
Polk2734
Isanti2580
Douglas2491
Becker2442
Carlton2391
Cottonwood2190
Pipestone2129
Unassigned20952
Morrison2031
Dodge1990
Chippewa1921
Sibley1793
Meeker1772
Wabasha1740
Brown1732
Yellow Medicine1582
Murray1542
Rock1520
Mille Lacs1453
Redwood1400
Jackson1331
Faribault1320
Renville1286
Cass1253
Roseau1160
Swift1141
Pennington1121
Houston1100
Fillmore1080
Kanabec1058
Koochiching1053
Lincoln1020
Stevens931
Pope880
Hubbard820
Aitkin711
Big Stone680
Wadena650
Grant584
Wilkin553
Lake530
Norman510
Marshall491
Lac qui Parle460
Mahnomen451
Red Lake390
Traverse300
Clearwater260
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 80106

Reported Deaths: 1256
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15318256
Johnson499527
Woodbury498961
Black Hawk434986
Linn3783106
Story328617
Dubuque279840
Scott279727
Dallas269038
Pottawattamie200037
Buena Vista194712
Marshall176134
Sioux13503
Wapello126757
Webster119314
Clinton107018
Muscatine106452
Plymouth105220
Crawford10014
Cerro Gordo99621
Warren9286
Jasper76632
Des Moines7417
Marion7154
Tama69031
Carroll6345
Henry6074
Lee5967
Wright5621
Dickinson4856
Boone4677
Bremer4627
Washington43111
Louisa42515
Mahaska34019
Franklin33617
Delaware3353
Hamilton3143
Jackson3003
Floyd2983
Winneshiek2985
Clay2923
Benton2861
Hardin2761
Winnebago27111
Butler2592
Clarke2553
Emmet25210
Poweshiek2498
Lyon2483
Allamakee2455
Jones2443
Buchanan2421
Shelby2421
Clayton2323
Guthrie2235
Cedar2211
Chickasaw2210
Kossuth2190
Sac2140
Grundy2052
Madison2052
Cherokee1942
Fayette1911
Iowa1851
Mitchell1830
Howard1825
Harrison1782
Humboldt1733
Hancock1722
Calhoun1702
Mills1681
Palo Alto1600
Pocahontas1522
Monroe14810
Lucas1426
Page1420
Monona1381
Jefferson1341
Cass1332
Osceola1260
Appanoose1233
Taylor1231
Union1223
Davis1144
Van Buren1101
Worth1020
Ida970
Keokuk911
Fremont870
Greene870
Montgomery865
Wayne822
Adair661
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Adams280
Unassigned160
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