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Critics demand full media blackout of Trump coronavirus briefings



It is almost unthinkable in a national emergency. Journalists and commentators are now calling for a complete media blackout of President Trump’s live briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, concerned that these daily TV events promote misinformation of have turned into a Trump “rally.”

These critics overlook the fact, however, that Mr. Trump shares the podium with vital members of his task force including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The briefings also include official information, timely discussion and questions from the press.

Nevertheless, the call to silence Mr. Trump has been percolating for the last 72 hours.

“The media must stop live-broadcasting Trump’s dangerous, destructive coronavirus briefings. He’s just using them a substitute for his rallies. Put him on tape-delay so journalists can counter his rush of information,” writes Washington Post media analyst Margaret Sullivan.

MSNBC prime-time host Rachel Maddow is also calling for a blackout, deeming Mr. Trump’s statements as “needlessly diverting and wildly irresponsible” and that the public needs to “inoculate” themselves to it.

“The daily briefing is a litany of things from the president that would be awesome of they were true, if they were happening. But they’re not. The sooner we come to terms with that, the better for all of us,” Ms. Maddow said in a on-air commentary. “It’s misinformation. If Trump is going to keep lying like he has been every day on stuff this important, we should, all of us, stop broadcasting it. Honestly, it’s going to cost lives,” she concluded.

There is already a #blackouttrump hashtag circulating on social media.

“If President Trump is not capable of leading stably and effectively, he should for the good of the country stop making things worse, and consider leaving the podium to others,” said CNN host Jake Tapper on his own broadcast.

Viewers may not agree with this idea. Multiple polls suggest that the public approves of Mr. Trump’s response to the pandemic, including an ABC News survey which found that 55% approved of the president’s actions during the pandemic.

One observer smells a rat, citing the timing of the “blackout” call.

“It is no accident this insidious and un-American idea arrived the day after a number of polls showed a clear majority of the public approving of Trump’s handling of the Wuhan virus,” writes Breitbart News editor at large John Nolte, who traced calls for a Trump blackout to such news organizations as The Atlantic, NBC News, The Boston Globe, the Nation, and “former Obama officials.”

Is the “Deep State” in on it? Mr. Nolte believes the push to remove Mr. Trump from the media realm is meant to turn the coronavirus pandemic into “Trump’s Katrina,” referring to former President George W. Bush’s experiences during Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,883 people and caused $108 billion in damages in 2005. The weather event was often referred to as “a political storm.”


“Three cheers for President Trump’s success in forcing a federal bureaucracy that normally moves at the speed of a glacier to begin working at ‘Trump Speed,’” writes American Thinker contributor William Noel.

“That’s why they call it the Trump train,” responds Lucianne Goldberg, founder of, a political news site.


Though he is currently confined to his own home Delaware due to the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden plans to offer “shadow briefings” on the national emergency.

In a press call, Mr. Biden announced he was in the process of upgrading space in his house to include enough high tech equipment to livestream his coronavirus commentary via the internet. The former vice president also has renewed his pushback against President Trump — advising him to “stop saying false things” about the health crisis.

Politico has already deemed Mr. Biden’s plan as a “shadow briefing” and predicts the new feature could start as early as Monday.

“In times of crisis, the American people deserve a president who tells them the truth and takes responsibility. Donald Trump has not been that president,” Mr. Biden declared in a recent tweet.

The former vice president is not holding back now — and has already debuted an online “COVID-19 Breakdown” video with Ron Klain, the White House Ebola Response coordinator during the Obama administration.


“The coronavirus epidemic is shaking humanity and turning the world upside down. Quick, somebody alert the media. The Washington press corps is covering one of the largest, continuing stories in recent history the same way it has covered the Trump administration since Day One. The formula is simple: Whatever the president does is not just wrong, it’s borderline evil. Details at 11,” writes New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin.

“In the real world, events are unfolding at a pace and scale impossible to comprehend. But at too many news outlets, the aim is not to inform. It’s to render the harshest possible judgment on the man journalists love to hate,” he says.


Should the presidential election be canceled or delayed in the year of coronavirus? Uh, no. A new Rasmussen Reports voter survey finds that 62% of voters oppose the idea; 25% approve and the rest are undecided.

“There is virtually no difference of opinion among Republicans, Democrats and voters not affiliated with either major party on this question,” the pollster said.


75% of U.S. voters believe China is “very” or “somewhat” responsible for the spread of coronavirus.

65% blame “individuals who are not staying inside their homes at this time.”

45% blame the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

43% blame President Trump.

34% blame Vice President Mike Pence.

Source: A Morning Consult poll of 2,006 U.S. adults conducted March 17-20; respondents could give multiple answers.

• Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.

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Britney Spears calls recent documentaries about her ‘hypocritical’



LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pop singer Britney Spears spoke out on Tuesday about recent documentaries about her life and career, calling them “hypocritical” because they rehash her personal problems while criticizing the media for reporting them the first time.

Walt Disney Co’s FX network and The New York Times released “Framing Britney Spears” in February. The documentary examined the singer’s meteoric rise to fame as a teenager, the ensuing media scrutiny and her widely publicized breakdown.And this month, the BBC released “The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship” in Britain. It will debut in the United States and Canada starting May 11 via the BBC Select streaming service.

In an Instagram post, Spears did not name either documentary but said “so many documentaries about me this year with other people’s takes on my life.”

“These documentaries are so hypocritical … they criticize the media and then do the same thing,” she added.

In March, Spears said she cried for two weeks after watching part of “Framing Britney Spears”.

The BBC said in a statement on Tuesday that its documentary “explores the complexities surrounding conservatorship with care and sensitivity.”

“It does not take sides and features a wide range of contributors,” the statement added.

A New York Times spokesperson declined to comment.

Spears, who shot to fame in 1998 with the hit “Baby One More Time,” is in a court battle seeking to replace her father as her conservator. He was appointed to the role in 2008 after she was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.

Her fans have shown their support on social media under the hashtags #We’reSorryBritney and #FreeBritney. Spears is scheduled to speak to a Los Angeles court in June.

In her Instagram post, which included a video of herself dancing, Spears said that “although I’ve had some pretty tough times in my life … I’ve had waaaayyyy more amazing times in my life and unfortunately my friends … I think the world is more interested in the negative.”

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Grammy organizers change rules after allegations of corruption



LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The organizers of music’s Grammy Awards on Friday announced an end to the so-called “secret” committees that have led to allegations that the highest honors in the industry are open to rigging.

The Recording Academy said that nominations for the next Grammy Awards in January 2022 will be selected by all of its more than 11,000 voting members, instead of by committees of 15-30 industry experts whose names were not revealed.

The Academy was slammed last year when Canadian artist The Weeknd got zero Grammy nominations, even though his critically acclaimed album “After Hours” was one of the biggest sellers of 2020.

The Weeknd, in a Twitter post last November, said “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”

The Recording Academy said in a statement on Friday that the changes were significant and were made “to ensure that the Grammy Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable.”

Allegations that the Grammy nominations process is tainted were made in a legal complaint filed in early 2019 by the former chief executive of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan.

At the time, the Academy dismissed as “categorically false, misleading and wrong” Dugan’s claims that its members pushed artists they have relationships with. Dugan was later fired.

American pop star Halsey, also shut out of the 2021 Grammys, last year called the nominations process “elusive” and said she was “hoping for more transparency or reform.”

Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik called in March for an end to “secret committees.”

“I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion. We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating ‘creative excellence’ of ALL,” Malik tweeted hours ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony.

The Recording Academy on Friday also said it was adding two new Grammy categories – for best global music performance, and best Latin urban music album – bringing to 86 the total number of Grammy Awards each year.


(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Movie theaters face uncertain future



By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Maryo Mogannam snuck into the Empire theater in San Francisco with his older cousins to watch “Animal House” when he was 14. He watched most of the James Bond movies at the historic art house and took his wife there on some of their first dates.

The cinema, which had been showing movies since the silent film era, served notice in February that it was permanently closing because of the impact of COVID-19. The marquee is now blank, and cardboard and paper cover the box office window.

“It’s kind of like losing a friend,” said Mogannam, now 57, who owns a retail shipping outlet near the theater, which had been renamed the CineArts at the Empire.

As vaccinated Americans emerge from their homes, they also may find their neighborhood theater is not there to greet them.

An eight-cinema chain in New England said it will not reopen. The same fate hit a Houston art house beloved by director Richard Linklater and, in a shock to Hollywood, more than 300 screens run by Los Angeles-based Pacific Theatres. That includes the Cinerama Dome, a landmark that hosted several red-carpet movie premieres.

Following a year of closures, theaters face deferred rent bills plus media companies’ focus on drawing customers to streaming services. Up to one-fourth of the roughly 40,000 screens in the United States could disappear in the next few years, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

The National Association of Theatre Owners rejects that estimate, spokesman Patrick Corcoran said, noting that similar dire warnings accompanying the advent of television and the switch to digital screens never came to pass.

Hollywood filmmakers want cinemas to thrive.

“It’s the only place where the art dominates,” said “Avatar” director James Cameron. “When you watch something on streaming, the other people in the room with you are welcome to interject, to pause to go to the bathroom, to text.”

At theaters, “we literally make a pact with ourselves to go and spend two to three hours in a focused enjoyment of the art.”

“For 300 people to laugh and cry at the same time, strangers, not just your family in your house, that’s a very powerful thing,” said Chloe Zhao, Oscar-nominated director of best picture nominee “Nomadland.”

At the Academy Awards on Sunday, the movie industry will “make a case for why cinema matters,” producer Stacey Sher said. While acknowledging the hardship of the pandemic, “we also have to fight for cinema and our love of it and the way it has gotten us through things,” she said.

About 58% of theaters have reopened in the United States and Canada, most restricted to 50% capacity or less. The biggest operators – AMC, Cinemark and Cineworld – make up roughly half the overall market.

Industry leaders project optimism, forecasting a big rebound after restrictions ease and studios unleash new blockbusters.

Coming attractions include a new Bond adventure, the ninth “Fast & Furious” film, a “Top Gun” sequel and several Marvel superhero movies.

“Avatar 2,” Cameron’s follow-up to the highest-grossing film of all time, is set to debut in December 2022. Some box office analysts predict 2022 ticket sales will hit a record.

Supporters point to late March release “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which brought in roughly $48.5 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices over its first five days, even though audiences could stream it on HBO Max.

“That was a big win for the entire industry,” said Rich Daughtridge, president and chief executive of Warehouse Cinemas in Frederick, Maryland.

But near- and long-term challenges loom, particularly for smaller cinemas.

Theaters are negotiating with landlords over back rent. A federal aid program was delayed due to technical problems.

Plus, media companies are bringing movies to homes sooner. Executives say streaming is their priority, pouring billions into programming made to watch in living rooms as they compete with Netflix Inc.

Most at risk are theaters with one or two screens, Wedbush Securities’ Pachter said. He said his best guess is between 5,000 and 10,000 screens could go permanently dark in coming years.

“I think we’ll see a gradual decline in the number of screens,” Pachter said, “just like we’ve seen a gradual decline in the number of mom-and-pop grocery stores and bookstores.”


(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Rollo Ross in Los Angeles, Alicia Powell in New York and Nathan Frandino in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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