Patterico's Pontifications


Emails Show Salem Execs Pressured Their Yakkers to Praise Trump

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:38 pm

You don’t say:

Executives at Salem Media Group, a conservative media company that syndicates some of the country’s most recognized talk radio hosts and operates a batch of popular commentary websites, pressured some of their radio talent to cover Donald Trump more favorably during the 2016 presidential campaign, emails obtained by CNNMoney show.

One former radio host employed by Salem is now speaking out on the record, claiming the company fired her because of her refusal to play along.

It might not be unusual that a conservative-minded media organization would aim to support the Republican nominee. But the former host, Elisha Krauss, said she feels it’s disingenuous to ostensibly hire hosts to be open about their views, only to pressure them behind the scenes to change.

What sorts of things did they say?

“What I have been hearing on TMA… has not been in the spirit of ‘supporting the GOP nominee,'” one Salem executive, Terry Fahy, general manager at Salem, wrote in an email to Shapiro and Krauss on July 19, 2016. “In fact, it seems that the show gets into negative minutiae of the Trump campaign and the GOP convention (e.g. criticizing Trump for having his kids speak at the convention.) Do we really need a side by side audio comparison of Trump’s wife’s speech with Michelle Obama’s? How is that ultimately relevant to the big picture and advance the cause?”

. . . .

One of the emails CNNMoney obtained was sent by Boyce in June of 2016, responding to what he said was Shapiro’s request for guidance on the company’s position on Trump.

Boyce wrote that “Salem has not taken an official position,” but noted that the company’s chief executive officer, Edward Atsinger, had made the case that supporting Trump was necessary to beat Hillary Clinton.

“So for you I would say the same,” Boyce wrote to Shapiro. “While your show is wildly entertaining and your positions make so much sense I have to salute. I do worry about the long term implications of where this is all going.”

Boyce added, “For YOU I suggest that you become a trial lawyer. You suspect your client is guilty, but you are paid to get him off. The jurors will ultimately decide his fate.”

. . . .

In his July 2016 email Fahy included a note from another executive, saying that “The Morning Answer” wasn’t experiencing huge election-related ratings growth because the hosts were “doing nothing but throwing rocks at a significant percentage of our audience every morning.”

“Why should we unnecessarily (in my view) drive away all the Trump supporters from your show? Is there no nuanced way we can highlight shortcomings of the campaign?” Fahy wrote.

They even boasted about how they put the screws to Hugh Hewitt by email, who later obliged with an “I was totally going to do this anyway” pro-Trump op-ed that mirrored what he had been told in the email:

In his June 2016 email to Shapiro and Krauss, Boyce said that, at his suggestion, Atsinger had written to two other popular Salem hosts, Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved, “a very well stated case for supporting the GOP nominee because we have to beat Hillary.”

Boyce went on to assert that in the wake of Atsinger’s message to him, Hewitt had begun to modify his position and had gone on to write an article for The Washington Post about why he found it necessary to vote for Trump. That prompted Atsinger to say, according to Boyce’s email, “Wow he took a lot from my email to him and turned it into an article.”

(In fairness, I actually do think Hewitt would have written the op-ed anyway.)

It didn’t work as well with Michael Medved, whose position is now shaky.

One of the suits at Salem maintains to CNN Money that Krauss wasn’t let go because of her position on Trump, and then instantly says a bunch more stuff that makes it clear that she was.

In a lengthy email, Phil Boyce, a senior vice president at Salem who was one of the executives in the emails urging Krauss to be more favorable toward Trump, told CNNMoney that Krauss was not let go because of her position on Trump. He said that “it should not surprise anybody” that Salem radio hosts often “support conservative candidates in elections” and explained that the company, which also operates the conservative Regnery publishing house, does “a lot of research on what our audience wants.”

“That research shows that our listeners want our hosts to support the President when he does well, and criticize him if and when he does or says something wrong,” Boyce said.

(In practice, as I have come to realize, a “praise him when he does well and criticize him when he does wrong” attitude from readers is a nice way of saying: “If you criticize Trump, ever, we will jump down your throat. If you praise him, we will forget the fact that you did the second you criticize him again.” So in reality, this outwardly reasonable attitude really means: Don’t criticize Trump. Ever.)

Then, of course, the executive denies that what happened at RedState had anything to do with ideology:

He added that the radio division is “completely separate” from the company’s web division, and stressed the recent firings at RedState were “business related.”

Because they only wanted pro-Trump commentary on the radio, you see, because of how it just makes good business sense — but they didn’t want the same kind of commentary on their Web sites. Can’t you see how that seems true? Surely you can see how that seems true.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to not have to worry about whether the truth as I see it affects my bottom line.

I hope it’s nice for at least some of you as well.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

The Cake Server

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:43 am

Ingenious and hilarious.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Russian Oligarch’s Firm Paid Cash to Trump Fixer Michael Cohen, and Mueller Wants to Know Why

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A company created by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, received $500,000 in 2017 from an investment fund linked to a Russian oligarch, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Separately, AT&T Inc. said it made payments to Mr. Cohen’s company in 2017 for “insights” into the administration at a time when the telecommunications giant needed government approval for an $85 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc.

Oddly, both AT&T and the investment fund funneled — can I say “funneled,” Rudy? Is that cool? Great! — funneled their payments to Essential Consultants LLC. The, uh, same company that paid off Stormy Daniels.

This doesn’t mean that the Russians were the ones who paid off Daniels, of course. Because Daniels’s attorney seemed to know about the investment fund’s payment before the news broke, and alleged a connection, some speculated about that possibility — but if Mueller had evidence that the Russians had paid off Stormy, it seems (at least at first blush) counterintuitive that he would have handed off the Cohen investigation to the Southern District of New York.

Regardless of any Stomy connection, Mueller’s investigators are interested in the payments from the Russian oligarch’s U.S. affiliate:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments his company’s US affiliate made to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, after the election, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of asset manager Renova Group, is an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, and last month the Trump administration placed him on a list of sanctioned Russians for activities including election interference. The purpose of the payments, which predate the sanctions, and the nature of the business relationship between Vekselberg and Cohen is unclear.

When you see things like “linked to” and “US affiliate” you want to know more, of course. The Daily Beast has more on the connection between Vekselberg and Columbus Nova, which made the payments:

In a statement, Columbus Nova lawyer Richard Owens of Latham & Watkins insisted that Vekselberg did not have a controlling interest in the firm. “Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue,” Owens said. “Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else outside of Columbus Nova was involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”

However, up until Tuesday night, Columbus Nova’s own website described the company is “the U.S. investment vehicle for the Renova Group”—Vekselberg’s asset-management firm. The site also noted that Intrater “is a former Director and current Member of the Executive Board of Renova Group.” (That page of the site was suddenly removed early Wednesday morning.)

In addition, Columbus Nova was listed on the website for the Renova Group as one of its “companies” until late last year, as NBC News reported. (That website is currently “under construction.”)

(Intrater is Vekselberg’s cousin. He runs Columbus Nova.)

As for AT&T, it does not appear that Cohen did legal or lobbying work for AT&T. They paid the president’s fixer for insights, is all. You see.

Caveat lector: every story on this seems sourced to a single person “familiar with the matter.” It’s apparently not Avenatti, since the Beast quotes the source as bewildered at how Avenatti found out. (Which could mean that the source told Avenatti and wanted to pretend like he hadn’t.) But it is worth noting that the New York Times says they have reviewed financial records that confirm the payments. So there’s that.

Whether the payments are illegal in any way, I can’t say. But man, does this look swampy.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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