Oliver Darcy here at 11:00pm ET on Tuesday, August 2. Here's the latest on Jon Stewart, Sisi Wei, Tucker Carlson, Stephen King, Elizabeth Moss, "Batgirl," and so many more. But first...
"This is not your show"
Alex Jones is not used to sitting in silence and listening to others admonish him. But on Tuesday, in a Texas court, he was forced to do just that.
In a moment that has been years in the making, Jones found himself in court with a pair of Sandy Hook parents who were determined to hold him accountable for the conspiracy theories he pushed about their murdered son, their family, and the 2012 shooting writ large. And Jones also found himself also in the same room as a judge who showed no tolerance for his antics.
First, Jones was confronted directly in court by Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis, who was murdered at age 6. As she testified on the stand, Lewis stared right at Jones, detailing in extreme detail the pain he had caused by pushing Sandy Hook lies. And then, later in the day, Jones was scolded by Judge Maya Gamble, who laced into him for violating court rules, including his duty to be truthful under oath.
"This is not your show," Gamble reminded Jones at one point on Tuesday.
Which is all to say, by any reasonable standard, Jones had an awful day in court.
"Jesse was real. I'm a real mom"
The day began with Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin testifying to a room without Jones in it. Jones had chosen not to show up in court, instead opting to host his Infowars program and use the platform to — again — attack Heslin in shameful terms. Heslin referred to the fact Jones didn't attend his testimony as a "cowardly act."
But he continued to testify. Fighting back tears at times, Heslin told the jury that Jones, through his conspiratorial media organization Infowars, "tarnished the honor and legacy" of his son. Heslin said that he couldn't "even begin to describe the last nine-and-a-half years of hell" he has endured because of Jones. And he argued that there must be "a strong deterrent that shall prevent him from peddling this propaganda."
Jones, who had vowed to testify in his own defense, did show up to court after the trial broke for lunch. When the court proceedings resumed, Lewis was still offering her testimony. She said she was pleased Jones was in the courtroom because she wanted to address him to his face. "Jesse was real," Lewis told Jones. "I'm a real mom."
The ensuing moments of the trial were stunning to watch. Lewis ripped into Jones, saying that she thinks he doesn't actually believe the lies he pushed about Sandy Hook. "That's the problem, I know you know that," Lewis told Jones. "But you keep saying it. Why? Why? For money?" Lewis said that "having a 6-year-old son shot in the forehead" while at school is an "unbearable pain." She continued, "And then to have someone on top of that perpetuate a lie that it was a hoax, that it didn't happen, that it was a false flag, and that I was an actress — You think I'm an actress?"
At one point, Lewis addressed the remarkable moment she found herself in. "It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this," Lewis told Jones. "That we have to implore you — not just implore you, punish you — to get you to stop lying...It is surreal what is going on in here."
"You're under oath"
Jones took the stand in the afternoon, telling the court he felt "good" because he was being afforded the opportunity to push back against the plaintiffs and news media. From the stand, Jones told Heslin and Lewis, "I never intentionally tried to hurt you." Jones said "the internet had a lot of questions" about the Sandy Hook shooting, and so did he. Jones argued he simply had "tried to find out what actually happened."
After the jury had left the courtroom following Jones' testimony, Mark Bankston, the attorney for the plaintiffs, accused Jones and his attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, of trying to "poison" the trial. Bankston said that they would file a motion for sanctions against both Jones and Reynal. The judge, Gamble, said she will hear any motions for sanctions after the conclusion of the trial. But Gamble admonished Jones for his behavior and said he had already violated his oath to tell the truth twice.
"Mr. Jones, you may not say to this jury that you complied with discovery. That is not true. You may not say it again. You may not tell this jury that you are bankrupt. That is also not true," Gamble said. She continued, "You are already under oath to tell the truth. You've already violated that oath twice today, in just those two examples. It seems absurd to instruct you again that you must tell the truth while you testify. Yet here I am again."
Jones tried to interject at this point, telling Gamble that he believed he was telling the truth when he testified. That prompted another scolding from the judge. "You believe everything you say is true, but your beliefs do not make something true," Gamble said. "That is what we're doing here. Just because you claim to think something is true does not make it true. It does not protect you. It is not allowed. You're under oath. That means things must actually be true when you say them."
A stunning moment
At the conclusion of court proceedings, Lewis walked over to Jones and handed him a bottle of water because he had complained during his testimony about having trouble speaking due to a torn larynx. Jones appeared to thank her and shake her hand. Jones then attempted to shake Heslin's hand, to which Heslin appeared to demand an apology from Jones who had attacked him just hours earlier on his Infowars show.
The conversation started to get heated and an attorney for Heslin and Lewis interjected, telling Jones, "You're not doing this, that's not even a thought. That's not how this goes." As the attorney ushered his clients out of the courtroom, Jones shouted, "Why because you can't feed them fake videos anymore?" The attorney quipped back, "Shut your mouth." And Jones responded, "That's what you're trying to do, shut my mouth but you'll never succeed."
Coming up Wednesday
Jones is expected to take the stand again Wednesday morning. After his testimony, closing statements should begin and then the case will be sent to the jury. The jury will determine how much in damages Jones will have to pay Heslin and Lewis...
Meanwhile: Jury selection halts in Connecticut trial
BY SONIA MOGHE:
After one juror was already selected to serve on the Connecticut damages trial in the Sandy Hook families’ defamation case against Jones in that state, the selection process came to a grinding halt Tuesday. Attorney Norm Pattis, who represents Jones and Infowars’ parent company Free Speech Systems, filed a notice removing the case to Connecticut bankruptcy court. Christopher Mattei, an attorney representing Sandy Hook families, called the move "a last ditch effort" to delay the trial. Now a bankruptcy judge will decide whether or not to remand the case back to the state court...
All eyes on Taiwan
WaPo's Wednesday A1 is all about Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan. It features this story from Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lily Kuo, who write, "The White House worked urgently Tuesday to de-escalate tensions with China after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan for a high-profile visit against the administration’s wishes, hoping to head off a geopolitical crisis amid threats and military maneuvers by Beijing."
WSJ's Joyu Wang notes that "no official itinerary has been released by her office." But Wang notes that Pelosi is scheduled to address the press during her visit. And in her first remarks Wednesday morning local time, Pelosi praised Taiwan as "one of the freest societies in the world," CNN's Jeremy Herb and Eric Cheung report...
"The most tracked flight of all time"
"From the time it lifted off from Kuala Lumpur at 15:42 local time, SPAR19 was already the most tracked flight on Flightradar24 among active flights," the live air traffic website stated Tuesday. "By the time it landed in Taipei, SPAR19 was being tracked by more than 708,000 people around the world, making it the most tracked live flight in Flightradar24 history..."
Carlson's loony conspiracy theory
Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson floated a conspiracy theory on his show Tuesday night, suggesting that Pelosi's trip to Taiwan could be part of a master plan by the Democratic Party elite to provoke China and "hasten the end of American hegemony." In other words, Fox News' top host is accusing the White House of working intentionally to harm the US.
Carlson — who ran banners on his show that read, "THIS IS THE PERFECT WAY TO PROVOKE THE CHINESE" — asked his audience to "consider" this: "At the same time we are clearly goading other countries into conflict with each and with us, we are degrading our ability to participate or prevail in those wars." Carlson claimed that "our defensive capabilities have never been weaker," telling his viewers, "that's not an accident, they did it." He then attacked the Biden admin for supposedly pushing identity politics on the armed forces...
>> Another reaction to Pelosi's trip in right-wing media: Dinesh D’Souza "polled Twitter Tuesday over whether it is 'appropriate to cheer' if China shoots down" Pelosi's plane, Mediaite's Kipp Jones reports...
It was a big primary night on Tuesday, as Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Kansas held contests. A lot of focus is on Kansas, which is the first state that has let voters weigh in on abortion since SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade. CNN's top headline currently reads, "Kansas votes to keep right to abortion." But most of what I write about the other races will be outdated within minutes, so head over to CNN.com for the latest developments...
When local TV anchors run for office...
BY BRIAN LOWRY:
CJR's Jon Allsop published a great piece Tuesday about local-news anchors running for political office and the issues that raises. Arizona’s Kari Lake is the highest-profile current example. But as Allsop notes, in making the jump to politics, "local news anchors, in particular, have traced the path before, going back decades." And for all the talk about liberal media, the examples found were disproportionately Republican...
The New York Times Company reports earnings before the bell...
The 2022 NABJ-NAHJ convention begins in Las Vegas...
"CMA Fest" airs on ABC...
PACT Act prevails
BY BRIAN STELTER:
"It's about time," President Biden said, after the Senate passed the PACT Act, which was championed by many veterans (see Jake Tapper's thread here) and advocates like Jon Stewart. The bipartisan legislation will "expand health care benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service," Jessica Dean and Ali Zaslav report. Stewart said he felt "relief" for the vets he was supporting. He added, before a bank of cameras outside the Capitol, "I'm not sure I've ever seen a situation where people who have already given so much had to fight so hard to get so little." He said he hopes "we learn a lesson..."
>> CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere on Stewart’s media blitz: "Stewart has been on TV more the last few days talking up the burn pit bill than he has since he left the 'Daily Show' -- in part demonstrating the political power celebs can have when they do more than show up for just one event or quick photo op..."
-- "What you're asking and the facts you have are completely wrong," Sen. Joe Manchin told Fox's Harris Faulkner as Faulkner pressed him about prospective tax hikes... (Mediaite)
-- Dominick Mastrangelo writes about OAN's "troubles" and says it "sparks questions for conservative cable..." (The Hill)
-- "Law enforcement officials in Northern California said members of the media allegedly abused their press privileges while covering the McKinney Fire..." (Fox 26)
Stephen King takes the stand
BY AVERY LOTZ:
Stephen King on Tuesday testified on behalf of the government against the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. "I think consolidation is bad for competition," King said. "That's my understanding of the book business that I've been around for 50 years." He added that many authors today are living under the poverty line, saying it "becomes tougher and tougher for writers to have enough money to live on." He signed autographs for fans afterward... Deadline's Ted Johnson has more on his testimony here...
"It's not just about us"
S&S CEO Jonathan Karp took the stand later in the day. "I think there are a lot of good publishers all over the country. It's not all about us," Karp said. According to the AP's Hillel Italie and Marcy Gordon, "At one point, the judge appeared to support a core government argument — that greater concentration in the industry could reduce the compensation paid to authors..."
-- Citing sources, Ben Mullin reports that CNN "is on a pace to drop below $1 billion in profit for the first time" since 2016 "amid steep declines in TV viewership..." (NYT)
-- CNN's 9pm hour has recently "featured panels of three to four guests discussing the news of the day," and it may be a preview of coming attractions: "Chris Licht is considering... a show led by multiple anchors," Sara Fischer reports... (Axios)
-- State of the industry: "Recession or not, the overarching trends, such as the decline of cable TV, the disruption of the movie business and the transition to streaming, aren't going anywhere," Ryan Faughnder observes... (LAT)
-- Stacy Perman has a look at the Ankler and Puck, "the latest upstarts in the Hollywood trade business..." (LAT)
The Markup's new EIC
BY BRIAN STELTER:
Sisi Wei, currently the co-executive director of OpenNews, has been named editor in chief of The Markup, a nonprofit news outlet that produces data-driven investigations about Big Tech's impacts on society. Wei, who succeeds founder Julia Angwin, says "The Markup's tech accountability coverage addresses one of the most important and urgent issues of our time." Here's her interview with NiemanLab's Hanaa' Tameez...
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- Matt Purdy is becoming NYT editor at large, "a new leadership position..." (NYT)
-- WaPo is adding advice columns from Sahaj Kaur Kohli, Jules Terpak, Elaine Welteroth, and Damon Young... (WaPo)
-- Sharon Lerner is joining ProPublica from The Intercept... (Twitter)
-- Sam Sutton is joining Politico's "Morning Money" team... (Twitter)
-- BBC Studios has hired Janet Brown and promoted Tara Maitra... (Deadline)
-- WWE has brought aboard Craig Stimmel to head sales and partnerships... (Variety)
Landgraf's new "Peak TV" prediction
"FX CEO John Landgraf is going out on a limb and predicting that the so-called 'Peak TV' boom of scripted originals will truly peak this year" in the US, Lesley Goldberg wrote for THR on Tuesday. His comments came during the Television Critics Association's virtual summer press tour. Per Goldberg, Landgraf conceded he was "way, way off" when he predicted "Peak TV" would occur in 2018 or 2019. He was also characteristically blunt, saying that his new 2022 prediction could end up "foolish..."
BY BRIAN LOWRY:
Today’s biggest "wow" out of Hollywood: Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to shelve a "Batgirl" movie that, according to reports, is nearly complete. The New York Post's Johnny Oleksinski, who was first with the news, said this "would rank among the most expensive cinematic castoffs ever."
Even with the studio (CNN's parent) cutting back on spending and deciding that it doesn't want to invest in big-budget films solely for streaming, the decision not to get some utility out of the film on HBO Max has people wondering if belt tightening is the whole story. Some of Tuesday's leaks are implying that the film was too weak: It is "said not to have the spectacle that audiences have come to expect from DC fare," THR's Aaron Couch wrote. Deadline's Justin Kroll quoted an anonymous rival studio exec as saying, "Worked in this town for three decades and this is some unprecedented s**t right here."
Kroll's story notes that "the decision follows several recent changes across company including major changes to HBO Max, with more expected" given Thursday afternoon's WBD earnings release and conference call...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
-- Dev Patel attempted to break up a knife fight in Australia, per his reps, who said he acted on "natural instinct..." (LAT)
-- Disney has expanded its Marvel panels at the D23 Expo... (Deadline)
-- "Stranger Things" season four has failed to break the "Squid Game" record on Netflix for most popular TV season ever... (Variety)
-- "Everybody Still Hates Chris," an animated version of "Everybody Hates Chris," has been ordered by MTV... (Deadline)
-- Elizabeth Moss is set to star in Hulu and FX's "The Veil..." (Variety)
-- "Good Trouble" has been renewed for a fifth season... (TV Line)
"Bullet Train" isn’t worth boarding
BY BRIAN LOWRY:
Despite a glittery cast headed by Brad Pitt, "Bullet Train" isn’t really worth catching as it speeds into theaters. It feels like part Quentin Tarantino wannabe, part live-action cartoon. Here's my full review...
Gyllenhaal's next project
BY BRIAN LOWRY:
Jake Gyllenhaal will star in a "reimagined take" on the 1989 Patrick Swayze movie "Road House," turning the camp classic (which forever seems to be playing on cable somewhere) into a movie for Amazon. CNN's Marianne Garvey has the details here...
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH ANIMAL HAVEN:
Rescue of the Day!
This week, we will be using this space to feature rescues from NYC's Animal Haven. Reliable Sources readers who choose to adopt one of the dogs or cats will not only receive the wonderful company of a new companion, but we will also send a CNN gift package your way. Just mention that you found the rescue through our newsletter...
Today's rescue is 11-year-old Buddy: "We ask you this: have you ever seen a more handsome gentleman? This big, regal mush is easy-going, mellow, and just an overall wonderful cat. He's lived in a home for most of his life and absolutely loves to sit in laps and be cuddled upon. Buddy's underbite is so endearing, you can't help but smile when you look at him. If you've been waiting for a friendly ginger cat, your wait is over!" Click here to adopt Buddy!
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