Greetings ye Newshounds of the Night! Ye PR Poltergeists, Social Media Succubi, and Journalistic Jabberwockys: As the season of ghosts, goblins, and glib alliteration unfolds, the Muck Rack Monster Squad is here to wish you a scary and safe All Hallow's Eve. There are only a few hours left before we replace our Jack O'Lanterns with more noble and distinguished decorative gourds and delete the spooky puns from our Twitter names, may they rest in peace.
But the nightmare won't end tonight—alas, there are still eight more days before we can finally close the book on 2016's real American Horror Story: The Presidential Election.
Here's the latest from the frontlines of a barbaric battle that's mades Freddy Vs Jason and Alien Vs Predator look as harmless as "boxers vs briefs."
And speaking of men's underwear...
"Oh God. Anthony Weiner."
That was Vice President Joe Biden's response when asked on CNN about FBI director James Comey's statement—made just 11 days before the election—that during an investigation into disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner his agency had discovered emails that possibly-conceivably-but-who-knows-for-sure have something (or nothing?) to do with the supposedly closed investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server... or something.
Despite the near-total lack of details surrounding the content of the emails—not to mention the lack of evidence of wrongdoing or even any clarity around what this theoretical wrongdoing might amount to—Donald Trump was quick to pounce on the revelations on Twitter and at a rally in Golden, Colorado where according to Politico's Ben Schreckinger he told the crowd that "the evidence [against Hillary Clinton] as I would imagine is so overwhelming."
Trump wasn't the only one using his "imagination" this weekend. Gaze in wonderment at the cover of Saturday's New York Post and howl—either with laughter or despair, depending on whom you support. "This election guys, I can't," tweeted NBCNews' Louis Ortiz in response to the cover which—in addition to using the word "Dickileaks" —makes the baseless claim that the "Weiner sex probe found dirt on Hill," even though at that point Comey hadn't even secured warrants for the communications that might-could-hypotheoretically-mayhaps be relevant to Hillary, let alone be indicative of any "dirt." The cover also includes the phrase, "Stroking Gun" which, despite being a marginally better penis pun than "Dickileaks," strongly implies by evoking the "smoking gun" cliche that the Weiner link has already revealed proof of wrongdoing by Hillary, which is also not true. "WOW," tweeted the self-described former journalist @therealmirman. "Just how much incorrect information can they fit on one cover???!"
"Dickileaks" wasn't the only high-profile, bottom-of-the-barrel, and pretty much nonsensical "joke" about Anthony's Weiner. According to Buzzfeed's John Stanton, Trump told a crowd outside his rally in Denver, "The emails are on Anthony Weiner's ... wherever." That's not even a joke. Where are the secret Benghazi files? "In my pants"? Can we expect a Michael Scott-caliber "That's what she said" joke at Trump's next big rally?
"Because of course."
There is a phrase you could add to the end of just about every story written about the 2016 election and it would make sense (And It's not "In my pants.") It's "Because of course," which accurately captures the vibe felt by many journalists in this election that, despite how insane and unprecedented this whole presidential race has been, there's a sense of predictability surrounding the depths of moral turpitude on display in so many stories this season. It seems that the ethical bar has been set so low that nothing shocks us anymore. Today's "because of course" story comes from Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald. MTV's Jamil Smith describes it with succint and fitting exasperation: "Trump’s companies destroyed emails in defiance of court orders, because of course."
"I have no idea that by noon tomorrow she will be gone."
"Completely heartbreaking." "Beautiful." "Crying at my desk." These are just a few of the responses to a deeply affecting piece by CNN's Brianna Keilar about coping with her mother's death while on the campaign trail. We already knew Keilar was tough: She was the journalist who kept her composure and wouldn't back down during an instantly infamous interview with a Trump surrogate who insisted, against all evidence at the time, that Trump was losing. (This should jog your memory: "You guys are down. And it makes sense that there would—" "Says who?" "Polls. Most of them. All of them?" "Says who?"). But most of us had no idea just how strong Keilar was. In May, her mother went to the hospital seeking treatment for what appeared to be some kind of an infection.
But it wasn't an infection; it was acute leukemia. And in a matter of hours she would be gone. Despite booking flights and preparing her trip home immediately, it all happened too fast, and Keilar never got to say goodbye in person. "I steel myself for her long cancer battle," Keilar writes. "I have no idea that by noon tomorrow she will gone."
(The story is part of a great series on CNN called "The Girls on the Bus" which—having taken its name from a 1972 book about campaign journalism called, "The Boys on the Bus"—reflects both welcome shifts in gender demographics of politics reporters compared to the male-dominated 70s, but also offers stark depictions of the challenges and prejudices women in journalism still face today).
"This is a very difficult piece to write."
Speaking of Halloween, this election season is becoming a more arduous ordeal to take than one of those extreme Japanese or French torture-horror films like Audition or Martyrs. I promise, though, this is the last politics piece of the day. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, former Attorney General Eric Holder continues the Democratic Party's full-court press against James Comey, whom they believe made a "serious error with potentially severe implications," as Holder characterizes it, by sending a letter to Congress just 11 days before the election citing the possibility of new information potentially relevant to the Hillary Clinton email investigation—but without stating whether or not there's any evidence of wrongdoing to be found. Holder knows and respects Comey, he says, calling him a "good man." Nevertheless, Holder also writes, "It is incumbent upon [Comey] — or the leadership of the department — to dispel the uncertainty he has created before Election Day. It is up to the director to correct his mistake — not for the sake of a political candidate or campaign but in order to protect our system of justice and best serve the American people." Sounds like a strong, well-argued point. However, even among journalists who agree in a broad sense with Holder's assessment and the recommendation he puts forth, some aren't buying his sanctimonious, supposedly "nonpartisan" tone—certainly not the New York Times' Binyamin Appelbaum, who tweets, "This is brutal, but premise that FBI has some kind of sterling reputation for being apolitical is... ahistorical."
This is your brain. This is your brain on Halloween
Now that the frightening, disturbing stuff is out of the way... Let's talk about the night of witches and demons and Satan worship!
At NPR, UC-Berkeley psychology professor Tania Lombrozo pulls from decades of research to explore what Halloween can tell us about the human brain, from how we choose to make "immoral" decisions (like stealing candy) to how children develop their belief systems (in regard to both religion and politics). Who knew you could learn so much from a bunch of miniature sugar enthusiasts dressed like scary monsters and super creeps?
Business Insider has a fun listicle that reveals each state's favorite candy across America. The researchers say they interviewed 40,000 people, but I have to question the methodology of a survey that found Sweet Tarts to be anybody's favorite candy, let alone New Yorkers.'
And finally, this is from the 90s but is still one of the funniest Halloween sketches of all time: Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk and David Cross answer the question that's been burning a hole in your brain for years but that I'm certain you were too afraid to ask: "What really goes on at those parties described in the song "Monster Mash"? Do werewolves and vampires and mummies really hang out together like it's no big deal? The truth is out there.