This whole fantastic greasy ball of wax

Muck Rack Daily

This whole fantastic greasy ball of wax
October 11th, 2018 View in browser
Muck Rack Daily

Journalists receive between 50-100 cold email pitches per day and admit to rejecting a whopping 95% of them. Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly what will prevent your pitch from ending up in the trash before you’ve sent it? Head over to the Muck Rack Blog and find out what four journalists told Jessica Lawlor about what they look for in pitches from PR professionals. She’s rounded up all their advice in Master the PR pitch: Journalists from Digiday, CNBC, WHYY and Adweek weigh in.


The president, verbatim

“I had a very weird day yesterday,” Olivia Nuzzi shares, and who didn’t? But really, hers was weird. Read about it in her New York Magazine piece, My Private Oval Office Press Conference With Donald Trump, Mike Pence, John Kelly, and Mike Pompeo (20,000+ shares). “In which ⁦@Olivianuzzi⁩ quotes the president verbatim, to his detriment,” says Kevin Sack.

There’s a lot in this, and “The president calling staying in a place overnight ‘sleeping over’ is one of the 50 least revealing things in this very good @olivianuzzi story,” Ben Collins observes. Kara Swisher highlights, “Um. Um. How much do I adore ⁦@Olivianuzzi⁩ for this whole fantastic greasy ball of wax: ‘This was beginning to feel ridiculous, like this was the reunion episode of a sitcom, in which Bob Saget might come out next to an applause track.’” Bottom line, “It would take quite a lot of tweets to tweet everything tweetable from this @olivianuzzi interview of Trump, so just read it,” tweets Jennifer Epstein.

Especially because you might not be getting live TV coverage of Trump’s rallies any more. According to Jason Schwartz and Gabby Orr of POLITICO, Trump, no longer ratings gold, loses his primetime spot on Fox News. Don’t despair, though. Anne Helen Petersen has an idea: “I’d say there’s a good chance Trump would start taking commercial breaks in his rallies if it meant Fox News would pick them up again.”

And we knew this would be coming. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post has done the Fact-Checking on President Trump’s USA Today op-ed on ‘Medicare-For-All.’ The lede pretty much tells you all you need to know: “President Trump wrote an opinion article for USA Today on Oct. 10 regarding proposals to expand Medicare to all Americans — known as Medicare-for-All — in which almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.”

Hurricane Michael

The New York Times has live updates from Hurricane Michael as much of the panhandle has been left in ruins. Jay Reeves and Brendan Farrington of the Orlando Sentinel are reporting, At least 2 dead; Florida awakens to 'unimaginable destruction,' Scott says. At CNN, Holly Yan explains why Hurricane Michael is a monster unlike any other, with high winds potentially turning pine trees into violent projectiles, deadly storm surges, inland impact and more. Get the latest updates from The Weather Channel’s ongoing coverage, Michael Treks Through Southeast After Leaving Florida Beach Towns in Ruins, Kills 2; Flooding Swamps North Carolina Towns.

The plot continues to thicken

More details continue to come out about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to the reporting by David Hearst of Middle East Eye, Jamal Khashoggi was dragged from the consulate office, killed and dismembered. Tweets Areeb Ullah, “The plot continues to thicken. Turkish officials have given MEE a detailed account of how #JamalKhashoggi was murdered by the Saudis. Details include Khashoggi's body being dragged from the consulate office and cut to pieces.”

Tweets Dafna Linzer, “IMPORTANT: Jamal Khashoggi was reading encrypted texts just before arriving at Saudi consulate. Screenshots obtained by @JoshNBCNews show he went dark right after, casting further doubt on Saudi claims that he left the consulate shortly after arriving.” She links to that story, by Josh Lederman of NBC News, Screenshots show Khashoggi did not see text messages after entering Saudi consulate.

Shawn Carrié links to “New developments from the team at Reuters, who’ve been doing an amazing job breaking one scoop after another on the #JamalKhashoggi affair.” The latest by Reuters’ Orhan Coskun, Sarah Dadouch and Stephen Kalin reveals, Apple Watch, hired jet, mystery vehicle figure in search for missing Saudi dissident.

Meanwhile, in naming names, Turks turn up the heat on the Saudis, report David D. Kirkpatrick and Malachy Browne of The New York Times, who write, “The leak of the list of 15 Saudis appears to be part of a Turkish government campaign intended to put pressure on the Saudi government to admit that Mr. Khashoggi was killed, and to spur wider international outrage.” Liam Stack highlights, “One is the chief of forensic evidence at Saudi Arabia’s internal security agency. Another is an officer in the Saudi special forces. Two others appear to be members of the Saudi royal guard.”

Shane Harris of The Washington Post finds another piece of evidence implicating the Saudi regime: Crown prince sought to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him, U.S. intercepts show. As Philip Bump points out, “This is resident of the U.S., a columnist for an American newspaper who was almost certainly at least kidnapped by a foreign government allied with America and quite possibly murdered by agents of that government.” Harris also notes, “The intelligence poses a political problem for the Trump administration because it implicates Mohammed, who is particularly close to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.”

Dodge and weave

And on that note, at The New York Times, Mark Landler, Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt write that Khashoggi’s Disappearance Puts Kushner’s Bet on Saudi Crown Prince at Risk. In a twist on his go-to tweet, Daniel Drezner tweets, “I’ll believe that Jared Kushner is growing into his role as a White House staffer when he stops backing the wrong horse.” As Isabel Kershner says, it “Just gets grislier and grislier. Next week's ‘Davos in the Desert’ is to be held at the same Ritz-Carlton hotel where Saudi Prince Mohammed jailed dozens of wealthy Saudis. NYT withdraws as a media sponsor of the event.” Still planning to attend: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

In fact, as POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi writes, “When it comes to the mystery surrounding Khashoggi, the administration is ‘trying to sweep it under the rug,’ said Randa Slim, an analyst with the Washington-based Middle East Institute.” On Twitter, Toosi adds a few extra details: “Point I couldn’t squeeze in: A standard American rebuke to a country on something like this would be to recall the U.S. ambassador there. But we don’t have a U.S. ambassador in Saudi Arabia,” and “Another thing I couldn’t squeeze in: Anyone notice how quiet the Iranians have been on this whole thing? I guess if your enemies are beating each other up, just stay the hell outta the way…”

Wait, we don’t have an ambassador? What does the State Department have to say about that? Well, “Here are reporters doing their work,” says Stephen Snyder, who links to the transcript of the Department Press Briefing - October 10, 2018. Toosi highlights an exchange that’s been getting lots of retweets: “Q: What’s the name of the ambassador in Turkey...? A: I don’t have that ... Q: What’s the name of the ambassador in Saudi Arabia right now? A: I see what you’re getting at... Q: The answer is that you don’t have an ambassador in either place, right?” “When asked about this yesterday, the State Department said it is ‘confident’ in its diplomatic staff,” notes JM Rieger. Karoli Kuns says, “I honestly do not understand how this horrendous Khashoggi story is not the only thing on the front page right now. Read this transcript…look at the State Department dodge and weave.”


Ruth Graham suggests that you “Set aside some time to read this astonishing @ProPublica investigation of rampant sexual abuse at a school in Liberia founded by a white American woman who promoted a rescue fantasy to American donors & on social media.” She’s referring to the new ProPublica-Time magazine piece Unprotected, by Finlay Young, with photography by Kathleen Flynn. Tweets Alexandra Zayas, “Please read this yearlong @ProPublica investigation, accompanied by a documentary, about an acclaimed American charity whose founder was named a @time person of the year. She set up a charity to save girls from sexual exploitation. Then, they were raped.” Charles Ornstein notes, “It took immense bravery for ⁦@fin_young⁩ and ⁦@kathphoto⁩ to tell this story. The pushback was severe but their reporting held up. And the result is horrifying.” 

Sheer coincidence

According to new reporting by Shelby Holliday, Byron Tau and Dustin Volz of The Wall Street Journal, Late GOP Activist Peter W. Smith Met With Former Trump Adviser Michael Flynn in 2015, Sources Say. Ryan Goodman tweets the highlights: “New in WSJ Scoop on Peter Smith effort to hunt Clinton emails ●Smith had direct ties to Flynn! ●Smith ‘believed he had finally obtained the missing emails’! ●Names people who pledged $$ for Smith's effort (Michael Liberty, Jack Purcell, Patrick Haynes).” Adds Carol Felsenthal, “More on Illinoisan Peter Smith. Smith is dead but mueller pursuing a very live investigation.”

While we’re at it, “Forget Cold War spy thrillers. Read @alancullison’s news reports,” tweets Theo Francis. Alan Cullison’s latest for The Wall Street Journal reveals that A Trio of Wealthy Russians Made an Enemy of Putin. Now They’re All Dead. As Julie Bykowicz says, “The headline on this @AlanCullison story gets right to the point.” Nikolai Glushkov, who was preparing to testify that Aeroflot was a corrupt instrument of Russian intelligence, was found strangled to death with a dog leash. “Sheer coincidence,” says Michael Fullilove

Meanwhile, “Caught red-handed?” tweets Saša Petricic. As Isaac Stone Fish says, “This is a major major story: for the first time, the US government has extradited a Chinese government spy to the US to face charges of industrial espionage.” Ellen Nakashima covers that story at The Washington Post, In a first, a Chinese spy is extradited to the U.S. after stealing technology secrets, Justice Dept. says.


What does life look like for girls turning 18? For International Day of the Girl, The New York Times gave young women photographers around the world an assignment: Show us 18 in your community. The result is the interactive, This is 18 Around the World - Through Girls’ Eyes, about which Joseph Flaherty tweets, “Great story, OUTSTANDING art direction,” and Carla Correa says simply, “This is everything.” Adds Jessica Bari, “This @nytimes piece made my heartache and I laughed out loud. I love the stories. I love the idea. This project is incredible. Here's to #DayOfTheGirl. #ThisIs18.”

Odds and ends

Filing this one away for a future Question of the Day, Moons can have moons and they are called moonmoons, reports Leah Crane at New Scientist, who adds, “It's moons all the way down (also if moonmoons could have their own moons they'd be called moonmoonmoons, which I find delightful).” 

On a somewhat related note, “There's a reason astronaut is still considered the most dangerous job in the world,” says Richard Luck, who links to the BBC News report this morning, Astronauts escape malfunctioning Soyuz rocket.

Craig Silverman warns you up front: “The internet killjoy has logged on: The viral story about a ‘competitive barefoot runner’ demanding that his neighbors sweep acorns off the sidewalk is a hoax. And oh my goodness did lots of news sites write it up.” In his exposé for BuzzFeed News, Silverman quotes Eric Curtis, the Minnesota man who admitted he made it all up, “I can’t believe BuzzFeed was the one who actually fact checked.”

Jason Silverstein says “This will come as a surprise to about zero people who worked there in the past year,” but Newsweek’s Ex-Parent Company Has Been Charged With Defrauding Lenders, as Lukas Alpert and Rebecca Davis O’Brien report for The Wall Street Journal

Some scoop from Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey at The Washington Post, Trump talked with Jeff Sessions’s own chief of staff about replacing him as attorney general. Greg Miller highlights, “On the ‘long list of indignities that Sessions has had to endure from the mouth of his boss, Trump’s discussing replacing him with his own top aide stands out.’ @mattzap has a way with facts and words.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Lucien Bruggeman of ABC News, Melania Trump says she is one of the most bullied people in the world. Also, Jason Schwartz is “Not totally over the fact that there was a table there just for the pith helmet.”

Alright, we know what you’re going to say, but as Jason Zinoman tweets, “I had little interest in another Alec Baldwin profile, but @LaceyVRose is really good. She hooks you.” In a new profile for The Hollywood Reporter, Lacey Rose gives us Alec Baldwin On Trump, Hollywood and Why Everyone is Out To Get Him. On Twitter, Rose adds, “I agreed a cover on Alec Baldwin would be an entertaining assignment - he’s about to try another talk show & return to SNL, after all. And, well, it was definitely entertaining…” adding, “Baldwin starts many of his sentences with a variation on, ‘I don’t want to get this wrong....’ A signal that he’s about to dive into trouble. And then he does.”


Question of the Day

Yesterday we asked: Veterinarian and seal expert Claire Simeone received a whole bunch of eerie, silent calls from the Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, one day last week. Who (or what) was on the line?

Answer: A gecko, seriously.

Congrats to…Maureen MacGregor, first to tweet the correct answer.

Your question of the day for today is…Forty-seven years after she co-wrote “Imagine” with her husband John Lennon, Yoko Ono has released a new version of the hit, which was originally inspired by her poetry collection. What was the name of that collection?

As always, click here to tweet your answer to @MuckRack.


Featured Journalist: Amanda Fletcher

Today’s featured journalist, Amanda Fletcher, is the PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship Manager and a freelance feature writer who’s finishing her first book. Originally from Canada and now based in Los Angeles, Amanda’s work has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Orange County Register, Coast and Hippocampus magazines, the Ignite magazine blog, FAR & WIDE and more. When’s the right time to pitch her? She tells us, “Anytime is the right time. I am always on email, just like everyone else with a smartphone.” Head over to Muck Rack to find out more and check out some of her work.

Don’t forget - if you change your job in journalism or move to a different news organization, be sure to email us (hello [at] muckrack [dot] com) so we can reflect your new title. News job changes only, please! Thanks!

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