Home » Confider # 85: Jake Tapper’s Tantrum; The ‘Cult’ of David Muir

Confider # 85: Jake Tapper’s Tantrum; The ‘Cult’ of David Muir

Welcome to this week’s edition of and one of her loyal lieutenants, Stacia Deshishku, recently sat down with the producers of an ABC News special Israel at War: Living in Terror that aired on Oct. 11 and was fronted by Muir on the ground in the warzone. Deshishku voiced her and Godwin’s displeasure about the special, saying they had told the producers that they did not want “an extension of World News.” According to two people familiar with the meeting, Deshishku said, “We all know about the cult of Muir,” while Godwin smiled, a reference to the perception that Muir’s producers are beholden to the anchor. The comments were soon relayed to a “pissed” Muir, and Godwin held another meeting last Wednesday and backtracked, saying the remark had been “misunderstood.” A rep for ABC News declined to comment.

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EXCLUSIVE — DIAL A CRISIS: Comedian Hasan Minhaj went on the front foot last week in a carefully stage-managed PR operation with the release of a video (handed up on a silver platter to The Hollywood Reporter) giving his rebuttal to a damning New Yorker article that accused him of fabricating stories about his life in his TV specials and stand-up routines. Mirroring Kellyanne Conway’s infamous “alternative facts” line, Minhaj originally told The New Yorker that they were not fabrications but “emotional truths.” In the video, Minhaj included his own recording of the interview he had with New Yorker writer Clare Malone. But just who was the female voice interjecting at the 7-minute-and-a-half mark to say she has emails to support what Minhaj was telling Malone. Step forward Risa Heller, the dial-a-crisis specialist who earlier this year earned a New York magazine profile (which has since been optioned) with the screaming headline “GET ME RISA HELLER,” and someone who clearly enjoys being in the muck. Just this year she has represented Elizabeth Holmes (she scored her a flashy New York Times profile in which Holmes tried to rehab her image), Jeff Shell (who was fired by NBC Universal for having an inappropriate relationship with a CNBC reporter), Ray Dalio (the hedge fund manager who has been threatening the author of an upcoming tell-all book on him with a multibillion-dollar lawsuit), Erika Nardini (the Barstool Sports CEO trying to put some sunlight between her and owner Dave Portnoy, who has been credibly accused by three women of engaging in violent sexual encounters), Alice Sebold (the author who mistakenly accused a man of rape and wrote a book about it), Sam Bankman-Fried’s parents (who are alleged in a civil suit to have helped run their son’s crypto empire) and Jeff Zucker (who had Heller go nuclear on a Variety report about 18 months of behind the scenes drama at CNN). Past clients have included Anthony Weiner (Heller advised him on his dick pic drama), Harvey Weinstein (after he was accused of assaulting the model Ambra Battilana in 2015), Kushner companies (when Jared Kushner was running it), Mario Batali (when the disgraced croc-loving chef was accused by several women of sexual misconduct), Win Butler (when the Arcade Fire singer was accused by several women of sexual misconduct), the voice of Elmo (who faced allegations he had sex with teens), Ipek Irgit (the itsy bitsy bikini designer accused of ripping off the design from a woman in Brazil), and Puck (a buzzy digital media startup where journalists can rent their careers). While most journalists who spoke to Confider about Minhaj’s face-saving video described it as “ineffectual” and one that did nothing to discredit the New Yorker’s reporting, a question that did continually arise is, ‘Does Heller ever say no to a potential client?’ Heller declined to comment.

Gif of Hasan Minhaj with moving text: "Get me Risa Heller!"

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

EXCLUSIVE— POST PROBLEMS: The Washington Post’s surprise buyout announcement earlier this month caught staffers off-guard, deepening fissures between reporters and management. That anger was on display during an all-hands meeting last week led by executive editor Sally Buzbee, who tried to lay out the newsroom’s strategy in a session multiple staffers described to Confider as a waste of time that did little to answer their questions. Buzbee reiterated to reporters that the paper planned to streamline multiple desks and commit to “intensifying” its metro coverage, multiple staffers said, despite the paper’s buyouts disproportionately affecting its metro desk. Katie Mettler, a metro reporter and the Post’s union chair, showed Buzbee data that indicated the paper would have fewer local reporters than other top papers after the buyouts. “It was a joke,” one Post reporter described the meeting to Confider. Buzbee also said the paper had grown “willy-nilly” in recent years, according to sources, though it’s a spiraling growth she has partially overseen during her two-plus-year tenure as executive editor. “Well that was a waste of an hour I could have been reporting,” another reporter told Confider. The all-hands, which happened a day after owner Jeff Bezos popped into the building, came as the paper inches closer to hiring a new permanent CEO to replace former publisher Fred Ryan, which was reported would be announced next month. The company is also trying to convince 240 staffers to take a buyout, its third job-cutting move in less than a year. The Post didn’t have a comment on the staffers’ concerns about the all-hands. The new publisher may also oversee the reining in of story lengths, as Buzbee said she has fielded multiple reader emails about wordy stories. Perhaps she and New York Times executive editor Joe Kahn can muse over their shared pursuit of shorter reports.

EXCLUSIVE – SWEATER VENDETTA: One America News is dealing with some dissension within its ranks over a hot mic moment involving a fill-in anchor and the MAGA channel’s chief White House correspondent, people familiar with the matter told Confider. During an afternoon broadcast last month, reporter Monica Paige was prepping for a live hit from the White House lawn when Katie Smith, a producer and part-time on-air host for the fringe-right network, began mocking Paige’s appearance to her colleagues. According to multiple people familiar with the incident, Smith—apparently unaware that Paige could hear her feed—trashed her wardrobe choice. “Oh, look at that sweater! Monica Sweaterman! What is she doing?!” one network staffer recalled Smith saying during the Sept. 25 broadcast. Paige became very upset, according to insiders, adding to the already tense and toxic work environment at the floundering channel. Ironically, according to current and former staffers, Paige is the one who helped get Smith a job at OAN. Ditching her Newsmax producer job for an on-air role with OAN, Paige moved to San Diego in January and soon befriended Smith, who was a local bartender. After Paige convinced Smith to take an “anchor’s test” at the network, sources said that Smith was still hired despite lacking writing or reporting experience. Before long, sources added, the friendship apparently grew sour and Smith began criticizing Paige to other colleagues, especially after Paige began covering the White House and moved to Washington, D.C. (Paige replaced longtime OAN chief White House correspondent Chanel Rion, who recently settled a defamation lawsuit with a Dominion executive.) This latest episode, according to current and former staffers, is merely a microcosm of the rampant toxicity and unprofessionalism that has recently plagued the conspiracy-addled network, which is facing an existential crisis after being booted from nearly every cable and satellite provider. With OAN struggling financially, insiders say that some of the network’s on-air hosts and writers are only paid $20 an hour, forcing them to work second jobs and compounding the workplace stress. Making matters worse, sources stated, the network has been known to turn to inexperienced applicants to fill newsroom positions, resulting in additional complaints about a lack of competency and decorum in the workplace. “The work environment is the most toxic place I have ever worked,” one staffer said. “I am literally afraid to speak.” Paige, Smith, and representatives for OAN did not respond to requests for comment.


—Newsmax has struggled to find its footing as a true competitor to cable news networks like CNN and Fox News, a problem most clearly seen when it completely ignored last week’s tragic mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, with pre-taped programming. Read about the mess here.

—The U.K.’s Boris Johnson is taking his “journalistic talents” to GB News following his resignation in disgrace from Parliament. Read here about how his “unvarnished views” will hit British airwaves.

—The Knight Foundation’s outgoing president Alberto Ibargüen spoke to The Daily Beast about the foundation’s new $150 million effort to help save local news—and how other models aren’t working. Read our chat with him here.


—A host of European media suitors including Rupert Murdoch and Mathias Döpfner have their eyes on the U.K.’s Telegraph—but why? Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo gets to the bottom of it here.

—Speaking of European media men, another potential Telegraph buyer is Sir Paul Marshall, a co-owner of GB News. The Guardian took a dive here into how his media stock has risen.

—Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman is as synonymous with Capitol Hill as Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, and whichever geezer they ended up picking for Speaker of the House. The Washington Post tells you why in a new profile here.


Screenshot of Fox News segment with Newt Gingrich

In a refrain we’ve heard time and time again after yet another horrific American mass shooting, Fox News made sure to immediately react to the massacre in Lewiston by standing up for the true victim: guns. With residents still sheltering in place on Wednesday night, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich raged about the need for more firearms and less restrictive gun laws to combat these increasingly common tragedies. “We have to have a greater ability for our citizens to protect themselves,” he declared, prompting Sean Hannity to agree with him “100 percent.” Speaking of Hannity, the Fox News star used the mass shooting to tout his own “personal security plan,” which included his supposed MMA prowess. “I train in mixed martial arts,” he said. “I’ve been a big believer in the Second Amendment for a long time, with the prayer that I would never have to use it.” Jesse Watters, meanwhile, stuck with the tried-and-true conservative media mantra of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” before adding his own little analogy. “Forks don’t make you fat,” he insisted. (Later that night, Watters continued to treat the tragic shooting in a sober manner, agreeing with reality TV star Dog the Bounty Hunter that the Marines should invade Maine to find the shooter.) Elsewhere in the right-wing industrial-outrage complex, MAGA pundit Charlie Kirk reacted to the shooting by urging his audience to heavily arm themselves because “evil is everywhere” and “you need to be prepared to defend yourself and your family.”

Confider will be back next week with more saucy scooplets. In the meantime, subscribe here and send us questions, complaints, or tips here or call/text us 551 655 2343.


October 2023