Level-headed moderation needed now in The Birthplace of America

Philadelphia is a great place to live. It has so much, so close-by: history, museums, sports. It’s walkable, livable, has green space. No, it didn’t get Amazon’s HQ2 and yes, it’s often overshadowed by New York and Washington. Too bad it has people in charge who don’t care about serving the public.

This goes along well with what I’ve recently written about liberalism turning so far left, it’s often becoming extremism. (See here, here, here and here.) Of course, Philadelphia is more to the left than the nation as a whole. Let’s see how much.mazzoni center logo

Here is the deal:

Mazzoni Center is the oldest AIDS-service organization in Pennsylvania, and has been “providing innovative and compassionate care and services for people living with HIV since 1981.” That’s according to director of communications Larry Benjamin in a recent column in the newspaper, Philadelphia Gay News (PGN), which is the main source of news for Philadelphia’s LGBTQI+ community.

For decades, Mazzoni’s CEO was Nurit Shein, an Israeli woman no longer mentioned on the center’s history page but who undoubtably oversaw the “steady and continued growth” listed on that page:

  • The first HIV testing site in Pennsylvania in 1985.
  • The first sponsored housing for individuals living with HIV in 1986.
  • Opening the region’s first HIV-related food bank in 1989.
  • Opening its primary care medical practice, which has since become a cornerstone of the organization’s services, in 2003.
  • “Today, with more than 35,000 individuals benefiting annually from its services, Mazzoni Center is a leader among community-based organizations in the greater Philadelphia area.”

According to PGN,

“The center has 35,000 clients and an annual budget of $16.5 million, $6 million of which is comprised of federal grants. The balance comes from revenue generated through the health center and private-development funding.”

In other words, the nonprofit gets government money and asks for donations, since it can’t come close to surviving by simply charging its clients or patients fees. This affects all of us.

For example, in Sept. 2010, Mazzoni reported,

“Thanks to a newly created HIV-prevention funding opportunity from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mazzoni Center will receive $337,248 annually over the next five years to help continue three of our key intervention projects: HIV counseling, testing and referral services for MSM of color, for which we collaborate with GALAEI (Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative); comprehensive risk-counseling services for HIV-positive or high-risk men to cut down on the risk of future transmission or infection; and our community-outreach program ‘Get Real.’”

In Nov. 2016, it reported,

“Mazzoni Center is pleased to announce it has received an award of $1.5 million through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). The funds are designated to support the purchase and renovation of a Center City building at Broad and Bainbridge Streets, where the agency will relocate and consolidate its core programs and services in summer 2017. …

“The grant demonstrates the growing commitment and collaboration between the State of Pennsylvania and the LGBTQ community,”

and both of these examples of public funding happened, like so much else, under CEO Shein.

But despite so many successes over a generation, not all has been going well at Mazzoni for the past few years.

According to PGN’s Nov. 15 article “Another Mazzoni CEO out — What’s next?”

“Last year, Mazzoni Center was plagued by published reports of systemic racism, mismanagement and dysfunction. In April 2017, Robert Winn resigned as medical director amid charges of sexual misconduct. CEO Nurit Shein was asked by the board of directors to resign later that month, following accusations of delayed action on Winn’s alleged misconduct.”

Then,

“Stephen Glassman stepped in to fill the interim CEO job in July 2017. During his tenure until March, he hired consultants with far-right ties to discourage employees from unionizing, which sparked another controversy. Last September, Mazzoni Center employees nevertheless voted 51-34 to unionize.”

Then, the board of directors hired an executive-search firm which spent five months conducting a nationwide search for the right leader.

Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino was hired as Mazzoni’s third CEO in less than two years – moving up here from Florida – but she recently resigned after just seven months. It wasn’t due to the heat, weather-wise. The former Floridian was probably used to our mostly warm weather during her short tenure.

No. PGN reported the trouble started right away because Gonzalez Sciarrino is a straight woman! Yes! You read correctly. These are the details you’ll probably find disturbing:

“At the time her hiring was announced in March, she was attacked on social media by Mazzoni Center employees and others demanding her resignation, at least partly due to her non-LGBT status.

“The Black and Brown Workers Cooperative (BBWC), who say they represent nearly 400 workers in Philadelphia, told PGN in a statement in early April, just days after Gonzalez Sciarrino took over as CEO: ‘The days of people who are not from our communities coming in to take up a considerable amount of power in our communities is over,’ said BBWC cofounder Shani Akilah. ‘A white, straight cis woman is not fit to lead Mazzoni, no matter how much experience she claims to have,’ said Akilah. ‘The one thing she does not have and will never be able to have is lived experience.’”

Can you believe that?

Such an outrageous statement about an accomplished woman who the board of directors chose to lead their troubled agency after a long search!

Talk about discrimination, and it happened this year – not just in America, but in The Birthplace of America!

Besides, who gets to pick their boss?

Click here for more of the article including why Gonzalez Sciarrino had to stop driving and start walking to work, always changing her route.

For now, three people will lead.

And days after Gonzalez Sciarrino’s resignation, PGN reported Mazzoni Center fired its Senior Health and Sexuality Educator for violating its harassment policy. According to the paper,

sloan

“The move follows a series of social-media postings on Sloan’s personal Facebook page since the announcement of CEO Lydia Gonzalez-Sciarrino’s resignation earlier this week. In one public post on Monday, Sloan wrote: ‘This is what happens when you cross me. HAPPY MONDAY BITCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #WEWILLNOTLGBTQUIET’ over a shared article of PGN’s coverage of the CEO’s resignation.

congratulations

“A commenter questioned whether Sloan should be congratulated, to which she replied: ‘Congratulations is absolutely the word. THANK YOU … IM [sic] SO HAPPYYYY.’

will not be quiet

“In another, Sloan shared a second article written about Gonzalez Sciarrino resigning with the hashtags ‘WeWillNotLGBTQuiet’ and ‘#Bih,’ internet slang for bitch.’

“As she left the building on Thursday, witnesses told PGN Sloan shouted out: ‘I got fired by y’all — tell your friends.’

raise hell

“Shortly thereafter, she wrote on her Facebook page, ‘They went and fired me for no reason get ready to raise hell everybody.’”

Makes me wonder what kind of people work at Mazzoni!

A PGN editorial, “Social media and public officials,” said,

“Amber Hikes, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, had opinions on the resignation of its executive director, Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino, and posted those opinions on social media.

“When we called her for a clarification and asked whether she was representing her own views or the views in her capacity as a representative for the mayor, she stated: ‘This is a trip. It’s weird that it’s a slow day at PGN, especially with everything going on, but I’ll give you a quote to explain what’s going on.’”

That PGN editorial concluded, “The issue boils down to whether a non-LGBT person can run an organization that serves primarily LGBT people,” and the newspaper has spoken out against discrimination like that before.

In this particular case, it wondered based on Hikes’ social media posts, “Is her view personal or administration policy?”

That’s the question I – as a Philadelphia citizen – wanted answered. I even asked about public officials using their own social media accounts while supposedly working for the public, developing policy for the mayor.

Remember the name Amber Hikes, because this post is mostly about her. Shortly, you’ll read the Facebook faceoff we engaged in, and the letter she asked me to send – containing a bunch of questions – she never bothered to answer. You’ll also see several of her tweets containing profanities, and how her support of certain people – and disregard of others – are a prime example of the left gone too far.

PGN reported in March, 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney appointed her executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs.

mazzoni on hikes job
I’ll bet Mazzoni Center management changed its tune on Hikes not long after the mayor hired her!

Therefore, she works for the city but you’ll find no brotherly love coming from her (except for her boss, the mayor) and little sisterly affection.

Hikes had lived in Philadelphia for more than a decade but moved to California more than a year before her appointment at City Hall. That’s when she told PGN,

“‘When I arrived in Philadelphia about 11 years ago, I was a young, black queer woman seeking people who looked like me who loved like me and frankly, the next decade of my life, [I was] just living, studying, working and trying to build that community that I was seeking,’ Hikes said. ‘I noticed these multiple identities that were reflected in the intersections of so many of our underserved citizens.’”

And apparently those are the only people Hikes cares about.

For example, on Aug. 20, Gonzalez Sciarrino fired Kay Martinez, who was Mazzoni Center’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion. That caused an estimated 50 people to walk out to protest the firing. Among those protesters was no other than Amber Hikes, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. I’ll get into the contradiction shortly.

According to a written statement from the Mazzoni Center that PGN published Aug. 30,

“‘The reason for Kay Martinez’s termination was disagreement with the Mazzoni Center management team that resulted in unprofessional conduct that was inconsistent for someone in their role,’ according to Mazzoni’s written statement. ‘We believe the facts, when communicated in the appropriate forum, will be obvious proof that we could not continue the employment of Martinez, a high-level director.’”

In the same article, PGN reported Martinez “filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and publicly accused Mazzoni Center of wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination,” and accused Gonzalez-Sciarrino of lacking “LGBTQ and trans competency.”

“Gonzalez-Sciarrino took on an ally role once she became the leader of an LGBTQ organization. There needs to be a demonstration of a high level of LGBTQ competency, no matter who it is,” said Martinez. “I’m not saying this heterosexual, cisgendered Latina person has no business being there — it’s about her level of LGBTQ competency. I had to educate the CEO on what my pronouns were and how to properly use the they/them pronouns, and that displayed a very significant trans incompetency.”

I wasn’t there, don’t know what really happened and have not heard about a resolution. Besides, most of us use he/him pronouns for someone who looks male, and she/her for someone who looks female. With so much diversity in the LGBTQI+ community, how could someone look at someone else and automatically know which pronouns they prefer? Even Harry Houdini wouldn’t be able to get out of that one!

But we know Hikes walked out over the firing.

PGN’s editorial stated,

“She (Hikes) injected herself into this latest firestorm (Gonzalez Sciarrino’s resignation), as she has with others on social media.”

So the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs has had problems on social media before.

The editorial ended,

“Right before presstime, Hikes did clarify that the statements are ‘on my personal Facebook so yes, I’m speaking personally.’”

Of course, I got interested and looked at her Facebook page. That was last Tuesday, Nov. 20. This is what I found:

ashley love

So at least one of her Facebook friends, apparently not from Philadelphia, was very interested in Gonzalez Sciarrino’s three replacements, and wanted to make sure at least one was of what she considered the proper race, and trans, rather than cis.

Remember, the Mazzoni Center survives on public, taxpayer money – plus the generosity of some individual members of the public. Tens of thousands of people’s health, and other people’s jobs, depend on the place running smoothly. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money and a huge shame after so many people worked for so long, so Mazzoni could offer groundbreaking programs.

See that Facebook friend’s response before my question, which I decided should be about a large group of individuals never once mentioned in the resignation matter: men!

Amber Hikes

You can see I was attacked and also who her Facebook friends are by the number of thumbs-up quickly praising her for acting strong and attacking me. (Who your friends are tells a lot about you.) But I thought this public servant was out of line and didn’t give up, explaining myself further, using her tone against her, and then mentioning the mayor.

all lives matter

My letter makes a good point about her sentence starting with “Yes my boss.” So before going to bed, she made a more disgraceful assumptions and remarks, but invited me to send an email to her office, which I did.

(It appears since then, Hikes made her personal Facebook account private, and after that shut it down. Good move for somebody who was documented as having injected herself into multiple firestorms on social media!)

I spent the next morning crafting this exact letter to Hikes, emailed it midday, and cc’ed Mayor Kenney, whom Hikes spoke for and answers to:

email header 1

Hi, Ms. Hikes! I’m a citizen of Philadelphia, on and off for 20 years on Thanksgiving (tomorrow, by coincidence).

You’ll no doubt remember last night, I wrote, asking you a question. I had just finishing reading PGN‘s latest article on the saga of the Mazzoni Center, and you said to “Feel free to shoot an email … with your grievances.”

Here it is.

I don’t expect detailed answers to every question I’m putting forth here, but would appreciate general explanations about some of the things you’ve said, and some of the ways I feel.

You were quoted in the front-page article “Another Mazzoni CEO Out — What’s Next?” (Nov. 16 edition, https://www.epgn.com/news/breaking-news/13993-another-mazzoni-ceo-out-what-s-next) as saying:

·       “lived experience” qualifies a leader for an organization that deals with marginalized communities.

·       “I think that personal, lived experience with those communities is essential to be able to serve them appropriately” … “In the same way that I think it is appropriate for a black person to lead Black Lives Matter, it is appropriate for a woman to lead the National Organization of Women, I think it’s appropriate for an LGBT person to lead an LGBTQ center.”

Actually, while proofreading before publishing this post, I realized she must’ve meant the The National Organization for Women, not of Women, and she should know better.

I also just realized the NAACP was formed in 1909 as a bi-racial endeavor – not a black organization – to advance justice for African-Americans.

Seems I know more than Ms. Hikes on some aspects of women and African-Americans! It also disproves her last point. But as you may have imagined, there’s plenty more…

That first statement leads me to wonder what qualifications the leader of an organization that deals with marginalized communities should have? If “lived experience” is a requirement, then are there others? If not, then how does “lived experience” qualify compared to other qualifications? Could it simply be a tie-breaker?

That second statement, dealing with demographics, leads me to wonder, “Do you think it was appropriate for President Obama to lead (what was) a majority white nation?” Also, do you feel that’s OK when it comes to labor laws?

Then, the newspaper’s editorial (https://www.epgn.com/opinion/editorials/14003-social-media-and-public-officials) quoted you when they contacted you as saying, “This is a trip. It’s weird that it’s a slow day at PGN, especially with everything going on, but I’ll give you a quote to explain what’s going on.”

That statement sounds to me like something President Trump would say to the media, not “the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia,” as it says in your biography (https://www.phila.gov/departments/office-of-lgbt-affairs/). Would you mind sharing what else was going on the day PGN contacted you? (I’ll be happy to help clear things up with them by forwarding your answer, if you’d like.)

(I don’t agree with PGN’s opinion 100 percent and don’t think anybody in the world can, since it tries to give opposing points of view and make us think. I would suggest a few changes to the newspaper but will not question its original reporting. As for any agenda, after decades as a reader, I will suggest it’s the betterment of the LGBTQI+ community in every way, in Philadelphia and around the world. I take that to mean equality and peace.)

Your use of personal social media while serving the public made news, and it was also news to me that it had made news before. (Editorial: “She injected herself into this latest firestorm, as she has with others on social media.”) Therefore, I became curious.

Also, you chose to have your Facebook account’s privacy setting open to the public (or did not pay attention) which has apparently led to some news and definitely led me to read, which was my right. This morning, I saw that setting had changed and I’m sure you understand the consequences of libel, should that be the case, considering your response to me last night. You know what’s on the Internet tends to stay there. You should also know I always jealously protect my good name, with legal counsel on hand for a situation exactly two weeks ago (Nov. 7). I’ll ask you to make sure any defamatory reference to me on your Facebook timeline is gone, after you respond to me.

I don’t think you treated my questions, and definitely my point, fairly. I was intrigued when I read this comment to your post on Mazzoni, and the probing answers and replies that followed.

ashley love

When I saw the response that followed, from somebody whose Facebook profile says she is “based in Washington DC and California” rather than any mention of Philadelphia, and considering how you answered her, I decided to ask you about this story making news.

I decided to use gender as the basis of my question, because it had not been brought up, and because PGN reported in its news article, “The three new leaders are Medical Director Dr. Nancy Brisbon, Care Services Director Alicia Manley and Chief Financial Officer Racquel Assaye” – all women.

I even called out my own questions as among the “knit-picking” ones! I wanted to make a point.

Let’s say your response to me was different than above, not so nice, and falsely accusatory.

Amber Hikes

I’ll point out, right off the bat, your response to me was absolutely rude. You tried to make it clear you don’t work for Mazzoni, using emojis between every word. Of course not. You’re “the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia.”

Then, you used the phrases “is exactly what we need” and “is moving us in that direction.” Does that sound like a politician with an interest in the center, or something more that may cross a line? It definitely makes your relationship sound different than your first sentence (“I don’t work for Mazzoni,” emoji, emoji, emoji).

But you were one of the people who “participated in a walk-out to protest the firing” (according to the PGN article) of Mazzoni Center’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion. How could you walk out if you don’t work there, and how could you protest as a city official? I don’t get it, either way.

If you say you were simply standing by the non-management workers there, please realize I’ve been a member of two unions and shop steward at one. I have absolutely no problems with unions, and in fact encourage workers to unionize. Collective bargaining is probably the only way for them to have a voice in working conditions and we are lucky Pennsylvania has not turned the way of Michigan under previous gubernatorial leadership here.

However, the treatment of the patients is the reason Mazzoni exists, and the reason members of the public donate money to keep it running and more. I completely understand the workers walking out if they were ordered to do something morally wrong or illegal. (I chose to leave one job under similar circumstances.) Otherwise, they were probably putting their jobs and even the treatment of their patients on the line.

You also accused me of being sexist, but that is not true in any way. There are women I turn to as mentors for advice, including whether I could be considered one for something I said, did, or believed. Again, I was simply adding one more facet of humanity to the discussion that had not been mentioned: gender. If instead, I had mentioned religion, age or national origin, would you have accused me of “ageist nonsense” and the like?

I don’t know the three Mazzoni leaders’ religions, ages or national origins, and unlike so many others, I’m not asking. It should really be nobody’s concern (except possibly for government employment forms), unless the people involved choose to share that information. Anything else sounds like a quota system and that’s wrong, whether it’s aiming for a number higher or lower than the current number – especially on employment issues where there may be legal concerns and you represent the city of Philadelphia.

Right now, I’m doing as you suggested and emailing you with the address you gave. If you didn’t notice on top, I’m also taking this moment to make sure you know this email is not private since I’m cc’ing your boss, Mayor Jim Kenney, because you called All Lives Matter (a phrase I never used) “nonsense.”

all lives matter

Thanks, but I don’t need you to put words in my mouth.

Mr. Mayor, Would you agree it’s “nonsense” that All Lives Matter, realizing I never brought up that phrase to Ms. Hikes?

Also, should your appointee be answering a constituent as a “black, queer woman” or as a public servant? If you do think she answered appropriately, then do you answer constituents as a “straight white male of Irish descent?”

Ms. Hikes, considering your statement it’s “nonsense” that All Lives Matter, please put in order the amount that these people’s lives matter (in general, not a specific person, and feel free to add any I may have forgotten, or combine any):

white
black
different race
male
female
different gender
lesbian
gay
bisexual
transgender
queer
questioning
intersex
allies

I don’t know about you but I think there is too much division in this country, and a lot of it comes from people treating their fellow Americans as less than them. But on the other hand, others like the ones you responded to cling to very, very specific classifications – and caused me to write.

Right now, our country is divided over so many personal issues. I think concentrating on very, very specific classifications for a job (or three specific jobs) – three of the four (Black, Latina, trans and woman) written by your Facebook friend in the comment, and brown written by you in your first reply to that person – adds to the divisiveness.

The LGBT community is already a minority of the population. Labeling more and more differences separates us, and makes us a tiny minority of a minority of the population. How many people will qualify if you add in religion, age and national origin (oh, and “lived experience”)?

All people are created in the image of God, and automatically entitled to equal human and civil rights. That should be practiced by everyone including the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, your biography on your city office’s website https://www.phila.gov/departments/office-of-lgbt-affairs/ says you set your “sights on fighting and advocating for the most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community—specifically youth, transgender people, and people of color.” I take that to mean not the LGBT community as in your city office’s title, but only certain subsets. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Then, a few paragraphs later: “Hikes believes in employing an intersectional lens in all aspects of community work.” Does that mean filtering people and deciding how worthy they are of the city’s help, using the words from your Facebook post above?

Office of LGBT Affairs

Remember, the top of the page which sounds like a job description reads, “City of Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs: Serving the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia through advocacy and inclusion.” I take that to mean the city’s goal for the office. “The LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia,” from the city, sounds quite different than your quote, “most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community.” Again, correct me if I’m wrong with this distinction.

And does the city’s use of the word “inclusion” regarding the office you lead refer to all elements of the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia or just the ones mentioned in your biography?

You know none of us chose the circumstances in which we were born, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I spent years teaching that quote to elementary schoolchildren. I think that concise quote best describes what all of us should want for the future of the world, and these days can go beyond “the color of their skin.”

We, collectively, have vastly different experiences. Much of it is due, as I said, to the fact none of us chose the circumstances in which we were born. But then to read what you wrote last night, “that we need to see more black and brown trans women in leadership in our organizations,” has me questioning your devotion to all members of the LGBTQI+ community in your role as “executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia … serving the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia through advocacy and inclusion.”

As a city resident, homeowner, and taxpayer – as well as member of the LGBTQI+ community – I want to know how you represent me.

Am I wrong for asking?

Also, do you feel the demographic issue taking such a major role in the Mazzoni saga is turning moderates such as myself to the right, which would probably be the last thing you want politically?

Thank you in advance for your more thoughtful answers this time around.

Lenny Cohen
Philadelphia

I hope you thought the letter was well-written, informative and asked good questions. I don’t know whether Mayor Jim Kenney or his hand-picked executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, Amber Hikes, feel that way.

Neither of them bothered to respond!

That’s ironic since when Hikes was hired, PGN reported a city spokesperson had said,

“There was a very vocal need for someone to be more outward-facing and more community-engagement-based.”

So Tuesday, I forwarded them this second email:

email header 2

Ms. Hikes and Mr. Mayor,

Tomorrow will be one week since I wrote to both of you and I have not received any sort of answer, much less acknowledgement, to my questions and concerns from either of you.

Public servants need to be available to be effective, kind of like journalists. I’ve been one of those for a couple of decades.

Furthermore, I’m wondering if I’m the first person to ask you these questions because if not, then you could’ve probably given me canned answers you’ve already given others.

I plan to blog on this disgrace (at least so far) so thousands around the world know what I consider the craziness and favoritism that goes on in Philadelphia, and how my inquiry has been ignored (so far). It’s all unfortunate.

I’ll include your entire, unedited answers in my post tomorrow, especially from Ms. Hikes, who had time to immediately respond to her personal-but-public (but last I checked, private) Facebook account at odd hours last Tuesday, Nov. 20. I’ll also include my letter.

Please inform me. That shouldn’t be too hard for decision-makers with your titles and powers in such a big city, right? Even Gmail “nudged” me to follow-up, as if I needed to be reminded.

Gmail nudge

Lenny Cohen
Philadelphia citizen and taxpayer

I’m ashamed of the politics that goes on in this great city and sometimes ask myself why I don’t move just over the line, where there is no city wage tax that takes more money from paychecks than the state’s income tax does. Productive people don’t seem to be valued.

As for the Mazzoni Center, its volunteer board of directors is about to become a whole lot different. Five of the 17 will resign. According to PGN, the reason is lack of enough diversity among a board with this membership: “Five are women, six are people of color and eight are white men.”

Board president Chris Pope told the paper,

“Many of our legacy board members have served for 13 years, and now it’s time to make space for new faces, new voices and new perspectives. Diversifying our board has been a major focus for some time now and we are looking for prospective candidates that will bring a fresh outlook as we move the organization forward.”

We’ve been through Facebook. Yesterday, I wondered if Ms. Hikes had a Twitter account, and boy does she!

I hate to say it, but notice the vulgarities from this public servant on this forum. I haven’t published anything like this since my post on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings.

These were all her personal tweets. None of them were retweeted from somebody else. I’m going in chronological order, starting just over a year ago, and any underlining in red is mine. I chose words I think she should not have used, or used in the way she did. It’s unbecoming for someone in her role. At least I think so.

kenney kicking ass

gloria residences damn

pgn person of year
Hikes was actually PGN’s “Person of the Year” for last year! I hope the paper reviewed its reasoning. I think the “Creep of the Week” column it features in every issue would be more fitting now.
who is left after so many eliminations
Divisive: Is anybody left when you leave out men, white, cis, able-bodied, documented, straight, and economically-privileged? Read into that last category as you want.

old flag iconic symbol

The rainbow flag colors “reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.” That means it’s an abstraction of everybody, and just a skin deep representation because nobody in real life actually looks like any of the colors. It represented ‘pride’ in Philadelphia until June 2017, when Hikes

“officially added black and brown stripes atop the city’s pride flag — making Philadelphia the first city to do so — to recognize people of color who had long felt excluded. … Hikes views the new flag as a way to start conversations about race and identity, particularly with white people who have not experienced the same disparate treatment as people of color — and may be reluctant to believe it exists.”

Talk about pettiness and simple-minded people separating themselves from others when they’re supposed to be coming together, uniting as one!

rainbow with extras

The Philly.com article goes on to say,

“Some people suggested there should be a white stripe, and the New York Post declared that the flag had divided Philadelphia’s gay community.”

And speaking of coming together, uniting as one: Months earlier, in Jan. 2017, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations

“found widespread reports of racial tension and discrimination in the neighborhood (the Gayborhood), which often touts its inclusivity. … The report noted that dress codes, ID policies, bar service and treatment of staff can vary depending on the patron or employee, which perpetuates discrimination.”

Because of that, it forced 11 bars and two nonprofits – the Mazzoni Center and Philadelphia FIGHT – to take part in fair business practice training within 90 days and implicit bias training within 120 days. Did places frequented mostly by straight people face the same requirements? Do you think those establishments, including neighboring ones, are any better?

The Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr., a black former mayor of Philadelphia who sits on the board of FIGHT, told Philly.com,

“He was shocked to see the organization named in the report. He said he was skeptical about the thoroughness of the vetting process.

“‘Philadelphia FIGHT is probably one of the most diverse organizations in the city,’ Goode said. He called the organization’s CEO, Jane Shull, a champion of equality in the workplace. ‘I do not believe anyone could write that who investigated, who read the personnel plan, who knew what they were talking about.’”

pence hell

trans flag damn

curse at trans event
Cover the top and just show your kids the colorful pictures. Somebody may have forgotten more and more members of the LGBTQI+ community are becoming parents.
tweet on phila lawyer
So high on herself! Can you find Hikes on the cover? Wonder why she doesn’t show herself gracing the cover in her tweet? #exaggeration
phila lawyer cover
https://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/ThePhiladelphiaLawyer

politics after election

So citizens of Philadelphia: Do you think there is any more to this woman than vulgarity, divisiveness and unresponsiveness? Is this appropriate from one of our city leaders? Should Hikes be sent her walking papers?

contact info

This is the contact information for both Ms. Hikes and Mayor Kenney, taken from their pages on the city’s website. Please take a few moments to share your feelings with them (and maybe get a response!), but also the city council member for your district, and don’t forget all seven council members at-large, at the bottom of the webpage.

(Click here if you don’t know who your district’s city council member is. You’ll see a map, where you can type in your address, and their name will come up.)

In Feb. 2017, the city started a Commission on LGBT Affairs, calling it

“a 23-member body that will advise the Mayor on policies that support the lives of LGBT individuals in the city and support and amplify the work of the Office of LGBT Affairs. … The members reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, which includes transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer communities, as well as diversity in ethnicity, religion, race, gender, disability, profession, citizenship status, socioeconomic status, geography, housing status and age.”

Hikes, still the newly-appointed LGBT Affairs executive director back then, said,

“I look forward to serving with this vibrant team as we address the needs of our community and elevate the voices of our most underserved community members.”

But Sharron Cooks, the chair of the newly created commission – and also the first transgender person ever to chair a city commission, according to Philadelphia Magazine – was voted out in May, after just six weeks.

The magazine reported,

G Philly was sent documentation from the meeting that raised concerns surrounding Cooks’s social media interactions with members of one of the commission’s committees.

“‘The emergency meeting was basically centered around complaints that Commissioner Amanda Dougherty made about Sharron targeting her in various social media posts she made this past weekend,’ said a commissioner present during the meeting who asked not to be named. ‘Dougherty provided the commission with multiple screenshots of Facebook posts where Sharron indirectly called her out for being a white bisexual woman taking up space in the community affairs committee.’”

Sounds too much like Amber Hikes with social media. And President Trump.

Like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there has to be another revolutionary change in leaders here in Philadelphia. Click here for directions on registering to vote.

If you like what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like thisthis and this. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

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News starting out good but going downhill fast

It’s a happy moment at CohenConnect.com.

(Online definition of moment: “a very brief period of time.” The italics are mine.)

up arrowSeptember’s blog numbers were high with more than a thousand views, despite the fact I only published four posts. (I know. I have to do better on that. And I can’t complain about the time, but each takes many hours to get – hopefully – just right!)

And near the end of the month, the blog got recognition and links on three more popular ones! Thanks to Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia (Sept. 25); FTVLive.com’s Scott Jones (Sept. 27); and Laura Nachman (also Sept. 27).

Growing means there are stories some newer readers haven’t seen yet, and I just happen to have some follow-ups for those of you who are longtime readers.

‘A’ for Amazon from minimum wage workers

Amazon has been under fire for a lot of things, from low wages to working conditions, but the former is about to change.

This morning, the company announced it’ll pay all of its U.S. employees a minimum of $15 an hour. That includes full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. (And like all subsidiaries, Whole Foods workers.) That’s also more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Amazon claims the median salary for a full-time employee in the U.S. is $34,123, and not the $28,446 figure Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) claimed when he proposed a bill that

“would impose a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with 500 or more employees. For example, if an Amazon employee receives $300 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $300.”

Amazon stressed the lower number reflects its employees’ pay worldwide, not just here.

bernie sanders jeff bezos
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos

NPR reports Amazon has more than 250,000 employees, and expects to hire 100,000 more for the coming holiday season.

Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said,

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead.”

Click here for details on pay and benefits from Amazon.

That’s a win for Amazon’s lowest-paid workers, but there’s a loss for Warner Wolf (not that he works at Amazon).

“Let’s go to the verdict!”

I’ve said many times I don’t want to live in Florida and that was even when I lived there. I think the Sunshine State has nothing to offer except a short time to thaw out at the beach in the winter. Oh, and low taxes and some family.

And now, legendary New York sportscaster Warner Wolf lost his age discrimination lawsuit against Don Imus precisely he lives down there! I first brought you this story back on Feb. 18.

Wolf is best known as the sportscaster who popularized the phrase “Let’s go to the videotape!”

He claimed he was fired from shock jock Don Imus’ radio show — which went off the air earlier this year — due to age discrimination.

According to yesterday’s New York Daily News,

“In a ruling released last week, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James d’Auguste wrote that the 80-year-old Wolf’s residence in the premier state for retirees means the suit fails on jurisdictional grounds.

“‘Due to the fact that Wolf is a Florida resident that worked in Florida, he lacks any viable claims…since the impact of any alleged discriminatory conduct would have been in Florida,’ d’Auguste wrote.”

The judge also noted Imus lives in Texas and at 78, he’s in the same age category.

The Associated Press had reported Wolf’s suit claimed

“Imus once said it was time to put Wolf ‘out to pasture’ and ‘shoot him with an elephant dart gun.’”

Wolf’s firing happened in 2016, months after he moved to Naples, Fla., and contributed to the show from there.

“We tried it. It sucks,” Imus emailed shortly before Wolf’s final appearance. “If you’re in the studio in New York … it’s terrific. Anything else is not.”

But Imus himself left the Big Apple a year earlier, in 2015, to live on a ranch in the Lone Star State! The rest of the crew worked out of New York.

That included controversial sportscaster Sid Rosenberg for the show’s last year and a half.

As planned before the suit, the sun set on “Imus in the Morning” on March 29.

Wolf’s lawyer says they’ll appeal.

From radio and TV, to your computer and smartphone.

Sunday was a big day and not just for football fans. This involves every single one of you who uses the Internet.

black laptop computer keyboardLast December, the Federal Communications Commission under President Trump’s appointed chairman Ajit Pai repealed many net neutrality rules passed in 2015 during the Obama administration. Those rules prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing down or blocking content, or charging for access to certain sites. Consider it Internet freedom and equal access. You pay for a month and should be able to use it as you like.

In January, 22 state attorneys general sued, claiming the FCC’s decision was “arbitrary,” “capricious” and “an abuse of discretion.”

ajit pai jerry brown
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (R), California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

Finally, Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill to restore Obama-era open-Internet rules in the Golden State. According to Deadline, it “forbids Internet providers from blocking legal websites, intentionally slowing down Internet traffic or demanding fees for faster service.”

apple applications apps cell phone
Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

But later Sunday, the Justice Department sued to prevent the law from taking effect. It argued broadband communications are interstate commerce and that’s regulated by the federal government, not the states.

The FCC wants to deregulate the industry and its repeal actually, specifically forbids states from passing their own net neutrality rules. Pai, a former Verizon lawyer (think Fios), claims net neutrality stifles investment and burdens ISPs with regulation.

The feds’ net neutrality rules are set to take effect in January for the rest of us.

angry woman
https://pixabay.com/

Unfortunately, this post isn’t ending as happily as it started.

I’ve watched and studied politics for decades, and written about it many times here. But lately, I’ve come to hate the subject. Any wonder why?

TV news anchor Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) probably had a similar feeling in the 1976 movie Network.

We may even be at the point where he screamed,

“We know things are bad — worse than bad. They’re crazy!”

(Let me know in the comments section below.)

The line

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

became so popular, it ranked number 19 on the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema, released June 21, 2005, for the organization’s 100th anniversary. Network itself came in number 66 in the movie category. (The number 1 quote was Clark Gable as Rhett Butler saying

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”

in Gone with the Wind. The number 1 movie was Citizen Kane.) Movie fans, click here for a complete look at all of the AFI’s lists.

And thanks, Todd, for having me watch this years ago. New readers will come to learn I’m not the best with movies. Last month, I finally watched another 1976 movie classic, shot right across the street.

Rocky became the highest-grossing film of the year (spawning six sequels) and went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture. As for the AFI, it’s movie number 78, number 2 in sports after Raging Bull (click here for genres) and quote number 80.

(“Yo, Adrian!”)

And the scene there last week, if you follow me on Twitter, or just look at the feed on right side of this page (below on mobile):

Now, what you can do (rather than sticking your head out the window in the rain):

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 midterm elections – just 35 days away – is a week from today (Oct. 9) in Pennsylvania, two weeks from today (Oct. 16) in New Jersey, next Saturday (Oct. 13) in Delaware, next Friday (Oct. 12) in New York, and next Thursday (Oct. 11) in Florida (and I meant what I said). That should cover most of you. (Click here if it doesn’t.) Make sure you’re registered, learn about your candidates, and take a moment to note Tuesday, Nov. 6, on your calendar right now. (You may even get a sticker!)

Again, please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

Sinclair sinks, Trump’s temper, Cox’s cash value

There’s something to be said for waiting before starting to write. That’s not my nature. I want to get things out first. I type very well but nobody can do it as quickly as my brain, so I often dictate into a phone and email myself. Then, I make any corrections and additions, and create the graphics and email preferences.

But this saga of Sinclair Broadcast Group trying to buy Tribune Media that has been going on for more than a year and suddenly failing last week – supposedly failing – is full of interesting details.

NO sinclair tribune

I wrote about a lot of them, Tuesday night. That was mostly background. You know how little I admire Sinclair and the people who run it. Tonight, you’ll see exactly what went wrong for the deal and what I think should be done. Let’s just say what went wrong could’ve been a lot of what I wrote Tuesday night!

I’m going to suggest starting by reading that last post, if you haven’t. It gives a lot of background about why Sinclair is so despised – that I’ve written about for months but conveniently put in one place – so there’s no sense repeating it here.

cox media group

But first, the latest, and that’s Cox Media Group – one of the best corporations owning TV stations out there, and a private one – is exploring putting itself up for sale.

Yesterday, FTVLlive’s Scott Jones got a secret copy of the talking points Cox managers are supposed to use while talking to employees. Let’s face it, “talking points” is another phrase meaning public relations. In other words, they’re trying to convince the workers to keep working extra hard because everything is going to be great! (I hope you used your best Tony the Tiger when you read that.)

Of course, that’s not how employees are feeling. When your company suddenly sets itself up to be bought, there is lots of uncertainty. You know spending will go down and jobs will not be filled, so the company’s financials look more attractive. And being bought by another major established company could lead to layoffs. But you know that’s not in the talking points which you can see below in this six-page slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cox’s 14 TV stations are pretty good and most are highly-rated ones. From left to right, by row, they’re the ABC affiliate in Atlanta; ABC and independent in Orlando; Fox in Boston; CBS in Seattle; NBC in Pittsburgh; ABC and independent in Charlotte; Fox and CBS in Jacksonville; Fox in Memphis; CBS in Dayton, Ohio; Fox in Tulsa, Okla.; and also a “supply-side platform that brings automation and data-driven targeting to the buying and selling of television advertising” called Videa.

cox stations

There are also 61 radio stations, 4 daily newspapers, 11 non-daily papers, 16 digital brands, and one local cable channel.

FTVLive’s Scott Jones also got a market analyst report from Wells Fargo about how much Cox Media may be worth. The answer it gives is $2.65 billion, but consider many factors including the number of willing buyers, whether the stations get split up, and whether Tribune goes back on the market.

wells fargo cox

See Tuesday’s post for a lot more links to, and details on, the rest of Atlanta-based Cox.

So FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was arguably putting himself on the line while supporting the Sinclair-Tribune merger when surprisingly, last week, he said in a statement:

“Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair-Tribune transaction. … The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. … When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues.”

How surprising?

Pai embraced the merger so much, he’s under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for allegedly greasing the wheels by bringing back the UHF discount rule weeks before the deal was announced. That way, the new, larger company could still meet the FCC ownership limit of 39 percent of U.S. households, rather than vastly exceeding them.

— UPDATE: The FCC inspector general cleared Chairman Ajit Pai of being unfairly biased in favor of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–Tribune Media merger. —

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair’s reach now, without Tribune

Then yesterday – at an awkward moment for Pai, Sinclair and Tribune – a Washington-based U.S. Appeals Court rejected a challenge to the FCC reinstating the UHF discount that could’ve and could still pave the way for the merger. The three-judge panel was comprised of two President Barack Obama nominees and one President Trump nominee. They dismissed the case on technical grounds without considering its merits, ruling the activist groups that filed suit hadn’t shown they’d be injured by the consolidation at the heart of their case. What this really means is Tribune could be worth more if it pulls out of the deal, because other potential suitors will have more flexibility to make offers. Tribune can leave Sinclair at the alter/chuppah on Aug. 8.

The UHF discount, started in 1985, let companies with UHF (channels 14+) stations only count half the coverage area towards the ownership limit. But that was when there was a big difference between watching channels 2 to 13, and channels 14+. With today’s technology – and cable, satellite and computers added to the mix, and broadcast signals digital rather than analog – the quality looks the same. The rule was ended in 2016, just before the end of President Obama’s administration.

So why bring back the rule last year? For big corporations, up against the ownership limit, urging Pai to reinstate it so they could buy more stations – exactly what Sinclair needed to merge with Tribune.

According to Variety, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, the sole Democrat on the FCC at the time, warned it would diminish diversity, competition, and localism, and she predicted a wave of mergers and acquisitions.

Variety wrote at the time,

“She showed a chart from Bloomberg showing how major station groups benefit from the discount. The largest, ION Media, reaches 33.7% of the country with the discount, but 65.2% without. Univision reaches 23.6% with the discount, but 44.8% without. When the discount was repealed last summer, station groups were allowed to retain their existing holdings, but they would be forced to divest assets in the event of a merger or corporate takeover.”

tv owner population share

But Pai argued the FCC would start examining the media ownership cap and reinstating the UHF discount would give the FCC a “blank slate.” The examination started in December.

generic tvA year later, in April 2018, Variety reported a panel of appellate judges asked why the FCC reinstated the rule and raised some concerns. Two of the three judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals also expressed concerns the FCC had restored a rule that was considered obsolete.

According to Variety, Judge Gregory Katsas noted to the FCC’s attorney, James Carr, that while the FCC

“might want to raise the cap,” there was “no reason for thinking at that the end of the day, part of the solution will be keeping the discount.”

“I think that is probably fair, your honor,” Carr replied. He argued that the UHF discount shouldn’t be eliminated without considering its implications to the 39% cap.

Meanwhile, CEO Chris Ruddy of conservative TV news network Newsmax said, “The judges on the D.C. Circuit reviewing the FCC’s UHF discount were left scratching their heads wondering why the rule was re-instated when everyone — Republicans and Democrats alike — agree that the discount is an analog relic and makes no sense in a digital world.

“The FCC should avoid the appearance of impropriety and proceed with a transparent national ownership cap proceeding to set a level playing field before approving any merger that benefits just one company, namely Sinclair.”

He also said he told President Trump strict limits on national TV ownership are needed not only to keep a lid on Sinclair, but also on the ‘liberal’ broadcast networks.

I told him [Trump] about my opposition because Sinclair would reach 70 percent of U.S. homes and — while I don’t disagree necessarily with Sinclair’s editorial point of view — I did not want to see NBC and ABC and the big liberal networks…[reaching] 70 percent.

“I think that would have been very dangerous if NBC was dictating the local news coverage in Des Moines, Iowa,” Ruddy said.

Keep in mind, Ruddy’s Newsmax and also Sinclair want to challenge Fox News Channel for conservative news viewers.

Politico summed it up by saying,

“Sinclair has been a frequent target for Democrats and liberal groups disturbed by reports that it favors President Donald Trump in its coverage via ‘must-run’ segments pumped to its network of stations.”

During the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reported Sinclair

“gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign” while airing negative stories on Hillary Clinton, and Politico reported “on a boast by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner that the president’s campaign had struck a deal with the broadcast group for better media coverage. Sinclair disputed the characterization, saying it was an arrangement for extended sit-down interviews that was offered to both candidates.”

Also, it was Trump who nominated Pai for the agency’s top post, so most experts felt the merger would eventually get the go-ahead due to President Trump’s public comments praising the media company, which boasts a conservative-leaning, anti-mainstream media news operation.

My last post mentioned many different cases of using shell companies under Sinclair’s control to still broadcast on more stations than allowed. Those so-called sidecar arrangements let Sinclair keep a stake in the revenue and programming of the spun-off stations.

I even asked, “Why was the FCC the last to find out? Or did it know and ignore the facts for political reasons?”

Today, I found a new example of a virtual triopoly (three stations in a market), when the FCC only allows duopolies (two stations in a market) and only under certain conditions.

So what changed? Politico reports problems in three cities.

WGN-TV

First, in Chicago, the plan was to sell

“WGN to Steven Fader, a Maryland business associate of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith who oversees car dealerships.”

According to Reuters,

“The draft order circulated by Pai’s office … said Sinclair’s actions around the divestiture of TV station WGN in Chicago ‘includes a potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor.’”

Ouch! Not good for a company licensed to use the public airwaves. I used another example below and then offered a suggestion about what should happen to Sinclair.

Adweek added,

“The FCC feels Smith selling the asset to his friend and business associate presents a problem,”

and I’ll say the price of $60 million is ludicrous, considering the station is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to The Chicago Tribune,

“The WGN services agreement would have kept Sinclair in charge of everything from programming to ad sales while giving it an option to buy back the station for the same price, subject to adjustments, within eight years.”

WPIX

Sinclair was also supposed to sell WPIX-New York, the nation’s largest TV market by far, for a measly $15 million to that same Cunningham Broadcasting, a company with close ties to the Smith family. That caused Pai to say he was concerned Sinclair’s proposed sales in Chicago and New York may have attempted to deceive the government.

Adweek said also troubling

“were the deals to sell stations in Dallas and Houston to Cunningham Broadcasting.”

The Tribune reported,

“The proposal also included an option to buy the stations back.”

According to Reuters,

“Separate filings with the FCC last month by the American Civil Liberties Union and conservative news outlet Newsmax Media” … raised “questions about whether Sinclair would continue to control some of the stations it proposes to divest.”

So Politico said,

“Pai announced an administrative law judge would review the station spinoff issues. The FCC takes that step when companies fail to persuade it that a transaction, even with conditions, would be in the public interest.”

Ars Technica reported the decision by FCC commissioners to adopt a Hearing Designation Order and have a judge review aspects of the deal was unanimous. Other options were

“denying the merger outright, approving the merger, or approving it with conditions.”

Click here for the full order. One of the key parts reads:

“Among these applications were three that, rather than transfer broadcast television licenses in Chicago, Dallas, and Houston directly to Sinclair, proposed to transfer these licenses to other entities. The record raises significant questions as to whether those proposed divestitures were in fact “sham” transactions. By way of example, one application proposed to transfer WGN-TV in Chicago to an individual (Steven Fader) with no prior experience in broadcasting who currently serves as CEO of a company in which Sinclair’s executive chairman has a controlling interest. Moreover, Sinclair would have owned most of WGN-TV’s assets, and pursuant to a number of agreements, would have been responsible for many aspects of the station’s operation. Finally, Fader would have purchased WGN-TV at a price that appeared to be significantly below market value, and Sinclair would have had an option to buy back the station in the future. Such facts raise questions about whether Sinclair was the real party in interest under Commission rules and precedents and attempted to skirt the Commission’s broadcast ownership rules. Although these three applications were withdrawn today, material questions remain because the real party-in-interest issue in this case includes a potential element of misrepresentation or lack of candor that may suggest granting other, related applications by the same party would not be in the public interest.”

This keeps getting better!at&t time warner

Politico said an administrative law judge was called in 2015 with the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal. The companies later abandoned it, rather than go through the hearing process. AT&T ended up with Time Warner, at least for now, after a federal judge allowed it without conditions, but the Justice Department is appealing.

By last Wednesday, Reuters reported Sinclair announced it would not divest the three TV stations currently owned by Tribune

“to ‘expedite’ the transaction after the FCC suggested the company would still control the stations,” and “two FCC officials who did not wish to be identified said Wednesday they believe the merger will not be able to proceed.”

Instead, Sinclair itself will acquire WGN-Chicago, and put KDAF-Dallas and KIAH-Houston into a divestiture trust and sold by an independent trustee (if the acquisition is finalized).

The Justice Department is also still reviewing the deal and the FCC may have even more concerns.

Sinclair denied any effort to mislead the FCC and issued this long statement:

“While neither Sinclair or Tribune have seen the draft HDO, Chairman Pai’s comments and press reports indicate the FCC is questioning the proposed divestitures in Dallas, Houston and Chicago.  Accordingly, in order to address such concerns and to expedite the Tribune transaction, Sinclair has withdrawn the pending divestitures of stations in Dallas (KDAF) and Houston (KIAH) to Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and Tribune has withdrawn the pending divestiture of WGN in Chicago to WGN-TV LLC.  Sinclair intends to request permission from the FCC to put the Dallas and Houston stations into a divestiture trust to be operated and sold by an independent trustee following the closing of the Tribune acquisition.  Sinclair expects to have identified and entered into a purchase agreement with a third party buyer or buyers for the Dallas and Houston stations prior to closing.  As a result of the withdrawal of the application relating to WGN, Sinclair will simply acquire that station as part of the Tribune acquisition, which is, and has always been, fully permissible under the national ownership cap.

“Throughout the FCC review process of the Tribune merger and divestitures, Sinclair has had numerous meetings and discussions with the FCC’s Media Bureau to make sure that they were fully aware of the transaction’s structure and basis for complying with FCC rules and meeting public interest obligations. During these discussions and in our filings with the FCC, we have been completely transparent about every aspect of the proposed transaction. We have fully identified who the buyers are and the terms under which stations would be sold to such buyer, including any ongoing relationship we would have with any such stations after the sales. All relevant agreements documenting such terms as required by FCC rules have been filed. While we understand that certain parties, which oppose the transaction object to certain of the buyers based on such buyers’ relationships with Sinclair, at no time have we withheld information or misled the FCC in any manner whatsoever with respect to the relationships or the structure of those relationships proposed as part of the Tribune acquisition. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded and without factual basis.

“While the structures put forth to the FCC throughout the process have all been in compliance with law and consistent with structures that Sinclair and many other broadcasters have utilized for many years with the full approval of the FCC, we have consistently modified the structure in order to address any concerns raised by the FCC. As a result and in light of the ongoing and constructive dialogue we had with the FCC during the past year, we were shocked that concerns are now being raised. Nonetheless, we have decided to move forward with these additional changes to satisfy the FCC’s concerns.

“There can be no question regarding misrepresentation or character given that Sinclair has fully disclosed all terms of all aspects of the transactions it has proposed. The FCC’s reported concerns with sales to certain parties have been eliminated in light of the withdrawals of the applications relating to Dallas, Houston and Chicago. Accordingly, we call upon the FCC to approve the modified Tribune acquisition in order to bring closure to this extraordinarily drawn-out process and to provide certainty to the thousands of Tribune employees who are looking for closure.”

So what’s next for Tribune? Will it stick by the deal as it said it intends? We don’t know for sure yet, but it has until Aug. 8 and I already mentioned reasons to separate from Sinclair.

This video was made before Cox threw its assets into the ring.

One big winner, so far, could be 21st Century Fox Inc. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who has become close with President Trump.

Bloomberg notes, over the decades, Fox and Sinclair have been in business together, but the conservative organizations have also been rivals.

Sinclair owns dozens of local Fox affiliates. So does Tribune. Last year, Fox tried unsuccessfully to outbid Sinclair for Tribune.

In the meantime, the companies divide the retransmission fees paid by cable and satellite operators (meaning what you and I pay). Networks say local stations have more value because of them.

Former Fox exec Preston Paddon remembers in his blog,

“By 1992, Congress found that cable systems were paying carriage fees to the non-broadcast channels but not to the broadcasters, and that this was unfair to the broadcasters.”

It’s why we pay for free local TV if we’re not watching with an antenna.

Anyway, Sinclair buying Tribune and its own Fox affiliates would’ve given it a stronger negotiating hand in talks with Fox about how to divvy up those fees.

So after losing out on Tribune,

“Fox threatened to pull its affiliates from Sinclair and switch the stations to an independent broadcaster. Eventually, in order to satisfy regulators, Sinclair agreed to sell some Tribune stations to Fox, which, in turn, said it would renew Sinclair’s affiliation with more than two dozen stations.”

Now, Fox may be able to buy even more stations.

And “Sinclair may soon compete with Fox News for right-leaning TV viewers” may not come to pass. It has reportedly been talking about hiring former Fox News stars to create a block of conservative programming using WGN America, which it would acquire, or The Tennis Channel, which it already owns. Former Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn and former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson already work for Sinclair. Politico reported Sinclair has even approached current and former Fox talent such as Jeanine Pirro, and Greta Van Susteren and Eric Bolling. I already wrote Talks with former Fox host Bill O’Reilly fell apart. Sinclair won’t admit to any of that.

Also, the Justice Department appealed the ruling that let AT&T buy Time Warner. That’s good for Fox at the moment because it involves Fox News Channel rival CNN, and may have kept Comcast/NBC from buying most of Fox, as it downsizes to become “New Fox.” Murdoch prefers Disney/ABC buying the assets, which the government already approved, and “the Murdoch family would see more tax benefits in that deal.”

So what’s President Trump’s beef? You already read about his relationship with Sinclair.

Tuesday night, he tweeted it was “sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune,” but Republicans control the FCC, he appointed Ajit Pai as chairman, and Pai has been accused of being too cozy with Sinclair. But except for appointments, the FCC is independent from the White House.

Deadline reported Sinclair commentator Boris Epshteyn, who used to work for Trump, is for the deal. So is Steve Bannon, who got friendly with Sinclair stations in swing states before the election. And Trump has to like Sinclair’s publicity.

The only Democratic FCC commissioner at the moment tweeted her response to the president with just one word: disagree.

But Trump’s friend Rupert Murdoch – who also owns TV stations and the pro-Trump Fox News Channel – is said to be against the merger. That would be especially so if Sinclair starts putting conservative news on cable through WGN America and The Tennis Channel. Trump is so chummy with Murdoch, he called in December to congratulate him on the Disney-21st Century Fox deal.

I wrote another friend, NewsMax chief Chris Ruddy, is definitely against Sinclair-Tribune, as well.

Furthermore, the president compared Sinclair-Tribune to letting “Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast (get) approved” which happened under the Obama administration and FCC. Trump criticized it as being too big.

He didn’t mention it’s on the level of AT&T-Time Warner, which a federal judge recently allowed but the Justice Department is appealing.

The difference between Sinclair-Tribune and Disney-Fox – and NBC-Comcast and AT&T-Time Warner – is that the first pair involve companies that make content but don’t distribute it. In the second pair, NBC and Time-Warner make content, but Comcast and AT&T actually distribute it — Comcast through cable and AT&T by DirecTV satellite, both of which are paid subscription services.

In April, Axios reported President Trump defended Sinclair after the company started

“forcing conservative, pro-Trump editorials on its” news anchors and “Deadspin created a video of Sinclair broadcasters spurning ‘fake news.’

Viewers of Sinclair’s 200-plus local stations had already seen “centrally drafted opinion items reflecting its conservative, often pro-Trump positions,” but not by their own local anchors and certainly not side-by-side along with so many others.

That was at 6:34am. Keep in mind, a great number of Sinclair’s stations are affiliated with the networks.

Then, at 6:58, Trump took on CNN…

and got pushback from its PR department.

CNN reports some Sinclair journalists said they were unhappy with President Trump’s portrayal of the company as “conservative” because they want to be recognized for their straight-forward, nonpartisan work. Despite their stations being forced to air pro-Trump commentaries and stories, most journalists at local stations don’t want to be labeled by the president or anyone else.

As for Sinclair’s claim of more localism if the deal goes through, FTVLive’s Scott Jones found Sinclair station WSYX-Columbus, Ohio, doing a series of reports called “Gator Week” (as opposed to Shark Week, that has been on the Discovery Channel since 1988). Still, Jones thought it was “odd” considering “you don’t see many alligators in Ohio.” Then, he found out about other Sinclair stations doing the same thing, “including WGXA (Macon, Ga.), WPMI (Mobile, Ala.), WPEC (West Palm Beach) and others.” He joked he wasn’t sure it was a must-run.

I, myself, found Shark Week on a retweet from the Cunningham Broadcasting station in mid-Michigan. Maybe WBSF was allowed to go a different route.

WBSF’s “About” section says it’s “owned and operated by Cunningham Broadcasting Corporation and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” So there are three terms/phrases: owned, operated, and “receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” Maybe that’s because just above, it says to send all press releases to news@nbc25news.com. So maybe “certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group” includes press releases.

But wait!

Below, there are nbc25news email addresses for comments, webmaster (the Sinclair owned, operated, and apparently “affiliated” websites all look similar), contests and weather.

And below that are Sinclair (sbgi.net) email addresses for corporate, two for national advertising, and the secondary person for closed-captioning concerns.

So maybe those are all the “certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.”

That’s all very interesting since I knew Sinclair controlled two other stations in the same location!

NBC affiliate WEYI has on its “about” section (with the same look) that it’s “owned and operated by Howard Stirk Holdings, LLC and receives certain services from an affiliation of Sinclair Broadcast Group.” That entire phrase is merely a substitution for Armstrong Williams’ company and we established in my last post that WEYI is one of a few Howard Stirk stations run by Sinclair. They also use the nbc25news email, but it’s more appropriate here.

Then there’s Fox affiliate WSMH that has on its “about” section (with the same look, of course) that it’s – wait for this! – actually “owned and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group.” The email addresses are all wsmh.com. The “receives certain services” phrase is not there.

I did notice after the paragraph with the name of the owner, etc., and ties to Sinclair, is another called “Community Involvement.”

What’s funny is that all three stations start with “The owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group, LLC. continue to broaden its recruiting outreach…”

That means “the owner” can be whichever company actually holds the station license and it’s not named here, just referred to as “the owner,” out of laziness.

But what’s especially funny here is saying “The owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group” when Sinclair is really the owner!

But seriously, how does Sinclair operate the three stations with the same address, etc.? We learned in my last post that’s not allowed in Baltimore, with Sinclair, Cunningham and Deerfield Media. In fact, in Nov., 2012, TVNewsCheck reported the situation as “a virtual triopoly.”

The FCC’s webpage called Broadcast Ownership Rules clearly states in its section, Local TV Multiple Ownership:

“An entity is permitted to own up to two TV stations in the same Designated Market Area if either:

  • “The service areas – known as the digital noise limited service contour – of the stations do not overlap

  • “At least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination”

That’s the summary in its entirety! The stations cover the same area. An old website reports “eight full-power television stations in the Flint-Saginaw-Bay City market,” the others being CBS and ABC affiliates, two PBS affiliates and a religious broadcaster.

And the NBC, Fox and CW stations are controlled by the same company, for all intents and purposes. I’d bet the CW station is not in the top four rated, but the rules are for an entity “to own up to two TV stations” – just two!

(The MyNetworkTV affiliate is on a sub-channel of the CBS affiliate.)

I just found the mid-Michigan situation by accident and wonder how many other cities this has been going on in.

TVNewsCheck’s Harry A. Jessell put it this way, and then made lists of winners and losers at this point:

“Its mishandling of its merger application has badly stained its permanent FCC record in a way that could greatly complicate its future regulatory dealings. … And a liar is what the FCC has accused Sinclair of being by obfuscating the fact it would continue to control three major market stations that it told the FCC it would spin off to other broadcasters to comply with ownership limits.

“You see, the FCC acts on the honor system. It presumes that you are obeying all the rules and expects you to confess any infractions. It’s the principal way the FCC polices those it regulates. That’s why lying – the ever-polite FCC calls it “misrepresentation” or “lack of candor” – is taken seriously and is the FCC equivalent of a capital crime. … As the lawyers pointed out to me this week, once indicted for misrepresentation as Sinclair has now been, it sticks because it goes to the broadcaster’s basic character qualifications to be a licensee. It cannot buy or sell a station or even renew a license until it resolves the character question. Sinclair’s best move now is to walk away from the merger and promise, no, swear on a stack of Bibles, that it will never, ever mislead the FCC again.

“Sinclair has no one but itself to blame for this fiasco. It pushed too hard to keep as many of the Tribune stations as it could and somewhere along the line lost sight of the larger goal – get the transfer through the FCC and get to closing. … (David Smith) kept going back to the FCC (and the Justice Department) demanding more and more. Ironically, he will likely end up with nothing, except maybe a new set of regulatory hassles.”

Bloomberg quotes B. Riley FBR Inc. analyst Barton Crockett, who said in a note he has

“never seen such ‘harsh’ language from the FCC about an applicant for a merger. The ‘vitriolic’ tone of the FCC statement makes it dubious that Sinclair and Tribune will be able to come back with divestitures that will satisfy the FCC.”

Bottom line: Anyone who knows me knows I can be tough, especially on myself. The people who run and invest in the nation’s largest media company have been breaking rules all over the place for many years. It’s time the FCC gets extremely serious so it’s taken seriously when protecting the public interest from those using the public airwaves.

Does anyone remember the RKO situation? Have a seat and look for similarities. (I wrote this with information from several Wikipedia listings.)

RKO General 1962
1962 logo

RKO General was the main holding company through 1991 for the non-core businesses of the General Tire and Rubber Company.

It had been in broadcasting since 1943, and General Tire bought the RKO Radio Pictures movie studio in 1955, but dissolved it in 1959. From then until 1991, it operated six TV stations and more than a dozen radio stations. It also holds the record for the longest licensing dispute in television history.

KHJThe trouble began in 1965. RKO General applied for license renewal of KHJ-TV in Los Angeles (now KCAL-Channel 9). A local group, Fidelity Television, challenged it, charging RKO with second-rate programming, and later and more seriously, that General Tire conditioned its dealings with certain vendors on the basis they’d buy advertising time on RKO General stations. These “reciprocal trade practices” are considered anti-competitive. RKO and General Tire executives testified before the FCC and rejected the accusations. Four years later, in 1969, the commission issued an initial finding that Fidelity’s claims were correct.WNAC RKO

That same year, RKO faced a license challenge for WNAC-TV in Boston (now WHDH-Channel 7, not to be confused with the old WHDH-Channel 5), again charged with reciprocal trade practices.

WOR RKOFour years later, in 1973, the FCC ruled in favor of RKO in the Los Angeles case, pending findings in the still-ongoing Boston investigation. The next year, in 1974, when RKO applied for license renewal of WOR-TV in New York (now WWOR-Channel 9, technically Secaucus, NJ), the FCC conditioned the renewal on the Boston case as well.

SIDEBAR: Another Boston FCC case lasted 15 years – not the record, but from sign-on to sign-off – and involved the former WHDH-Channel 5. The DuMont Television Network applied for a construction permit for the channel, but shut down its network before getting it. The Boston Herald Traveler Corporation got the license, signed on in 1957, and shortly after, the FCC started investigating allegations of impropriety in the granting of the television license. (Allegedly, the controversy was over luncheon meetings the newspaper’s chief executive had with an FCC commissioner during the original licensing process.) So the old channel 5 (WHDH) never had a license longer than six months at a time while the standard was three years.

Eventually, the FCC ordered comparative hearings and in 1969, a local group called Boston Broadcasters was granted a construction permit for a new station on channel 5 called WCVB after it promised to air more local programming than any other station in America at the time. That’s even though the old channel 5 (WHDH) often broadcast more local programming than any other commercial TV station in Boston. Herald-Traveler Corporation lost its court case in 1972 and WCVB went on the air in its place. Luckily, everyone on the old channel 5 moved to the new channel 5 which still broadcasts from the suburb of Needham, since the old WHDH-TV refused to sell its studios, transmitter and tower to the new WCVB, which is now owned by Hearst.

NOW BACK TO THE STORY: In June, 1974, an administrative law judge renewed the WNAC-Channel 7 Boston license even after finding General Tire and RKO General had engaged in reciprocal trade practices. In December, 1975, a company competing for the license called Community Broadcasting asked the FCC to revisit the case. It alleged General Tire bribed foreign officials, maintained a slush fund for U.S. political campaign contributions, and misappropriated revenue from overseas operations. RKO denied all the allegations during a year-and-a-half series of proceedings. Then, in July, 1977, General Tire admitted to an eye-popping litany of corporate misconduct, including the bribery and slush fund charges, in order to settle an action brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. But the TV situation wasn’t over yet. Still, the RKO proceedings dragged on!

Finally, in 1980, after a half-decade of hearings and investigations, the FCC stripped RKO of WNAC’s license. It found RKO “lacked the requisite character” to be the station’s licensee and gave as examples, the reciprocal trade practices of the 1960s, false financial filings by RKO, and General Tire’s gross misconduct in non-broadcast fields.

But the worst was RKO’s dishonesty before the FCC. During hearings, RKO withheld evidence of General Tire’s misconduct, including the fact the SEC had been investigating the company in 1976. RKO also denied it had improperly reported exchanges of broadcast time for various services, despite indications to the contrary in General Tire’s 1976 annual report. So the FCC found RKO had displayed a “persistent lack of candor” over its own and General Tire’s misdeeds, which threatened “the integrity of the Commission’s processes.” That FCC ruling meant RKO lost the KHJ-TV Los Angeles and WOR-TV New York licenses as well.

RKO appealed to the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld the revocation solely on the basis of RKO’s lack of candor. It wrote in its opinion, “[t]he record presented to this court shows irrefutably that the licensee was playing the dodger to serious charges involving it and its parent company.” But the court interpreted the candor issue so narrowly that it applied only to WNAC-TV, and ordered rehearings for WOR and KHJ. RKO General appealed again, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1982, SCOTUS refused to review the license revocation, and it was over. RKO General sold WNAC’s assets to New England Television (NETV), a new company from the merger of Community Broadcasting and another competitor for the license, the Dudley Station Corporation. The FCC granted a full license to NETV on channel 7, which it renamed WNEV-TV. Since then, the station changed its call letters to WHDH-TV, had low ratings, and was sold to Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. (This WHDH has no relation to the old WHDH-Channel 5.)

It could’ve been worse. In 1983, the FCC began taking competing applications for all of RKO’s broadcasting licenses, but Congress passed a law sponsored by Sen. Bill Bradley requiring the commission to automatically renew the license of any commercial VHF-TV station relocating to a state without one, meaning New Jersey and Delaware. Two months later, RKO General officially changed WOR’s city of license from New York to Secaucus, NJ, where it remains on paper. The FCC made the station move its main studio there and step up coverage of events in the Garden State. Still, WOR maintained its identity as a New York station. (It’s now owned by Fox, which also owns WNYW-Channel 5, and got rid of channel 9’s newscasts.)

In 1984, RKO sold its Radio Networks operation to United Stations. In 1986, under pressure, RKO put WOR up for sale. MCA/Universal won the bidding war and the FCC approved the purchase. In 1987, MCA changed the call letters to WWOR. (Remember the slogan Universal 9, about 15 years before NBCUniversal was formed?)

RKO was lucky it sold WOR. In 1987, an FCC administrative law judge found it unfit to be a broadcast licensee due to a long history of deceptive practices he called the worst case of dishonesty in FCC history, and ordered RKO to surrender the licenses for its two remaining two TV stations and 12 remaining radio stations. RKO declared all of the employees responsible for the misconduct had been fired and appealed, claiming the ruling was deeply flawed. But the FCC made it clear it would probably reject any appeals and strip the licenses, and urged RKO to sell everything before that became necessary.

In 1988, under an FCC-supervised deal, the license of KHJ-Los Angeles was granted to Fidelity, the company that had originally challenged RKO General. Fidelity then transferred it to Disney, before it bought ABC, for $324 million. RKO got about two-thirds and Fidelity got the rest. By 1991, everything was sold. (Fort Lauderdale-Miami’s WAXY-FM 105.9 – which labeled itself “an RKO radio station” before giving its call letters, near the end – was sold in 1990. That was 28 years ago! Unbelievable!)

TVNewsCheck’s Harry Jessell put it this way:

“When people are making comparisons between your station group and RKO General, you know you have screwed up.”

I think there are too many changes going on in the industry right now as technology improves so quickly. Jessell mentioned certain former FCC commissioners would’ve gone the RKO route with Sinclair. I agree because now more than ever, broadcasters use the public airwaves and must pay us back with public service under tougher rules than its competitors. And the FCC needs complete and total honesty, with so much on its hands.

Sinclair needs to be brought down similarly for all it has done, with the same family as owners and no concern for anything but profit over the decades. The stations should be separated. Local broadcasters or broadcasting groups with no other industry interests should be given first shot at the stations. Then, they can hire experienced people with original ideas, and decisions would be made right there in the studio building.

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Comey comes alive with tough talk against Trump

comey bookI didn’t know much about James Comey until about two years ago. Since then, I thought pretty highly of the guy and that really hasn’t changed.

Arguably, Comey was the big political story of the week – so far.

Today, his new book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership was officially released and Sunday, it was ABC News’ 20/20 that got the first interview in the Comey media blitz to promote it.

One hour of George Stephanopoulos’ five hour interview aired Sunday night, at least in most places.

I say that because a TV news director friend in Virginia wrote about the nasty reception he and his team got because they had to break away to report on severe storms (a technical term, not just anybody’s opinion) and a tornado warning in the area. See and read for yourself how potentially saving lives, safety and property turned into a major inconvenience from some loudmouths. Always has, always will. Good thing this wasn’t a soap opera! I especially love the comment that people were able to watch the interview at another time on demand, or watch clips and commentary on any channel for days after.

shane

I have to say, his problem could’ve been worse. I don’t know what the CBS station there – his competition – did. They were carrying the Academy of Country Music Awards and this was Virginia!comey widener

Anyway, James Comey is scheduled to be in Philadelphia as part of Widener University’s Philadelphia Speakers Series at the Kimmel Center. That’s Oct. 1 at 8.

Widener’s bio says,

“Comey was appointed Deputy U.S. Attorney General by President George W. Bush. Appointed FBI Director in 2013 by President Obama, he served until 2017 when fired by President Trump amidst political storms regarding the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

Sounds like a serious career guy who had important supporters in both parties who promoted him to positions of increasing responsibility.

I was sick and asleep, and didn’t watch the Stephanopoulos-Comey interview. I saw some clips on Monday.

According to this ABCNews.com article that was published in the middle of the interview (10:22pm), everyone including Comey thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and become the nation’s first female president. He said he believes President “Obama, possibly Russian President Vladimir Putin and even” Donald Trump “thought Clinton was going to win, too.”

hillary clinton donald trump

Meanwhile, Comey was leading the investigation of Clinton’s handling of emails. ABC News reported, “He says that the assumption of a Clinton victory ‘must have’ influenced his actions in the email investigation, though he says not consciously.”

“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was gonna beat Donald Trump. And so I’m sure that it was a factor,” Comey admitted. “Like I said, I don’t remember spelling it out, but it had to have been. That she’s gonna be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out,” he told Stephanopoulos. That’s understandable and believable for someone in a tough position.

After the election and its surprising results to many, he said, “I heard the president [Obama] say, as I recount in the book, ‘Putin backed the wrong horse.’ That is, all of us were operating in a world where the polls were showing that Donald Trump had no chance.”

Comey added, “Obama’s remark was made in relation to when and if the intelligence community and White House should go public with their findings about Russian interference in the election.”

Specifically, “I think what the president meant by that was the Russian effort is wasted,” according to Comey, “and so why should we help them by announcing what they’re doing when their work is not gonna achieve their goal?”

Stephanopoulos mentioned an announcement like that

“would give people a reason to question the outcome of the election” and Comey agreed, since “Donald Trump was already saying, ‘If I lose, that means the system is rigged.’ And so if the Obama administration comes out saying, ‘The Russians are trying to help elect Donald Trump,’ that walks right into his narrative that’s, ‘See, I told ya,’ that the whole system is fixed and you can’t trust the American democratic process. And the Russians would have accomplished their goal.”

But he decided to keep the fact the FBI was investigating interactions between a “small number of Americans” from the Trump campaign and Russians private until months after the election.

hillary clinton book“That was actually not a hard call, given the sensitivity of the matter and that it was ongoing. We didn’t wanna tip anybody off,” he explained, adding President Obama didn’t want to be seen as having tipped the scale in Clinton’s favor.

Clinton wrote in her book What Happened, she “felt I’d been shivved” by Comey “three times over the final five months of the campaign.”

That’s not entirely true, considering Comey went on national TV less than five months before, specifically described what his FBI investigation found what Clinton had and had not done, and concluded she should not face charges.

Statement by FBI Director James B. Comey on the Investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Personal E-Mail System
July 5, 2016

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information. … None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.”

Then, with the FBI’s recommendation to the Department of Justice:

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.
“In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.
“To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.”

Sounds great for the Democrats who were a shoo-in against Donald Trump, right? That was four months and three days before the election but may as well have been years before Americans went to the polls.

In fact, the Democratic National Convention here in Philadelphia wasn’t even held until July 25-28 and some Bernie Sanders supporters hadn’t given up, despite the delegate count including superdelegates who make up just under 15 percent of all Democratic convention delegates. And they were angry over the party machine including Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile.

Trump had just won the nomination a week earlier, July 18-21, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. That was despite speculation everyone in the GOP against Trump would suddenly embrace somebody else.

But who could forget Comey coming out late on that Friday, just 11 days before the election?

According to Politico on Oct. 28, 2016 – you may even remember when you heard the news – “Democrats have soured on James Comey.

“In July, they praised the FBI director’s decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. But on Friday, top party officials turned on Comey. …
“Comey sent a letter to several congressional leaders to inform them that the FBI had come across new emails pertinent to its Clinton investigation and would take additional steps to look into them, adding that the FBI did not yet know if the emails were significant and that he did not yet know when the additional review would be finished.
“The letter set off a political firestorm. And while Republicans pounced, Democrats fumed.”

Those new emails were from disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s computer. Weiner was married to Huma Abedin – then vice chair of Clinton’s campaign and before that, deputy chief of staff to the former Secretary of State.

Comey replied “I hope not” to Clinton’s assertion she’d be president if not for the release of the letter 11 days before the election “in which he announced that the FBI would be looking into more emails.”

“But the honest answer is, it wouldn’t change the way I think about it,” he added.

The next day, Politico reported,

“Hillary Clinton and her aides and allies forcefully criticized FBI Director James Comey .. demanding that he release more information about the bureau’s discovery of Clinton-related emails and criticizing him for bad timing.
“At a campaign rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., Clinton said it was ‘pretty strange’ for Comey to ‘put something like that out with such little information right before an election,’ adding: ‘In fact, it’s not just strange; it’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.’”

I don’t believe James Comey hated Hillary Clinton. She was the favorite in the Comey house.

He said in addition to his wife, Patrice, “At least my four daughters, probably all five of my kids, wanted Hillary Clinton to be the first woman president.”

He, himself, told Stephanopoulos he didn’t vote in that election and testified on Capitol Hill that year he’d “been a registered Republican for most of his adult life but wasn’t any longer.”

Comey told lawmakers,

“I’m trying to be outside of politics so [I] intentionally tried not to follow it a lot. And that I shouldn’t be choosing between the candidates. I’m trying to lead an institution that should be separate and other.”

And what about accusations Comey, as ABC News put it, “disclosed a great deal of information about the investigation into Clinton’s emails but did not immediately release information about the probe into some members of Trump’s team and their alleged contacts with Russians?”

He said there were fundamental differences in the cases.

“The Clinton email case … was public, and we were actually investigating the candidate herself; and the counterintelligence investigations trying to figure out whether a small group of people, not Donald Trump — we were not investigating Donald Trump. …
“I get the initial reaction. It seems inconsistent. But if you take the time and look at the posture of the two cases, they’re very, very different. And actually illustrate the rule that we’re following.”

Most of what I heard was Comey going off on the man who fired him last May, President Trump. (Did anybody expect forgiveness?!)

The firing happened while Comey was

“leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election,” according to The New York Times. “The stunning development in Mr. Trump’s presidency raised the specter of political interference by a sitting president into an existing investigation by the nation’s leading law enforcement agency. It immediately ignited Democratic calls for a special counsel to lead the Russia inquiry.”

(See: Mueller, Robert and presidential mistakes.)

trump letter firing comey

The Times continued,

“Mr. Trump explained the firing by citing Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited politically from that inquiry and had once praised Mr. Comey for his “guts” in his pursuit of Mrs. Clinton during the campaign. …
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice (reportedly Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein) that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump wrote to Comey.
“But,” the paper continued, “many in Washington, including veteran F.B.I. officers, saw a carefully choreographed effort by the president to create a pretense for a takedown of the president’s F.B.I. tormentor.”

Comey called Trump unfit to lead the nation, saying the president is “someone for whom truth is not a high value” and who treats women “like they’re pieces of meat.” (I didn’t hear a great deal of defense for the president.)

He touched on many of the Trump administration scandals.

The Huffington Post mentions the Russia dossier “compiled by a former British spy and alleged that footage exists of Trump watching prostitutes urinating in a Moscow hotel suite,” and the litany of sexual misconduct allegations.

The Post reported,

“Comey informed Trump about the allegations in private before his inauguration several times, and he writes in his book that Trump was obsessed with disproving them.”

Comey recalled the president asking, “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?”

He said he wasn’t sure if the rumors were true,

“but said they left the president open to blackmail by the Russian government.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the ― the ― current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know,” Comey said.

He said something similar when Stephanopoulos asked if he thought Russia had “something” on the president.

“I think it’s possible,” Comey said. “I don’t know. These are more words I never thought I’d utter about a president of the United States, but it’s possible.”

Other interview highlights chosen by The Huffington Post:

— In regards to Trump asking Comey to drop his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, there was “certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.”

— Comey said Trump was “of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on.”

Comey summed it up.

“The challenge of this president is that he will stain everyone around him,” but said he’d still be working for the government had he not been removed.

“I was dreading it,” Comey said, noting he’d be “an unhappy F.B.I. director, but in a way proud of the organization and in my role in trying to protect it.”

According to TVNewser, “That took my breath away,” Stephanopoulos said of Comey’s retelling of events. “I thought I knew this story. Collectively we weren’t really ready for everything that he was getting ready to say.”

Republicans had their say about Comey and the interview. In fact, it was apparently on the president’s mind for days.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said Comey would “be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the president of the United States.”

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement,

“James Comey’s publicity tour reaffirms that his true higher loyalty is to himself . … The only thing worse than Comey’s history of misconduct is his willingness to say anything to sell books. He has no credibility and President Trump was right to follow through on the bipartisan calls for him to be fired.”

Who didn’t try to sell their books?

Comey responded in part, “3 presidents are in my book: 2 help illustrate the values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint.”

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership has already sold close to 200,000 copies.

By the way, President Bush’s brother Jeb – the former Florida governor who lost to Trump in the primaries and caucuses – will be speaking as part of the same Widener University Philadelphia Speakers Series on Jan. 28, 2019, at 8.

P.S. Condolences to the Bush family on the loss of former first lady Barbara Bush today

and to the

loved ones of Jennifer Riordan, killed in today’s Southwest Airlines tragedy here in Philadelphia.

Sad Face Emoji

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