From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Documents found at Biden’s old office — deal or no deal?
Date January 11, 2023 12:30 PM
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Many Republicans and opponents of Biden are trying to make comparisons to documents uncovered at the home of former President Trump.  Email not displaying correctly?
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** Documents found at Biden’s old office — deal or no deal?
The building that housed office space of President Joe Biden's former institute, the Penn Biden Center, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

News broke Monday night that lawyers for President Joe Biden found a “small number” of classified documents at the Penn Biden Center, where Biden had an office after he was vice president until just before he launched his presidential campaign in 2019.

CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Marshall Cohen and Evan Perez reported ([link removed]) the documents were dated between 2013 and 2016 and included U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics including Ukraine, Iran and the United Kingdom. The Justice Department is reportedly reviewing the documents.

Let the politics begin.

Many Republicans and opponents of Biden are now trying to make comparisons to documents uncovered at the home of former President Donald Trump. But are the two incidents the same?

No. Not even close.

CNN had a graphic ([link removed]) comparing the two.

Documents found in Biden’s office totaled less than 12, while Trump’s home contained more than 160 secret documents. Only “some” of Biden’s documents were considered “top secret,” while Trump’s “top secret” documents were around 60. Biden is cooperating after his lawyers found the documents and reported their findings. In Trump’s case, the documents were found when the FBI searched Trump’s home after he ignored a subpoena. Trump did not cooperate and is under investigation for obstruction.

The differences are many and obvious, but of course, many Republicans are outraged.

Washington Post columnist Philip Bump wrote ([link removed]) , “You can hopefully see how the Biden document disclosure differs in both scale and significance. Again, we don’t know all of the details of the Biden document production, so this assessment may change. But there’s no indication at this point either that the scale of information withheld from the government is as large or — more importantly — that Biden or his team endeavored to hide the documents from the Justice Department.”

Bump added, “We are by now deep enough into the Trump era of national politics that we are familiar with his attempts to rebut criticism by claiming that his opponents are doing equivalently bad or worse things. This is the approach he’s taking here, and, as always, his allies are echoing and elevating it. It is not a good comparison.”

Even former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove — on Fox News, no less — agrees the comparisons show a big difference.

On Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” ([link removed]) Rove pointed out the differences in the number of documents discovered. He added, “How did they get there? We don’t yet know how the documents got to the Biden office connected with his activities on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania. We know that President Trump ordered the removal of the documents to Mar-a-Lago. How responsive were they? When the Biden people found out about it, they called immediately, called the appropriate authorities and turned them over. We spent a year and a half watching the drama unfold in Mar-a-Lago, and it had to end in a police search to recover the documents.”

Rove even pulled out a whiteboard to show the difference. Still, he did add this could create headaches for the Justice Department, figuring out what to do next.

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** What’s the equation?

It was just over a year ago that Ben Smith left his post as media columnist for The New York Times. Smith joined Bloomberg Media chief executive Justin Smith (no relation) to start Semafor — a global news site.

Semafor launched late last year with Smith continuing his must-read media column for his new site. Meanwhile, the Times has not replaced Smith as its “Media Equation” columnist.

Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein wrote last week ([link removed]) that the Times appears to be in the process of finding Smith’s replacement. Klein writes that a few candidates outside the Times have emerged as contenders, including former CNN media reporter (and former Times reporter) Brian Stelter, Washington Post media writer Sarah Ellison and Puck media columnist Dylan Byers. Klein reports she heard Byers took his name out of contention late last year and that Stelter has met with the Times in recent weeks.

Klein wrote, “It’s surprising for such a high-profile perch — one that Smith made a weekly destination for media junkies not seen since the David Carr era — to be dormant for this long. A Times insider last year told me that Smith’s departure presented an opportunity ‘for rethinking the focus’ of its signature column. And yet, one person who talked to the Times for the gig told me they got the impression that the Times was still trying to figure out what they were doing with the column — and looking for a columnist to come to them with a clear vision for it.”

** Lights, camera, action, and more cameras
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy picks up the gavel as he begins to speak in the House chamber last Saturday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In Tuesday’s newsletter ([link removed]) , I wrote how C-SPAN cameras were allowed to roam free inside the House chamber while Republicans were trying to sort out electing a speaker of the House. Typically, the majority party is in control of the House camera, which usually remains fixed and aimed toward the front of the chamber.

But last week, viewers got a rare look at what was going on in the House. Without a speaker or rules package in place, cameras could move about freely. We saw arguments and a near fight among Republicans. We saw usual enemies (such as Republican Paul Gosar and Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) having civil conversations. It was fascinating stuff.

It all came to an end, however, after McCarthy was elected speaker and the House went back to its traditional fixed camera angle.

On Tuesday, however, Florida Republican Matt Gaetz introduced an amendment to the House rules that would allow C-SPAN cameras to move about freely again.

Gaetz told’s Jessica Chasmar ([link removed]) , “I've received a lot of feedback from constituents about how interesting it was, and that you were able to see in real time how our government is functioning, what alliances are being created, what discussions are being had, what animated moments drive the action. And the pool view of the Congress is antiquated and a little boomer-fied.”

Would others in Congress go for it?

Gaetz told Chasmar, “I have talked to a handful of colleagues and I have yet to encounter one who didn’t view the broader transparency as a net positive.”

Sure, there might be a little grandstanding and showboating by certain House members if they knew they were on camera, but the transparency would outweigh all that. Here’s hoping Gaetz’s suggestion comes to fruition.

C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain, meanwhile, sent a letter ([link removed]) to McCarthy on Tuesday requesting a “few additional cameras” in the House. She wrote, “The public, press and Member reaction to C-SPAN’s coverage — along with the ‘transparency’ themes in your new rules package — have encouraged us to resubmit a request we have made to your predecessors without success: Allow C-SPAN to cover House floor proceedings on behalf of our network and all Congressionally-accredited news organizations.”

** Monday Night Confusion
An ambulance leaves the field with Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin during the first half of an NFL football game on Jan. 2 in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

Last week, the sports world was shaken when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in Cincinnati and needed CPR after a cardiac arrest. Incredibly, all signs are positive. Hamlin has been transported to a hospital in Buffalo and appears to be recovering ahead of hopes and schedule.

But that night was frightening, particularly as Hamlin lay on the field for several minutes. As players cried and prayed around the horrific scene, there was confusion about whether the game would continue or be postponed. During ESPN's broadcast, play-by-play announcer Joe Buck said, “They're going to try to continue to play this game.” Several times he said the teams would be given five minutes to warm up.

Since then, the NFL has insisted it never had an intention of continuing the game. But excellent and detailed reporting from ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. ([link removed]) suggests something else. One unnamed team source told Van Natta, “The league did not cancel the game. The Bills and the Bengals canceled the game.”

Van Natta’s story is a must-read account of what happened that night.

A lot seems to center on Buck saying on air that the game would continue.

The New York Times’ Ken Belson and Jenny Vrentas wrote a story with this headline question: “Who Told Players to Warm Up After Damar Hamlin Collapsed?” ([link removed])

Belson and Vrentas wrote, “According to several executives of networks that show N.F.L. games, the league has the ability to correct announcers during broadcasts. It does not appear that they sent word to Buck to tell him that he was providing incorrect information.”

In an interview with Van Natta, Buck said, “If what I said on national TV with the eyes of the world watching was wrong in the view of the league, I would have been corrected — immediately. And I was not.”

** Sad news

Blake Hounshell, a political journalist at The New York Times and author of its “On Politics” newsletter, died suddenly on Tuesday. He was 44. Times executive editor Joe Kahn sent out a memo ([link removed]) to staff that included this statement from Hounshell’s family:

“It is with great sorrow that we have to inform you that Blake has suddenly died this morning after a long and courageous battle with depression. His wife, Sandy, and two children are in our thoughts and prayers, and ask for respect and privacy at this time.”

Hounshell joined the Times in fall 2021 after working at Politico, where he had various roles including managing editor, digital editorial director, and editor-in-chief of Politico Magazine.

Kahn wrote in his memo, “Blake was a dedicated journalist who quickly diminished himself as our lead politics newsletter writer and a gifted observer of our country’s political scene. He became an indispensable and always insightful voice in the report during a busy election cycle.”

Dozens of journalists and political types tweeted tributes to Hounshell, including CNN commentator David Axelrod, who wrote ([link removed]) , “I had the opportunity to sit down for a long, memorable lunch with Blake Hounshell a few months ago. What a smart, passionate, feeling human being! Like many others, I'm devastated to learn of his passing. My heart goes out to his family. May his memory be a blessing.”

Hounshell wrote as recently as this week, filing this story: “Death Penalty in California Is a Puzzle for Newsom.” ([link removed])

** Media tidbits
* The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum with “Can Ron DeSantis Avoid Meeting the Press?” ([link removed]) Grynbaum wrote, “Although he courted right-wing podcasters and conservative Fox News hosts, Mr. DeSantis did not grant an extensive interview to a national nonpartisan news organization during his 2022 re-election bid — and he coasted to victory, with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire now promoting him as a 2024 contender.”
* The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill with “The Sports Scandal Almost Nobody Is Talking About.” ([link removed])
* Don’t fall for the idea that everyone is sick and tired of the drama involving the royal family. TV numbers suggest otherwise. Anderson Cooper’s interview with Prince Harry on last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” drew 11.2 million viewers. That’s the show’s largest audience of the season.
* Speaking of Harry, his memoir, “Spare,” came out on Tuesday. Here is Alexandra Jacobs’ review ([link removed]) for The New York Times, as well as 11 takeaways ([link removed]) from the Times Books staff.
* My Poynter colleague Angela Fu with “Amid soaring inflation and mass layoffs, news leaders head into 2023 with diminished confidence.” ([link removed])

** Hot type
* The Washington Post’s Danielle Paquette with “He painted a mural of Kanye West. Then a rabbi called.” ([link removed])
* Forbes’ Jemima McEvoy with “Inside The Secretive World Of Shark Tank Deals: Who The Real Winners Are.” ([link removed])
* Esquire’s Alex Belth and Adrienne Westenfeld with “The Best Celebrity Memoirs of All Time.” ([link removed])

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at .

** More resources for journalists
* Subscribe to PolitiFact’s weekly newsletter ([link removed]) . Get facts delivered straight to your inbox.
* Time for a new job ([link removed]) ? Your future employer is looking for you on The Media Job Board — Powered by Poynter, Editor & Publisher and America’s Newspapers. Search now! ([link removed])
* Leadership Academy for Diversity in Media ([link removed]) (Seminar) — Apply by Feb. 17 ([link removed]) .
* Lead With Influence ([link removed]) (Feb. 2023) (Seminar) — Register by Jan 30 ([link removed]) .

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