Competing realities and conflicting reviews after Trump's State of the Union

Posted February 6, 2019 1:19 a.m. EST

— A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Late of the Union

A month ago, in his prime time Oval Office address, President Trump urged "every citizen" to "CALL CONGRESS and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border." I never heard anything about a surge of calls. Did you? There's no evidence that anything Trump said that night had a lasting effect.

So that's why I'm skeptical that Tuesday night's State of the Union will be any different. But here are Tuesday night's and Wednesday morning's headlines...

Speech audience was most partisan since 2001

Tuesday night's address "drew a deeply Republican audience which largely gave the President strong reviews for his address from the House chamber, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS," Jennifer Agiesta writes.

Quoting from her story: "The audience had the largest partisan tilt measured in any CNN instant poll following a presidential address to Congress dating back to 2001. Viewers this year were roughly 17 points more likely than the general public to identify as Republicans and were largely fans of the President." We'll have some initial ratings info by midday Wednesday...

Competing realities

-- Van Jones on CNN: "A psychotically incoherent speech, with cookies and dog poop."

-- Laura Ingraham on Fox: "There was a lot for people on both sides of the aisle to really love here."

-- "He spent more time on the wall than any other single issue tonight," George Stephanopoulos said on ABC. "Despite the fact that 60% of Americans do not actually want this wall," Cecilia Vega added...

-- Lou Dobbs tweeted: "The President just delivered the nation a hallelujah moment!"

-- "This was not a particularly good speech," Stephen Colbert said on a live "Late Show." But "what it lacked in quality, it made up in length. This speech was like watching paint lie..."

-- Sean Hannity agreed with Eric Trump, who said "It was his best speech he's ever given."

--'s headline right now: "Trump calls for unity in speech that jabs Dems."

Feeding "caravan" fears

If you haven't been watching Fox or reading right-wing websites, you probably haven't heard about the new "caravan." But Trump has heard a LOT about it from his Fox friends. And he brought it up in Tuesday's address.

Here's the context via my CNN Business story: Every morning for the past week, "Fox & Friends" hosts have been talking about a new "caravan" threat... and some of the migrants arrived at the border just in time for the SOTU.

The result: Trump's frightening rhetoric about immigration rings true to Fox viewers, while it strikes many other Americans as extreme — and even a joke...

Correcting Trump's false and misleading claims

Dozens of CNNers are contributing to this detailed and ongoing fact-check of Tuesday night's claims. Check it out here. On TV, Jim Sciutto provided a post-SOTU fact-check about Trump's immigration claims...

-- More: The Post's team says the SOTU was "chockful of stretched facts and dubious figures..." (WaPo)

Trump never mentioned the shutdown...

...But Stacey Abrams brought it up in the Democratic response. Abrams seemed a lot more comfortable than most people tasked with a SOTU rebuttal. Her speech was well-received across all the major networks, from MSNBC to Fox...

Lowry's take

Brian Lowry emails: If SOTU is in part a battle of optics — complete with Oprah-worthy human-interest stories — it was remarkable how effective the white-clad Democratic congresswomen were as a silent but unavoidable rebuke when the camera panned the chamber. That was especially true when they turned Trump's boast about jobs into a reference to his role in the last election's Democratic wave that he seemed slow to grasp.

>> Rachel Maddow immediately seized on the "peace and legislation"/"war and investigation" construction as the line that will likely linger, one that she likened to a bumper-sticker slogan...

Coverage notes

-- A remarkable interactive by CNN's Sam Petulla: "How Trump's State of the Union address compares with 100 years of speeches..."

-- Trump ad-libbed here and there... mostly just adding a couple of words... but this addition was noteworthy. This part in all-caps was not in the prepared text: "I want people to come into our country, IN THE LARGEST NUMBERS EVER, but they have to come in legally."

-- Fact-checker Daniel Dale's take: "You could feel which sections of the speech were authentically Trump and which ones were aides' attempts to get someone on TV to declare that today was the day Trump became president..."

-- Erik Wemple tweeted about the lack of "fake news" barbs: "When was the last time President Trump spoke for nearly an hour without bashing the media?"

-- Eric Bolling hosted post-SOTU coverage on BlazeTV from the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in DC... Katrina Pierson and Sean Spicer stopped by...

About the Dems...

AOC was interviewed live on NBC immediately after the speeches... Cory Booker was live on CBS afterward... Adam Schiff was on CNN... Amy Klobuchar was on MSNBC...

→ And Klobuchar announced that she'll be announcing her 2020 plans in Minneapolis on Sunday...

The late-night comics get their turn

"All in all, this was one of Trump's tamer speeches, believe it or not," Trevor Noah said on a live edition of "The Daily Show" afterward.

He mock-applauded Trump's reading abilities: "I don't know if he's ready for a second term, but he's definitely ready for the second grade."

And he called out one of Trump's "we have not yet begun to dream" line at the end: "In other words, the nightmare is just beginning," Noah said...

What's next

CBS says Jeff Glor will have an "exclusive interview" with VP Mike Pence on Wednesday's "CBS This Morning..."


-- "The more symbolically important Trump's border fight gets, the more desperately he needs to build a literal wall," Dara Lind writes... (Vox)

-- Peter Baker and Michael Grynbaum have details from Trump's off-the-record lunch with TV anchors on Tuesday... (NYT)

-- One of the sad headlines from the NYT story: "Almost 170 days after John McCain died, Donald Trump takes another pot shot at the late senator..." (People)

-- Read more of Tuesday's "Reliable Sources" newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

-- Bill O'Reilly is writing a "history book" about Trump. He spent part of last weekend "in the West Wing and on Air Force One with exclusive access to the president..." (Media Matters)

-- A front-page story in Tuesday's Post: "Myanmar's Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi could release 2 jailed journalists. She has not." (WaPo)

The big picture of Trump's troubles

This graphic is from Tuesday's "Situation Room" on CNN:

It lists six parts of Trumpworld that are under investigation by several different agencies. It's especially notable in light of Trump's SOTU line that "if there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation."

Norah O'Donnell's reaction on Colbert: "He threatened Congress." That line about investigations "was a threat."

Many journalists pointed out that Richard Nixon similarly criticized Watergate investigations in his 1974 SOTU. But there are some big differences between then and now... CNN's Zachary B. Wolf has the details here...

Lisa Napoli's book about the birth of CNN

Coming soon: A new look at the creation of CNN and how it changed the world forever. Broadcaster and author Lisa Napoli is writing "Up All Night: CNN and the Birth of 24 Hour News..." Abrams Press is about to announce that it has acquired the book... And as someone who's known Napoli for 20 years, and now works at CNN, I can't wait to read it! Napoli started her career at CNN, BTW... Back when the channel was still derided as "Chicken Noodle News..." She's been working on the project for months, and wrote this Curbed piece about CNN's original home last summer...

A groundbreaking hire for Axios

Axios has hired Jess Szmajda as CTO -- she will oversee tech staffers and "help lead the media company's expansion into paid products," VF's Joe Pompeo reported Tuesday. "She'll also blaze a trail for other transgender leaders in the industry."

From Pompeo's story: "Axios says it looked at the executive composition of more than 50 news companies, and none of them have a female C.T.O. Axios also says Szmajda will be the first female transgender C.T.O. of a notable media property. Szmajda, who transitioned in August 2017, hopes her hiring will be a step toward greater diversity within media corporate suites..."

Matthew Ball's must-read about "Fortnite"

"Fortnite" reportedly had 10 million concurrent users in virtual "attendance" for a Marshmello concert last weekend. The game has at least 200 million registered accounts. Matthew Ball says the game "likely represents the largest persistent media event in human history."

He also says it's "uniquely positioned to be the start of the Metaverse." Don't wait, read his essay for REDEF here...