#HausGoldenGays: Helping the seniors of the drag community during the quarantine – Preen.ph

“Siguro isa yun sa mga character ng pagiging gay. Kasi nga being gay, halos in general, survivalist eh,” is what Ramon Busa of The Golden Gays told Preen.ph in a when asked about how their group of elderly drag queens remains in good spirits despite facing hardships. 

The Home for the Golden Gays was a care facility serving the seniors of the gay community without homes and was established in Pasay during the mid-1970s by LGBT rights activist and columnist Justo Justo. Since the founder’s passing in 2012, many of its members have been living separately in multiple transient shelters. Under the enhanced community quarantine, they are unable to turn to performing in drag or their other jobs—working as a beautician, vendor, street sweeper or trader—for a source of income. Moreover, drag is more than just a job for the Golden Gays. Rey Ravago told us, “Nakakaangat siya ng aura ng isang lola at the same time pag rumarampa na kami, naeenergize kami. Parang buhay na buhay ang aming dugo.”

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lolas are at higher risk due to their old age and lack of income. #HausGoldenGays is a fundraising campaign hosted by Preen.ph for the benefit of The Golden Gays. The donations collected from the drive will be used to help provide for home accommodation, utilities, food, medicine and other supplies needed by the group during the quarantine. One of the lolas, Federico de los Santos Ramasamy aka Lola Rikka, passed away and on Sunday was cremated. Proceeds will also be used to cover expenses related to his passing.

Let’s give back to our elderly drag queens who have served as inspirations and advocates for the Filipino LGBTQ+ community. You may send in your donations through GCASH at 0965 8544 619 or Paymaya at 0916 596 5455.

Let’s help our elderly queens stay golden! 

Photos courtesy of Jack Alindahao

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The General’s Death Upsets Iran’s Plan

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Qassem Soleimani, who was Iran’s most hyped general, loved publishing “selfies” showing himself close to battlegrounds in the Middle East. He was never present anywhere near a battle but was always to come after the dust had settled, to take “selfies” and claim the credit. (Photo by Mehdi Ghasemi/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

While analysts and policymakers are busy speculating on ways that Tehran’s ruling mullahs might avenge the killing of their most hyped general, the real question that needs considering may be elsewhere.

The question is: what effect Soleimani’s death might have on the power struggle that, though currently put on hold, is certain to resume with greater vigor in Tehran.

Tehran’s propaganda tries to sell Soleimani as a kind of superman who, almost single-handedly, brought Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and parts of Afghanistan and Yemen under Iranian control while driving Americans out of the Middle East and crushing ISIS’s so-called Caliphate which tried to rival the Islamic Republic in Tehran. Soleimani himself did a lot to promote that image and, doing that, received much help from Western, especially American, and Israeli media that bought the bundle of goods from Tehran.

Facts, however, offer a different portrait of the late general. Soleimani joined the Islamic revolution in 1980, aged 27, at a time that the mullahs were busy putting together a praetorian guard to protect their new regime. A few months later, the ragtag army that Soleimani had joined was sent to help the remnants of a heavily purged national army fight an invading Iraqi force. With over 8,000 officers and NCOs of the national army purged by Khomeini, the new regime offered a fast track to people like Soleimani who had joined the military with no proper training and often little or no formal education. Thus, just three years after he had joined the military, young Soleimani found himself in command of a division of raw recruits. Under his command, Iranian forces suffered three of their biggest defeats in operations Al-Fajr 8, and Karbala I and Karbala II. Mohsen Reza’i, then chief of the Revolutionary Guard, describes the three battles as “a string of catastrophes” for Iranian forces.

However, Soleimani, who was to demonstrate his genius for networking and self-promotion, scored one lasting victory when he attached himself to Ali Khamenei, the mullah who was to become the Islamic Republic’s “Supreme Guide”.

Khamenei started as Deputy Defense Minister and rose to become President of the Islamic Republic. Soleimani, mocked as “the mullah’s bag-carrier”, was always at his side. In the 1990s, as Khamenei slowly built himself as the sole arbiter of Iran’s fate, Soleimani seized the opportunity to secure a fiefdom for himself.

That came in the shape of the project to “export” the Iranian Revolution to other Muslim countries. Initially, exporting the revolution, mentioned in the regime’s constitution as a sacred duty, had been regarded as a matter of propaganda and organizing sympathizers in Arab countries through outfits named Hezbollah. The task was handled by a special office in the Foreign Ministry headed by Ayatollah Hadi Khosroshahian. Partly thanks to lobbying by Soleimani, the task was taken away from the Foreign Ministry and handed over to the Revolutionary Guard. But even then Soleimani didn’t get the top job, which went to then Col. Ismail Qaani, the man who has now succeeded Soleimani as Commander of the Quds Force. Soleimani’s next move was to dislodge Qaani and get the top job himself. (Qaani was named as deputy). Even that configuration would not satisfy Soleimani, who had bigger ambitions. As long as he was part of the IRGC’s chain of command, he had to obey rules set by superiors whom he despised.

Thanks to Khamenei’s support, he succeeded in securing his independent fiefdom in the shape of the Quds Force which, though formally part of the IRGC, has its own separate budget and chain of command and is answerable to no one but Khamenei.

Next, Soleimani seized control of Tehran’s foreign policy in Arab countries, Afghanistan, North Korea, and South America and, in some sensitive areas, even Russia. The Islamic Republic’s presidents and foreign ministers have never had tête-à-tête talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Soleimani had.

It became a matter of routine for Soleimani to appoint Iran’s ambassadors to Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Doha and several other Arab capitals.

A dramatic illustration of Soleimani’s “independence” came when he shipped Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad to Tehran in a special airplane without even telling the Iranian president, let alone the foreign minister, who were also excluded from the Syrian’s audience with Khamenei.

A control freak, Soleimani insisted on deciding even the smallest details himself. In his one, and now final, interview, last November, the general talks of how Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had to clear every move with him.

Inside Iran, Soleimani built a state within the state. According to the Islamic Customs Office, the Quds Force operates 25 jetties in five of Iran’s biggest ports for its “imports and exports” with no intervention by the relevant authorities. A levy on imports of foreign cars is reserved for a special fund, controlled by the Quds Force, to cover expenditures in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and help pro-Iran Palestinian groups.

Soleimani had his own network of lobbyists in many Arab countries and some Western democracies. Hundreds of Iranian and Arab militants have enrolled in Western universities with scholarships from the Quds Force.

The Quds Force has registered vast tracts of public land in its name, claiming the need for future housing for its personnel. It also runs two dozen companies and banks, several shipping lines and an airline.

Soleimani, who loved making and publishing “selfies” showing himself close to battlegrounds in the Middle East, was never present anywhere near a battle but was always to come after the dust had settled, to take “selfies” and claim the credit.

A master of self-promotion, Soleimani received the rank of major-general without having risen through the hierarchy of the top brass like the other 12 men on the list. (After death, he has been promoted to Lt. General).

Some analysts in Tehran believe that Khamenei was planning to promote Soleimani further by making him President of the Islamic Republic in 2021. An image-building campaign started last year, as Soleimani was marketed as “the Sufi commander”, a label given to Safavid kings in the 16th century.

A committee of exiled Iranians in Florida also started campaigning to draft Soleimani as president.

If that was Khamenei’s game plan, there is no doubt that Soleimani’s demise will lead to more uncertainty regarding the future course of Iranian politics.

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.

This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.

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Saudi Court Sentences Five To Death For Murder Of Jamal Khashoggi

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A court in Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi Palace, was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul by a team of Saudi agents.

The Saudi authorities said it was the result of a “rogue operation” and put 11 unnamed individuals on trial.

The Riyadh Criminal Court sentenced five individuals to death for “committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim”, according to the public prosecution’s statement.

Three others were handed prison sentences totalling 24 years for “covering up this crime and violating the law”, while the remaining three were found not guilty.

The 59-year-old journalist, a US-based columnist for the Washington Post, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Khashoggi, however, never came out alive to meet Cengiz, and his body was mutilated and deposed off to a local Turkish collaborator, according to the Saudi account.

According to a statement by the Saudi public prosecutor, a total of 31 individuals were investigated over the killing and 21 of them were arrested. Eleven were eventually referred to trial at the Riyadh Criminal Court and the public prosecutor sought the death penalty for five of them.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, had in June claimed that the five people facing the death penalty were Fahad Shabib Albalawi; Turki Muserref Alshehri; Waleed Abdullah Alshehri; Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, an intelligence officer; and Dr Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, a forensic doctor with the interior ministry.

However, Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to the Crown Prince, who was sacked and investigated over the killing, and Ahmad Asiri, a former Deputy Intelligence Chief, were not charged for the murder. they were both seen by the international community as the brains behind the killing of Khashoggi.

Also not convicted was the Crown Prince, who human right groups and advocates said “definitely” issued the instruction to his subordinates to kill the outspoken journalist.

The prince denied any involvement, but in October he said he took “full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government”.

Shalaan Shalaan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor, at a press conference on Monday said the public prosecution’s investigations had shown that “there was no premeditation to kill at the beginning of the mission”.

“The investigation showed that the killing was not premeditated… The killing was in the spur of the moment, when the head of the negotiating team inspected the premises of the consulate and realised that it was impossible to move the victim to a safe place to resume negotiations.

“The head of the negotiating team and the perpetrators then discussed and agreed to kill the victim inside the consulate,” he said.

But Callamard, who authored a UN-backed report in June which stated that Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince were responsible for the murder, said in a post on Twitter that the investigation and trial lacked credibility.

“Bottom line: the hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free. They have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial,” her tweet read.

Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, described the Saudi verdict as  “not acceptable”.

Human Rights Watch said the trial, which took place behind closed doors, did not meet international standards and that the Saudi authorities had “obstructed meaningful accountability”.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the decision of the Saudi court was “far from meeting the expectations of both our country and the international community to shed light on the murder with all its dimensions and deliver justice”.

The public prosecution said it would decide whether to review the court’s rulings and decide whether to appeal. The death sentences must be upheld by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

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VP Osinbajo never led prayers for the death of Buhari at RCCG – VP’s aide Akande | Showbiz Nigeria

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Special Adviser to Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande has denied claims made by a newspaper columnist, Festus Adebayo, that Osinbajo recently visited a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and led members of the church in prayers for the death of President Buhari.

Adedayo, in a piece published in the Tribune which was titled ”The Trial of Brother Osinbajo”, alleged that he received information that Osinbajo, who is a Senior Pastor with the RCCG, had, in a gathering with members of the church, prayed for the death of the President when he was away on medical leave. Adebayo alleged that a confidante of Buhari, who was at the gathering, informed the President of Osinbajo’s prayers rendered against him and this has led to the breakdown in the relationship between Buhari and Osinbajo.

When Buhari went on his earlier UK search for health remedy to an undisclosed ailment, it was a top gossip in the seat of power that Osinbajo, engrossed in a prayer session with his Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) accomplices in his home state of Ogun, and frantically being prayed for, for God to make him president by one of the pastors who starred at the prayer session, didn’t know that a strong ally of Buhari – unbeknown to the ally that such “prayer coup” was ongoing – had entered their midst, innocently there to pay obeyance to the VP.

Still with their eyes closed, the prayer warriors nearly prayed that the ground should swallow them when, upon opening their eyes, they saw the president’s ally with them. If you were praying the VP into the office of the president, with the VP shouting thunderous “Amen” to your prayer, weren’t you praying for the boss’ death? That was the first infraction against the laws of power the VP was said to have committed. And one of the reasons Osinbajo hounded and still harangues the ally till today.

The second foot Osinbajo reportedly hit against the stone was said to be his role during Buhari’s AWOL shuttle to his infirmary. That Walter Onnoghen, allegedly primed to package Buhari inside a judicial casket during the 2019 elections, emerged acting Chief Justice of the Federation through his acting pen angered Villa power apparatchik, so much that they imputed a political Judas into Osinbajo’s act. The removal of Lawal Daura, erstwhile Director-General of the Department of State Services on August 7, 2018 also rankled these owls. If Osinbajo stepped on their mamba’s tail by this act, he fiddled with their lion’s tail subsequently when, at a conference of Online Publishers Association of Nigeria (OPAN), he unabashedly said that, before Saturday, January 12, Buhari was not aware of Onogohen’s trial.

What this did was to populate and give official imprimatur to the belief that Buhari was just a mere scarecrow decorating the patio of Aso Rock. He wore Omoyele Sowore’s activists’ bandana. More stinging to this set of people known as the cabal, was the fact that Osinbajo sidelined all of them in his decision-taking during the period, was already strutting hither thither like an accursed turtle-dove which, to them, added to the coup-prayer session, was an apparent indication that he was sure Buhari wouldn’t come back and the clock was ticking for the cabals at the Villa” he said

Reacting to Adebayo’s claim, Laolu in a statement released today, denied Adebayo’s allegation and asked the journalist to present evidence to back up all his claims.

Mr. Festus Adedayo’s article above is a sad descent into the gutter by this gentleman. When a professional columnist of Adedayo’s age and experience puts his reputation behind outright fiction and absolute mischief, usually it is a sign that the poor fellow is compromised. This is the sad reality we face today and it is truly troubling.

But let us give Mr. Adedayo the benefit of the doubt. Let us assume that he has some facts to support the reckless insinuations and innuendoes in his article.

He should then be able to answer the following questions.

He claimed that the Vice President, together with some Redeemed Church ‘accomplices’, gathered to pray at some place unstated in his home State of Ogun, at a date that was not indicated, for the purpose of interceding for the VP to become President, and by extension, hoping for, or seeking the death of the President.

So where exactly in Ogun State did this prayer session take place, and when? Was it in a church, in which case there would likely be an audio recording? Who are the prominent pastors or other persons involved that can testify to what transpired – what are their names? Who is the “strong Buhari ally” who made a surprise appearance at the gathering and brought the story back to Mr. President? If, as Adedayo claims, the VP has been hounding and haranguing this Buhari ally since then, why is it so difficult for him to cry out and publicize his strange discovery.

Who primed Onnoghen to “package Buhari inside a judicial casket” during the 2019 elections? And to whose benefit? If, for any reason, the Buhari election was nullified by the judiciary, how would that benefit his running mate, since they contested on the same ticket?

These asinine stories put together by Mr. Adedayo betray a more evil motive. The Vice President’s commitment to the service of the Nigerian people under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is unrelenting. But there is a desperation in some quarters to create a division between the President and the Vice President. It appears that they need some well known press names who are prepared to write anything. But for what reward? One wonders. They clearly found one here, as the writer’s jaundiced article bumbled from the realm of baseless claims to outright fiction.

We do not expect an apology from Mr. Adedayo to the Vice President. This is the style of these professionals gone rogue. They are prepared to smear others and stick to their vile stories. Their conscience seems unperturbed by their reckleness. But, again, we give him the benefit of the doubt, let him answer the questions we have asked” he said

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Osinbajo didn’t pray for Buhari’s death in any church —Spokesman

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Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, has denied allegations that his principal visited a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God where he and other congregants allegedly prayed for the death of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Akande, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the Vice-President), said this in an article published in reaction to columnist, Dr. Festus Adedayo’s opinion piece.
Adedayo had, in an article published on Sunday in several online platforms (not NigerianEye) titled, ‘The Trials of Brother Osinbajo,’ said he received information that Osinbajo, who is a Senior Pastor with the RCCG, had, in a gathering with members of the church, prayed for the death of the President when the latter was away on medical leave.
The columnist said a confidante of Buhari, who was at the gathering, informed the President of Osinbajo’s “sinister plan,” hence the breakdown in the relationship between Buhari and Osinbajo.

In his reaction, however, Osinbajo’s spokesman challenged Adedayo to state where the alleged prayer session took place and the date.
Akande wrote, “He (Adedayo) claimed that the Vice President, together with some Redeemed Church ‘accomplices,’ gathered to pray at some place unstated in his home state of Ogun, at a date that was not indicated, for the purpose of interceding for the VP to become President, and by extension, hoping for, or seeking the death of the President.
“So, where exactly in Ogun State did this prayer session take place, and when? Was it in a church, in which case there would likely be an audio recording?
“Who are the prominent pastors or other persons involved that can testify to what transpired — what are their names?
“Who is the ‘strong Buhari ally’ who made a surprise appearance at the gathering and brought the story back to Mr. President?
“If, as Adedayo claims, the VP has been hounding and haranguing this Buhari ally since then, why is it so difficult for him to cry out and publicise his strange discovery?”
Akande also rubbished claims by Adedayo that Osinbajo, as acting President, had an ulterior motive when he sent the name of the then acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to the Senate for confirmation.
He wondered how Osinbajo would have wanted Onnoghen to sack Buhari.
“Who primed Onnoghen to package Buhari inside a judicial casket during the 2019 elections? And to whose benefit?
“If, for any reason, the Buhari election was nullified by the judiciary, how would that benefit his running mate, since they contested on the same ticket?” Akande asked.
The Vice-President’s spokesman said it was unfortunate that some elements were being sponsored to drive a wedge between Osinbajo and Buhari.

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Osinbajo didn’t pray with pastors for Buhari’s death in any church ― Laolu Akande

Laolu Akande, the spokesperson of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has debunked allegations that he prayed for the death of President Muhammadu Buhari at a church in Ogun State.

This is coming on the heels of a claim made in a Sunday opinion piece by a veteran journalist and columnist, Dr. Festus Adedayo.

Adedayo had, in the piece, titled, ‘The Trials of Brother Osinbajo,’ said he received information that Osinbajo in a gathering with members of the church, prayed for the death of the President when the latter was away on medical leave.

Adedayo alleged that the strain in the relationship between Buhari and Osinbajon started when a confidante of Buhari, who was at the gathering, informed the President of Osinbajo’s “sinister plan.”

However, Akande asked Adedayo to provide proofs to such allegation while alleging that the article is part of desperate moves in some quarters to create a division between the President and the Vice President.

Akande said: “Mr. Festus Adedayo’s article is a sad descent into the gutter by this gentleman. When a professional columnist of Adedayo’s age and experience puts his reputation behind outright fiction and absolute mischief, usually it is a sign that the poor fellow is compromised. This is the sad reality we face today and it is truly troubling.

“But let us give Mr. Adedayo the benefit of the doubt. Let us assume that he has some facts to support the reckless insinuations and innuendoes in his article.

“He should then be able to answer the following questions.

“He claimed that the Vice President, together with some Redeemed Church ‘accomplices’, gathered to pray at someplace unstated in his home state of Ogun, at a date that was not indicated, for the purpose of interceding for the VP to become President, and by extension, hoping for, or seeking the death of the President.

“So where exactly in Ogun State did this prayer session take place, and when? Was it in a church, in which case there would likely be an audio recording? Who are the prominent pastors or other persons involved that can testify to what transpired – what are their names?

“Who is the “strong Buhari ally” who made a surprise appearance at the gathering and brought the story back to Mr. President? If, as Adedayo claims, the VP has been hounding and haranguing this Buhari ally since then, why is it so difficult for him to cry out and publicize his strange discovery?

“Who primed Onnoghen to “package Buhari inside a judicial casket” during the 2019 elections? And to whose benefit? If, for any reason, the Buhari election was nullified by the judiciary, how would that benefit his running mate, since they contested on the same ticket?

“These asinine stories put together by Mr. Adedayo betray a more evil motive. The Vice President’s commitment to the service of the Nigerian people under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is unrelenting. But there is a desperation in some quarters to create a division between the President and the Vice President.

“It appears that they need some well-known press names who are prepared to write anything. But for what reward? One wonders. They clearly found one here, as the writer’s jaundiced article bumbled from the realm of baseless claims to outright fiction.

“We do not expect an apology from Mr. Adedayo to the Vice President. This is the style of these professionals gone rogue. They are prepared to smear others and stick to their vile stories. Their conscience seems unperturbed by their recklessness. But, again, we give him the benefit of the doubt, let him answer the questions we have asked,” Akande said.

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Pendulum : Social Media And President Buhari’s Imaginary Wedding Of The Century By Dele Momodu

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Fellow Nigerians, these are very interesting and humorous times indeed! Barely one week after the Big Brother Naija show was concluded, ending our light relief, some restless Nigerians have started their own nebulous reality show in earnest. To say Nigerians are well endowed with fecund imaginations and fantastic creativity would be an understatement. This is why rumourmongering is big business in this climate.

Let me reassure you that it didn’t just start today. Many are blaming the proliferation of social media and the affordability of internet data for this unusual surge in the wild speculations and stories flying everywhere today, but I wish to disagree with this theory. This is a major aspect of my research work at The African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.

Society Journalism is not new to Nigeria or Africa. This genre thrives on wild rumours and fertile imaginations. It was once described as junk journalism. And society loves junk generally because it is like fast food. People love to read and hear and discuss society people. Society people or newsmakers themselves love to gobble up junk stories, no matter how ridiculous they may be or sound. More often than not, the stories are untrue, but society still feeds on them.

Let me take you down memory lane. In May 1989, a wild rumour surfaced that nearly sent the government of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida packing. The content of the rumour was so bizarre, but even intelligent people still believed the story. It was what led to what was tagged THE SAP RIOTS. SAP was the acronym for Structural Adjustment Program which President Babangida had introduced at the time. Then came the news, which was made believable by the participation of the famous social critic, Dr Tai Solarin, who swore by Jove that the story was impeccably true. What was it all about? It turned out that this tale was what he had learnt from a brief but hasty trip to a public toilet where he had overheard a conversation in which the lurid allegations were made.

It was reported that while Nigerians were being asked to tighten their belts and lives, Babangida’s family allegedly owned some of the most exclusive and expensive boutiques in Europe. Since there was no social media to help project, propel and distribute the gossip, the promoters had to improvise by typing the tales by moonlight on stencils and printing them as leaflets.

Unlike today, that was a time when we had no social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, it therefore remains a mystery how they were able to make those leaflets go so viral in 1989. From Lagos to Edo State and around the South West axis, the stories developed wings and began to spread across Nigeria like wildfire in harmattan. The more people tried to douse the fire, the higher the fire took a major leap of its life. And sadly, people believed the campaign of calumny against the government of the day which led to the youths taking to the roads and streets screaming “Babangida must go…” Anyone who said anything contrary was instantly considered an enemy of the people and friends of the looters. The situation was not so much different as it is today, but social media has since made such stories readily available to a willing, gullible and sometimes ignorant market.

I was away from our office at the Weekend Concord newspaper when the news broke on a horrible Wednesday. I returned on Friday afternoon by which time the first edition of the tabloid had gone to bed and already printed. The screaming headline was BLACK WEDNESDAY IN LAGOS. I immediately disagreed with my boss, Mr Mike Awoyinfa, that the headline was rather weak for a Saturday paper. He then challenged me to come up with a better headline and I picked up the challenge and came up with my own: RUMOURS THAT FUELLED THE RIOTS! My Editor was over the moon with his Deputy Editor, Mr Dimgba Igwe (now of blessed memory).

The next problem was how to write a good story to justify my new headline without getting into trouble with the military government of the day. Trust me, I offered to be the lamb of God who would carry the sins of the world. Interestingly, this was 30 years ago, in 1989. I ordered a bottle of beer and raised one of my legs on the table while I pumped the alcohol into my brains to emit some powerful words for one of the biggest stories of my journalism career. That was when the famous columnist, May Ellen Ezekiel, who had just lost her job at Quality magazine and was now working on her own publication, Classique magazine, but kept a column in Weekend Concord, which I edited, sauntered in and saw me drinking while writing. First it was strange, and almost sacrilegious, to find anyone drinking in the main offices of Concord newspapers, except at the popular Bush Canteen, earmarked for such purpose, and then to be writing a satanic story at that. May Ellen approached me and said “shuo, what’s going on here?” I explained the delicate story I was working on and she was excited too. That was the day her respect for me quadrupled and she started making moves to headhunt and poach me to her magazine, to which I fell yakata about a year later.

Fortunately, that evening, our Chairman, Chief Moshood Abiola, returned from a trip to Europe and brought us copies of the Ebony magazines which was allegedly supposed to have carried the stories of the Babangida’s outlandish ownerships of expensive shops and choice properties abroad while Nigerians languished in excruciating pains. Nothing of the sort was ever published by Ebony. That was not the type of gossipy stuff Ebony would normally disseminate. So, I first regurgitated all the fictional anecdotes before revealing that we had laid our hands on recent editions of Ebony and nothing of the sort was contained therein. And we published a bromide of the Ebony on the cover to prove the authenticity of our claims. I believe our second edition on Saturday morning reportedly sold over 80,000 copies in Lagos and its environ alone. And I earned a double promotion that May 1989, when I moved straight from Staff Writer to Literary editor. Six months later, I was promoted News Editor, and it was such a meteoric rise for me. Our Managing Director, Dr Doyinsola Hamdat Abiola, who had handpicked me for the job at weekend Concord as a pioneer staff, from my former post at the African Concord magazine, was very proud of her decision.

Thus, you can imagine how I feel today, 30 years after, with another round of incredible fictionalisation, this time, about a former military ruler, now a civilian President, Muhammadu Buhari. The difference this time, I must reiterate is that the youths of today are much more audaciously creative, and largely emboldened by their smartphones from where they can operate even more clandestinely and incognito.

No one knows how the rumours of President Buhari’s supposed whirlwind romance with one of his new Ministers surfaced and blew out of proportion such that everyone is talking about it authoritatively. Different versions of invitation cards have been designed and printed online. Some people claimed the wedding was definitely taking place and procured their own “aso ebi”, a special uniform dress for special guests, friends and relatives. By Thursday night, I had reached out to several impeccable sources within and outside the Presidential villa and was told categorically that no such event would take place on Friday, October 11, 2019. I also confirmed that the supposed bride was not even anywhere near Nigeria. She was away overseas on national assignments.

But some new videos, purportedly showing the supposed arrival of the reportedly estranged First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, who has made England her new home and base these past months, were going viral. One of them was a loud voice lamenting how some parts of the villa had been locked up and the woman in the video was practically stridently lamenting and soliloquising about how she was being treated shabbily. “Enough is enough” was her bitter assertion in that particular video. There were other videos of the new bride dancing and being sprayed with crispy notes in what looked like a traditional wedding party. All the videos of the alleged returnee wife and the supposed incoming bride turned out to be old footage obtained from God knows where and how.

My investigations further revealed that the First Lady was also out of the country. I therefore, tweeted that there was no way such a wedding would take place in secret, but many still disagreed with me. President Buhari is a man well known for his strong convictions and would not hide behind one finger, if and when he decides to take another wife. It is not an offence against his culture and religion to marry more than more wife, so there is nothing that can stop or discourage him, if he really wants another wife. What I find odd and strange is that his handlers allowed the silly rumours to fester beyond redemption. A simple statement would have killed the unbridled rumour in its infancy.

By yesterday afternoon, the rumour came up with renewed vigour as the day of reckoning loomed with some people running commentaries like football commentators from the “wedding venue”. I have never felt so entertained and titillated in my life. My name even came into one of these spoofs. These guys are downright hilarious!

Someone created the account, Uncle Demola @OmoGbajabiamila, and ran this commentary:

“Burna Boy is giving us ‘when the gbedu de enter body’ “…

“Oshiomhole don off shirt.”

“LMFAOOOooo… Chris Ngige is doing breakdance to Burna Boy’s song. Anambra people can disappoint sha!”

“Adebayo Shittu is finally here.”

“When Baba see strippers, E just de shout ‘Astagafurillahi, Astagafurillahi, Astagafurillahi!’ “

“I’m hearing noise outside. Let me go and check what’s happening.”

“There is a serious problem outside between Rochas and DSS.”

“Apparently, Rochas Okorocha came with a giant statue of Buhari and he wants to bring it inside but the DSS guys won’t allow it. Where’s Abba Kyari FFS???

Rochas just came in and he’s complaining bitterly about the DSS guys not allowing him bring the statue in.”

“Wait! Dino Melaye has been allowed to enter as Naira Marley’s backup singer. Smart man!” #BUSA19

“Naira Marley has not even started singing, Lauretta Onochie is already twerking… DSS, heissss DSS. Do your job naaau!”

“Shehu Sani is on low cut. Baba wan disguise enter. ABBA Kyari catch am. DSS is taking him away already!”

“Apparently, someone told Dele Momodu that the party had been called off. So, he didn’t bother to come. Baba dey Twitter now de lament as e see say groove don begin.”

“LMFAOOOOooo… ABBA Kyari don bounce Dino Melaye.”

“Elrufai don show!!!”

“Goodluck Jonathan came with his own Sapele water. Ijaw man himself. Hennessy na like Sprite for am.”

“Garba Shehu de in charge of Barbecue.”

“Be like Femi Adeshina de suspension.”

“…Dem don wake Ganduje, make E come go sleep upstairs. Be like Baba don de snore.”

“Amaechi and Wike are also here but the two of them are on handcuffs so that there won’t be any fighting between them.”

“Akeredolu with this his baggy trousers sha. Who is his tailor nitori Olorun?”

“Buhari has collected the mic from Naira Marley. Looks like he doesn’t like the Soapy song. Not sure Abike Dabiri will like this!”

“Rauf Aregbesola is drinking Malt.”

“Fashola is calling NEPA boys to bring light. Be like fuel don low for gen and Mele Kyari nor remember to buy fuel.”

“Femi Gbajabiamila is here on a Gucci up and down. Iyalaya anybody!”

“Femi Otedola and Dangote are forming big boys. Nonsense!”

“I think I have been reported. The DSS guys are looking at me wan kain…” That’s the narrator, Uncle Demola himself.

For me, that was the height of comic relief that attended this silliness and maybe it came at the right time of acute stress everywhere. It certainly alleviated my feeling of gloom and doom. The solution is certainly not to ban or criminalise fake news. That was not done in 1989 by the more authoritarian, dictatorial military regime of Ibrahim Babangida. It should not be done now, when we are in a constitutional civilian democracy! For me, as a journalist, the freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution is sacrosanct and, in any event, there are extant laws available to deal with any abuse or infraction. Any new law will only be used by those keen to muzzle critics and presumed opponents of government like the so-called “wailing wailers”!

My conclusion is that nothing can ever shock Nigerians again so that even if this story had been true, we would have taken it in our stride. Our proclivity for absorbing shocks is infinitesimal. The world is waiting and watching how alleged family feuds, rebellion and relationships involving the leadership, domestic and other staff would end eventually.

Will this national drama ever lead to a denouement? Time will tell.

The post Pendulum : Social Media And President Buhari’s Imaginary Wedding Of The Century By Dele Momodu appeared first on TheNigerialawyer.

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When Donald met Scott: a reporter’s view of Trump and his White House wonderland

Australian PM Scott Morrison received a full-blown welcome from the US president. Katharine Murphy was on hand for an inside account Support our independent journalism with a one-off or recurring contribution

Australia news

Scott Morrison has made his first visit to the United States as prime minister. It was a trip that included a close encounter with the unpredictability of the Trump White House, a foreign policy pivot, and a backlash about a lack of climate policy action. Guardian Australias political editor, Katharine Murphy, travelled, with the prime minister. Here is what she witnessed:

Washington

Weve been positioned at the White House since 5am, watching the sun creep over the American capital. Security is as laborious as youd expect. Dogs sniff bags, then the secret service guys have a good look, passports are collected, checked and returned, White House passes and pins are distributed, and then at last we clear the metal detectors. Eventually we make it to the press briefing room, the small blue one, famous through several presidential administrations but now abandoned by Donald Trump. The modest proportions dont fit his presidency. Now its just a transit zone.

We are greeted by a blond woman in a broad-brimmed hat. June, a self-described southern belle, is receiving visitors in the briefing room, although its not clear why. She identifies herself as a fellow scribe working for Christian radio and television in Nashville. When shes not reporting on the Trump White House, shes rallying Christians for the president. This seems something of a line cross for a reporter with White House press accreditation but weve been on the premises for about 10 minutes and its clear that were not in Kansas any more.

Donald
Donald and Melania Trump welcome Scott and Jenny Morrison on the south lawn with full military honours. Photograph: MAI/REX/Shutterstock

On the other side of the building, visitors are streaming across the South Lawn to grab prime positions to witness The Donald receiving The Scott at the official welcome. Flags, American and Australian, are held aloft on a glorious summery day. Eventually we are permitted to wander down to the lawn as well.

The Donalds grass is lush and slightly dewy, making me regret my choice of footwear. The daylight is now dazzling but the bucolic scene is disturbed by Austin rebuking Steve in the media pen. The confrontation happens just before the splendidly peppy pipe band strides across the lawn for the ceremonial welcome.

Ive never met Austin before this moment but he looks about 30, buttoned down and watchful as a raptor a White House wrangler who looks as though he hasnt sat down, eaten anything apart from a protein bar, or slept more than four hours straight a night since early infancy. Steve has transgressed and Austin convenes a short, sharp show trial in front of me. Ive nabbed a prime position on the fence in the media pen right in front of the entrance, and I dont intend to move unless the secret service guy standing beside me gets feisty.

You left the media area to make a call, Austin says, voice appropriately low so as not to disdain the Wonderful Occasion swelling around us. Steve is older than his accuser and possesses the rumpled look of a longtime print or news wire reporter. Ive never seen Steve before either, but hes clearly part of the White House press pool and looks like a man disinclined to small talk. My guess, from my quick scan of the body language, the suppressed inner sigh, is that Steve has seen a number of Austins in his reporting lifetime, perhaps a small production line of them, and is not much gripped by this power play.

Steve says nothing. Austin persists. In a minute we are going to go full Veep. The secret service told me you left the media area to make a call is this correct? Steve, at the end of his tolerance for JAccuse now, delivers his mic drop. Yah, he says. One of the secret service guys held back the rope so I could get out to make the call. I needed to take the call. I suspect Austin doesnt really know where to take this from here. The aide returns to the front of the fence, shoulders back, eyes front. Its showtime.

Trump strides out of the White House with Melania. From my vantage point they look like a pair of Easter Island statues. This is my first encounter with the current leader of the free world and my curiosity is intense. How will Trump look uncut?

Donald
Donald and Melania Trump arrive to greet Scott Morrison. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Will he look how he does on television, with that weird affect the pursed lips, narrowed eyes and nose and chin set to an upward inflection, indicative of defiance and displeasure? Or is this a posture he adopts only after he pulls on the presidential onesie every day and heads for Fox News, purring ready for my close-up Mr DeMille?

I discover this is how Trump looks all the time, or at least all the time he is in open space. Hes striding to the podium with exactly that look, with Melania, who is a dignified presence yet strangely devoid of life force. Perhaps she laughs and sings and dances in her track pants like no one is watching in her private domain but, in public, Mrs Trump looks like a perfectly proportioned doll in a dolls house.

Over the next little while, Trump will lavish praise on Melania for her crack presidential spouse skills. The first lady, Trump reports over and over during the course of Friday, worked so hard on the table settings for the state dinner, pondering every detail. The flowers, the centrepieces, so wonderful, so beautiful. The best table decorations anyone has ever seen.

Its hard for me to imagine the reality of the first ladys life, what it must be like to agonise over centrepieces for state dinners amid the sound and fury of her husbands bitterly contested presidency. Given her reserved public presence, it feels like an impertinence to wonder.

Theres no time for whimsy in any case, because the Morrisons are now on the premises, ready for their induction into the Trumpiverse. In comparison with the Trumps, Scott and Jenny Morrison, from the Sutherland shire, Australia more latterly of Kirribilli House look like a well-to-do couple from the suburbs. They are earthed in this big moment, respectful of the tradition they are now associated with, the tradition of Washingtons special friends being drawn to the nations bosom.

Scott
Scott Morrisons arrival in Washington marks the second state visit of Donald Trumps presidency. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/ABACA POOL/EPA

Presumably they are buzzing with anticipation and anxiety, given that the unofficial White House weather forecast for Friday is clear skies, a light breeze and a high probability of catastrophic cyclone once their delegation reaches the Oval Office. Looking normal in this environment takes some doing, but the Morrisons manage.

The troops march, and are duly inspected; the visitors clutch their flags, which flutter gaily in the breeze. The anthems are played. The two couples appear content with each other and the scripted remarks they share with each other and the crowd. Just before the conclusion of the formalities, Austin is back working the fence line to move us, lickety split, to the holding pen outside the Oval Office. Fortunately, the war with Steve seems to have subsided.

Trump
Trump and Morrison review the troops during an official arrival ceremony. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

I wash up near Steve and the other White House wire reporters. One of the group explains to me that Steve is the man if they want to get a question to the president. Trump will answer Steve. Its unclear why thats the case, and I dont ask.

She also gives us tremendously helpful advice: Trump will be on for a rave when we get in there. We are surprised by this. Our assumption was wed be in and out in a matter of minutes. Our river guide shakes her head. Trump, she says, is in an expansive frame of mind. Best we prepare some questions. She also predicts that Trump will struggle to understand our accents. If he doesnt understand, the president will say: Say it. This means ask the question again, she says.

I assume this is some sort of weird in-joke until I hear Trump do just that. Say it, Trump says, narrowing his eyes and curling his lip. Its utterly peculiar, but its an earworm. Once you hear it, its hard to get the locution out of your brain. Say it.

Trump
Trump reacts to questions during a joint press conference with Morrison. Photograph: Sipa USA/SIPA USA/PA Images

The door of the Oval Office swings open and we are thrust into pure madness. The media scrum feeds off the static electricity in the room. It heaves like a wave. Our questions crash on the shore. Thud, thud, thud. Mr President. The Americans in the pool want to know about Joe Biden and the Ukraine controversy a story that will spiral towards impeachment during the week of our visit.

No American journalist gives a crap about Australia, and Morrison, and the second state visit to Washington of this febrile presidency. Fun fact: Emmanuel Macron, back when he imagined he had a talent for Trump whispering, was the first to be afforded the honour. But who cares? Conventions are devalued in the coarseness of politics in 2019. No one pretends to care. Everyone just has to emerge with what they need.

Journalists
Journalists crowd around Morrison and Trump during their press conference. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Once we realise this is going to be nuts a small blazing blitzkrieg at the seat of American power with no rules of engagement Australian reporters also start hurling questions across a range of topics. Trump looks delighted by the disorder. Its where he thrives. Morrison shifts in his seat.

The president lays into the media. We are hopeless, finished, friendless. But Mr President, what about the call? Did you speak to Ukraines new president? It was a beautiful call. Next question. Say it.

The Morrisons sit tight as the stiff westerly blows. The prime minister isnt visibly alarmed but hes hyper alert. Jenny Morrison composes her face into a placid mask until Trump suddenly raises the spectre of nuclear weapons and Iran. I catch her eye at that moment and she startles, ever so slightly. Her eyes, to me, say help me. I catch Morrisons eye a couple of times and the corners of his mouth crinkle.

I am a spectator at this circus but the prime minister isnt permitted the luxury of distancing. Morrison is a peer of the president, a leader of a respectable middle power who has chosen, as the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd puts it with just the right squeeze of lemon during our visit, to play ball with the Mad King to give friendless Donald a friend.

'It
It was a beautiful call. Trump responds to journalists asking about his call with the president of Ukraine. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

The prime minister, unlike us, enjoys the benefit of knowing what Trump really thinks on a range of fronts; he has that baseline to keep him tethered through the rhetorical turbulence. But back in the nosebleed seats we lack those insights. During our 33 minutes in the Oval Office, Australian journalists are on a rollercoaster, hanging upside down, while the president indulges a dialogue with himself about whether to launch a military strike against Iran, or whether restraint is the better course. He lands eventually at restraint but the disorientation is so profound it takes me a while to process thats where weve landed.

Eventually Trump stops feeling all the feelings and we are herded out. I ask one of my fellow travelling reporters whether the president just raised the prospect of nuclear attack, because I fear the sleep deprivation might be messing with my cognition. Hes as knocked around as I am. Yes, he thinks so, but he needs to listen to the recording. TV reporters are wondering out loud how on earth they are going to distil what just happened into a package. How do you do this in a minute and a half?

At the height of my disorientation, I spot Paul Murray from Skys Fox News lite after-dark crew at the back of the room. As we are guided out, Morrison beckons Murray forward and introduces him to the president. This introduction yields an exclusive interview with Trump which includes the simpering question: What do you want to say to your many Australian supporters who wish you nothing but the best in November 2020? I suppose it could have been what was his favourite colour.

Globalisation Stephen Mayne (@MayneReport)

Paul Murray gets his exclusive with @realDonaldTrump but talk about not asking the hard questions. pic.twitter.com/5QnxMW5cHh

September 20, 2019

The madness persists. The day ends with wranglers trying to facilitate some access to the state dinner, which is al fresco, in the Rose Garden. As we are herded through the South Lawn accompanied by the lilt of violins serenading guests and the murmur of clinking glassware and small talk, a secret service guy in night goggles, with foliage in his helmet, suddenly materialises from the bushes and sprints across in front of us.

Mr.
Mr. and Mrs. Trump meet with Mr. and Mrs. Morrison as they attend a state dinner. Photograph: Pool/ABACA/PA Images

Shortly after this our White House wrangler declares this walk off the record, which generates considerable confusion among the scribes. How can a walk to a pool position be off the record? Which bit is off the record? This walk never happened? How do we explain our capacity to bear witness to events at the state dinner? Did we parachute in?

We resolve not to overthink this and press on, and eventually get close enough to see the guests drifting around the Rose Garden: the Australian billionaire box maker Anthony Pratt is hard to miss with his shock of orange hair; the younger Murdochs are there, Lachlan and Sarah, I reckon Ive spotted the mining magnates Twiggy Forrest and the generally reclusive Gina Rinehart, who appears to be floating. I rub my eyes, fearing a fancy. Perhaps Rinehart is not floating, more likely Im swaying, peering through a large shrub, sleep deprived and smacking the mosquitos that threaten my ankles, questioning my life choices.

Fox
Fox CEO and co-chairman of News Corp Lachlan Murdoch (L) and Sarah Murdoch arrive for the state dinner. Photograph: Ron Sachs/POOL/EPA

Hancock
Hancock Prospecting chairwoman Georgina Rinehart arrives for the state dinner. Photograph: Ron Sachs/POOL/EPA

I see Rinehart again the next day, floating (she is definitely wafting like a cloud, because I know Im no longer swaying) into a soiree at the Australian ambassador Joe Hockeys residence, in a white dress with sequins and what appear to be pom poms trailing at the back. Morrisons old chief of staff and new department head, Phil Gaetjens, by contrast, is wandering around in a Wallabies rugby jersey with cut-off sleeves.

While the grandees mingle, Rinehart sets up court with her entourage in a shaded corner of the garden on what looks like a sedan chair, but is actually just a garden settee. The visual cue is Ms Rinehart is receiving guests, as long as they are not journalists. The media mogul Kerry Stokes is also said to be mingling but I dont clap eyes on him.

In Hockeys garden I strike up a conversation with an expatriate pub owner who is now the mayor of Annapolis and is campaigning to tighten gun control. Gavin Buckley, formerly from Western Australia, is an avuncular Democrat at a Republican knees-up, a fish out of water who cant quite believe his luck. Buckley tells me he hugged Hockey for the great honour bestowed upon him.

The whole scene is F Scott Fitzgerald meets the pre-woke capitalism of the 1980s, and the humidity is sending us all bonkers. Servers hand out party pies and sausages with disturbing names like cheese and Vegemite, and bald men in linen sports jackets compete for shade. One of our travelling media pack then proceeds to conduct a mock interview of a new magnolia tree which has just been planted to celebrate the Morrison state visit. With the Magnolia, this is Brett Mason, SBS News. Its a joke, hijinks to help us stay alert when we are hitting that hour of the day when jetlag threatens to take your legs out. But weve crossed the sense barrier and we havent even hit the Trump rally. What could possibly go wrong?

Ohio

Its a voyage with billionaires, this American excursion with Morrison. I confess that this is new territory for me. The cashed-up and politically connected drifted past us during the pomp and circumstance in Washington, and now we are closing in on Anthony Pratt as we speed to Wapakoneta, first airborne and then jammed in Morrisons motorcade with police cars racing past, sirens blaring, to stop traffic on the freeway.

Trump’s right-wing media diet is a factor in the impeachment inquiry

Media

New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

The whistleblower’s complaint says “I do not know why the President associates these servers with Ukraine.”
Well, he must not be an avid consumer of the MAGA media universe.
    As The Daily Beast’s Kevin Poulsen explained here, Trump was “referencing a conspiracy theory pushed by Russian trolls and far-right pundits that imagines the Democratic National Committee fabricating all the evidence in Russia’s 2016 breach of the DNC network.” In other words, it’s a Russia-friendly theory that contradicts all of the U.S. intel community assessments about Russia’s meddling in the election.
    It went “from the depths of 4chan, promoted by Russian media, to the president’s mouth,” BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick wrote.
    This is how the president’s alt-right media diet actively hurts his presidency and the public.

    John Solomon’s contributions

    WaPo’s Philip Bump zeroed in on this point on Thursday. “There’s little indication at this point that Trump’s media diet is anything other than a buffet of conservative television and Internet articles. That diet might just have contributed to the most significant threat Trump’s presidency has seen,” Bump wrote.
    The allegations in the whistleblower complaint “include a significant number of news articles published by a popular conservative opinion columnist for the Hill” — that’s John Solomon, a Fox regular — “articles that the whistleblower seems to think contributed to the fervency of the Trump-Giuliani effort.”
    Bump said it’s clear that “Solomon’s reporting and the stories he helped advance were simultaneously politically useful to Trump and potentially influenced his thinking.” And he pointed out that former chief of staff John Kelly specifically tried to keep these sorts of “unvetted” stories off of Trump’s desk. It doesn’t seem like anyone is trying to do that now…
    → For more on Solomon, WaPo’s Paul Farhi is out with a new story… It says Solomon “has had a long, and occasionally decorated, career as an editor and investigative reporter in Washington, though his more recent work has been trailed by claims that it is biased and lacks rigor…”

    What Trump’s favorite TV shows are telling him

    Right now they’re telling him that he’s a hero. That the Democrats just hate him no matter what. That, as Dan Bongino said, “this was a professional hit on Donald Trump. I have no doubt.” And that, as Mark Meadows told Lou Dobbs, “the president didn’t do anything wrong.” Trump tweeted out three different clips from Dobbs’ show on Thursday… and two clips from Sean Hannity’s show…
    → Gabriel Sherman reported on Thursday that Fox’s Shep Smith was told to stop critiquing Tucker Carlson. A Fox spokesperson denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith. At issue: The question of whether Trump is in legal jeopardy.
    → Oliver Darcy writes: A chyron on Laura Ingraham’s show said ‘Legal Experts: Both Call And Complaint Show No Criminality or Basis for Impeachment.’ Fox’s senior legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has said Trump admitted to a crime. Shep Smith has cited other experts who agree. It’s nuts how it has become totally normal for Fox’s biggest stars to totally undermine and contradict the reporting and analysis from their own colleagues…

    NYT’s banner headline on Friday

    The front page says “COMPLAINT ASSERTS A WHITE HOUSE COVER-UP.”
    news
    …And that’s arguably the biggest headline from Thursday: The whistleblower’s allegation that senior White House officials tried to “lock down” a record of Trump’s call, and that other politically sensitive info may have been treated the same way…

    NYT criticized for identifying whistleblower’s workplace

    Who is the whistleblower? Where does he work? What were his motives? Reporters have been chasing these Q’s for more than a week. On Thursday the NYT came out with a story describing the whistleblower as a CIA officer, though not naming him. The paper was widely criticized for sharing the details. The man’s lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, said the report was “reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way.” The WSJ later matched the NYT’s reporting.
    Times exec editor Dean Baquet initially defended the reporting this way: “The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country — whether the president of the U.S. abused power and whether the W.H. covered it up.”

    Did the W.H. already know where the man worked?

    On Thursday evening, the NYT came out with more: “The White House learned that a C.I.A. officer had lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.”
    Baquet updated his statement to note, “We also understand that the White House already knew he was a C.I.A. officer.” If that’s the case, it takes some of the heat off the NYT, for sure…

    The LAT’s scoop

    Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times was the first reporter with quotes from Trump’s shocking remarks to a group of diplomatic officials on Thursday. The NYT followed a few minutes later. The LAT was also first with the audio. “When I heard it for the first time today, it just took me aback,” Stokols told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, calling it “casually menacing.”
    → In his remarks, Trump also said “many” reporters are “scum,” a word that he has mostly deployed against MS-13 gang members and other criminals in the past. He also called members of the press “animals” and “some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.”

    Coming up on Friday…

    — Nancy Pelosi will be on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” at 7:30am…
    — Pelosi and House Dems will be holding a presser on 200 days of “Senate GOP Inaction” at 9:30am…
    — BTW, Friday marks 200 days without an on-camera White House press briefing…

    FOR THE RECORD

    — TIME’s cover this week has Trump painting himself into an orange corner…
    — Greg Miller’s analysis: “The whistleblower has by some measures exceeded in weeks what Mueller accomplished in two years: producing a file so concerning and sound that it singlehandedly set in motion the gears of impeachment.” (WaPo)
    — Lester Holt at the end of “Nightly News” on Thursday: “If history is any guide, this will only get uglier. And louder. And yes, further leach at this country’s political divide. Which makes our collective challenge even more important: To listen. To ask. To examine the facts and demand nothing short of the truth. That’s what we endeavor to do here every night. And will continue to do as this story unfolds…” (Mediaite)
    — Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon library: “The Whistleblower complaint is from a patriot who understands and fears Abuse of Power. If even 50 % of his fears are accurate, we are in a variation of Nixonland again…” (Twitter)
    — Samantha Storey in praise of the whistleblower’s complaint: “It’s well written. It’s clear. The sentences are easy to read. Its point ― that the president of the United States has undermined America’s democracy ― screams off the page…” (HuffPost)

    McConnell’s silence

    “Sen. Mitch McConnell, who often ignores reporters’ questions but sometimes engages, just ignored three of mine,” CNN’s Manu Raju reported Thursday afternoon. “I asked him if he’s concerned the whistleblower alleged Trump sought help from a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 elections. I asked if he’s concerned that the WH allegedly sought to conceal the president’s conversations And I asked if he has any concerns with Trump asking the Ukraine president to talk [to] Rudy Giuliani.” McConnell “walked in silence…”
    → Related, and the headline of the day, from the WSJ: “Everyone In Washington Is Reading the Whistleblower Complaint — Except Senate Republicans.”

      Romney is not alone, but…

      Jonathan Martin is out with a must-read story about Mitt Romney. He says Romney’s public statements of concern “reflect what many in his party believe privately but are almost uniformly unwilling to say: that they are faced with damning revelations about the president that are difficult to explain away, and are unsure of whether there is more damaging material to come.” This calls to mind what Mike Murphy said on MSNBC the other day: “One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.”

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      The Trump-Ukraine scandal is a taste of how dirty the US elections will get | Richard Wolffe

      If youre wondering what the next 14 months of the presidential election looks like, you are already looking at it

      donald trump

      America has a grand tradition of the brazenly dumb criminal: the kind who is so desperately needy that he brags about his guilt.

      Back in the earliest days of the new media known as newspapers, a certain Chicago mob boss rose to fame by calling a press conference to proclaim everyone elses guilt, if not exactly his innocence.

      Al Capone claimed he played no role in the gunning down of a young states attorney called Bill McSwiggin. In fact he said he could have killed him any time but preferred to keep him alive. I paid McSwiggin, Capone said. I paid him plenty and I got what I was paying for.

      Sure enough, Capone was cleared of the murder and became the darling of an insatiable press pack. If you dont act guilty, will anyone really think youre guilty? Especially if everyone else is guilty too.

      Almost a century later, Donald Trump has cornered the Scarface strategy. If he didnt think neo-Nazis were very fine people, Trump could win a Maccabiah medal for chutzpah.

      In some corner of his orange-tipped cranium there are surely a handful of brain cells that are fully aware that his entire family has engaged with foreign dictators and their oligarchs for personal profit.

      But the rest of Trumps brain is an irony-free zone entirely empty of self-awareness. So he and much of his Cabinet fanned out across the gullible media to proclaim everyone elses guilt in a Ukraine scandal that would normally lead to certain impeachment.

      To be clear, the only scandal involving Ukraine is that Trump openly admits that he repeatedly pressed a foreign leader for dirt on his political opponents ahead of a presidential election. For the second election in a row. Only this time, he could use the promise of military and foreign aid to grease his request.

      Its worth quoting Trumps bizarre explanation of this gambit in full, describing his call to the newly-elected president of Ukraine as follows: The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, he told reporters on Sunday. It was largely corruption. All of the corruption taking place. It was largely the fact that we dont want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.

      Now Donald Trump is something of an expert in corruption, if not creating to the corruption. It takes a great deal of creativity to get your own vice-president to stay at your Irish hotel when its 180 miles away from his meetings in Dublin. You cant even conceive of the creativity needed to explain away the US Air Force staying at a luxury golf resort in Scotland that just happens to be another Trump property.

      Trumps excuse was that he knew nothing about the military staying at his hotel, and had nothing to do with Mike Pences long commute from Doonbeg to Dublin. So what if Pences chief of staff said Trump had made a suggestion about the stay? He just had great taste like the military that loves Turnberry so much.

      Trump apparently knows nothing about his own officials lining his own pockets. But he does know a thing or two about Ukraine.

      It was at his own convention in 2016 when his own campaign chairman changed his own party platform to weaken US support for Ukraine against Russias annexation of Crimea and its interference in Ukraines politics.

      Ukraine has got a lot of problems, Trump explained to reporters. The new president is saying that hes going to be able to rid the country of corruption. And I said that would be a great thing. We had a great conversation. We backed I backed Ukraine from the beginning.

      Amnesia is a terrible problem for todays world leaders. Especially the morally dubious ones who are either too brazen or too lazy to think of a decent excuse.

      Somehow Trump has forgotten about how bad a liar his lawyer is, or why Ukraine is even enmeshed in the multiple scandals that would lead to the impeachment of any other president.

      Would Trump let Rudy Giuliani testify to Congress about his own efforts?

      Oh I would have no problem with it, he told reporters on Sunday. Rudy is a very straight shooter. And Rudy wants to see the same thing as a lot of other people with respect to your Ukraine. Ukraine has had a tremendous corruption problem. Somehow they were involved in a lot of different things that took place in our country, and hopefully it can be straightened out.

      Hopefully we can straighten this out for you, Mr President. Rudy shoots so straight that he can break land speed records for lying on national television. Did he ask Ukraines government to investigate Joe Biden? No, actually I didnt, he told CNN, before admitting 30 seconds later, of course I did.

      Somehow Ukraine was involved in a lot of things in American politics, Mr President. Most of them involving Paul Manafort, your old campaign chairman, now serving time in jail for tax evasion on all the cash he made from Ukraines former president. The one supported by Vladimir Putin, whom you asked for help to hack into the emails of your opponents in the last election during a press conference.

      It was a perfect call. A perfect call, Trump said on Sunday. What wasnt perfect is the horrible thing that Joe Biden said. And now he made it a lie when he said he never spoke to his son. I mean, give me a break. Hes already said he spoke to his son. And now he said, yesterday, very firmly. Who wouldnt speak to your son? Of course you spoke to your son. So he made the mistake of saying he never spoke to his son. He spoke to his son.

      The son thing is troubling, Mr President. Troubling because you sound unhinged.

      But more importantly, Trump continued, what he said about the billions of dollars that he wouldnt give them unless they fired the prosecutor. And then he bragged about how they fired the prosecutor and they got the money.

      Oh yes. The money thing. Its a beauty. Biden is smeared by the most braggadociously corrupt president for pushing Ukraine to have a prosecutor who will fight corruption.

      It may be no surprise that Trump is circling the drain while clinging on to his own dizzy conspiracies. His election prospects are miserable and he desperately needs another looney-tuned cartoon like the Clinton email saga.

      But its still surprising to see his secretary of state and Treasury secretary peddling the same smear as if it was just another Sunday talk show subject.

      Is there anyone left with any self-respect in the Republican party? Step forward Mitt Romney, the former Republican nominee and now Utah senator. No really, step forward.

      If the President asked or pressured Ukraines president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme. Critical for the facts to come out, Romney tweeted.

      Damn the torpedoes. The senator is extremely troubled, if not rather exercised, by the possibility of something that Trump and Giuliani have already admitted on camera.

      If youre wondering what the next 14 months of the presidential election looks like, you are already looking at it. The poor citizens of Ukraine have been looking at it for the last five years, ever since Russian troops marched in and unleashed their disinformation on an unsuspecting world.

      Like Vladimir Putin, Al Capone knew that dont have to be smart to get away with murder. You just have to confuse everyone about what guilt looks like.

      • Richard Wolffe is a Guardian US columnist

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