Debate Night: Experts Predict Record Number of Viewers

The Debate Stage at Hofstra University, Photo Courtesy Hofstra Chronicle

The Debate Stage at Hofstra University, Photo Courtesy Hofstra Chronicle

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are set to face off in the first presidential debate of the 2016 election of at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, and will be moderated by NBC’s Lester Holt. Experts are suggesting that the worldwide audience for the debate could top 100 million viewers, on par with television spectacles like the Super Bowl, meaning it could generate the biggest debate audience ever. The last time a debate drew an audience of over 80 million viewers was the 1980 presidential debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, which remains the most-watched presidential debate ever.

The debate at Hofstra will almost certainly surpass the previous presidential debate’s ratings. In 2012, the three debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama averaged around 67 million viewers. Expectations are high that this debate will shatter records. The first Republican primary debate, held in August 2015, was the most watched primary debate ever.

The debate will be available for live stream on more platforms than ever. Aside from all the major cable news channels, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as Youtube, will make streaming the debate available to their viewers. Subscription streaming service Hulu will also air the event as well as online news outlets such as The Huffington Post and Politico. Reports from cable networks indicate that ad space is sold out for the remaining presidential debates.

You can found out more on the stakes of the debate as well as stream it live here.

Watch Vice President Joe Biden’s Message to Federal Employees at the Sammies Awards

The Samuel J Heyman Service to America awards were held Tuesday, September 20th and Vice President Joe Biden delivered a special message to the winners as well as all federal employees saying, “You could have chosen a number of professions and be making a lot more money, but you chose to serve your country. You’re professional, you’re dedicated. You’re the best the buy the American people get and they don’t know it.”

You can find photos from the big event below.

Sammies Awards 2016

Recognizing the Best in Government at the Sammies Awards

Michael Kelly, Denis McDonough, and Stephanie Ruhle at the Sammies Awards, Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

Michael Kelly, Denis McDonough, and Stephanie Ruhle at the Sammies Awards, Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

This year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Awards, better known as the Sammies, honored the finest in government service. The event was held Tuesday, September 20th at the historic Andrew Mellon W. Auditorium.

Hosting the big event were Michael Kelly, who plays Doug Stamper on Netflix’s House of Cards, along with NBC’s Stephanie Ruhle. Together they added humor and wit to the night’s proceedings. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough caught up with Michael Kelly, who portrays the role McDonough fills in real life. At the winner’s reception, they got a chance to thank and mingle with the winners of this year’s awards.

Among the VIP’s at this year’s awards were:

  • Ronnie and Larry Heyman
  • Tom Bernstein, co-founder, Chelsea Piers
  • NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
  • IRS Commissioner John Koskinen
  • Fmr. Representative Tom Davis
  • Sean O’Keefe, former NASA Administrator
  • Former Campbell’s Soup CEO Doug Conant
  • Deputy Secretary Chris Lu, Department of Labor
  • Former Rep. Mike Rogers
  • Rep. Garret Graves
  • Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Sarah Raskin
  • White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough
  • Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy
  • Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News Weekend Today Show and MSNBC
  • Michael Kelly, House of Cards Chief of Staff Doug Stamper
  • OMB Director Shaun Donovan
  • Admiral Thad Allen (Ret.)
  • Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy
  • Former WH Chief of Staff Josh Bolten
  • Rep. David Price (D-N.C.)

You can read more about the event and the winners of this year’s Sammies here.

Washington Set to Honor Federal Employees at Tonight’s Sammies Awards

House of Cards' Michael Kelly, Sammies Awards emcee, at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Garden Brunch, Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

House of Cards’ Michael Kelly, Sammies Awards emcee, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Garden Brunch, Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

The Partnership for Public Service’s 15th annual awards gala the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, or the Sammies, will be held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium this evening. Known as the Oscars of civil service, the Sammies will honor the federal employees who made the biggest contributions to American life. Civil servants often don’t get credit for their work and the Partnership for Public Service is using this night to give credit where credit is due. The emcees of this year’s awards will be House of Cards’ Michael Kelly, who plays the ruthless Chief of Staff Doug Stamper to President Underwood, and NBC’s Stephanie Ruhle.

The recipients of Sammies awards save lives, innovate, discover, and preserve national security. This year’s Federal Employees of the Year award will go to Jean Moody-Williams, Dennis Wagner, and Paul McGann, a team from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who were able to reduce hospital-acquired medical conditions by 40%.

Among the other winners includes Jaques Reifman, who invented a device for army medics in the field to find out if they have internal bleeding. Undetected internal bleeding is the number one cause of death for war casualties and this device has the potential to save many of these lives. Another is Tate Jarrow, who has lead the Secret Service in investigating some of the biggest cybercrime cases in history. Jarrow will receive this year’s Call to Service award.

Another outstanding public servant will be honored tonight is Kirk Yeager, the FBI’s top explosive scientist, who will receive the National Security and International Affairs Medal for his work in training local bomb squads in how to handle live explosives.

Vice President Joe Biden will address the nominees this year in a special video message. “You could have chosen a number of professions and be making a lot more money, but you chose to serve your country. You’re professional, you’re dedicated. You’re the best the buy the American people get and they don’t know it.”

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service is an organization who makes government more effective with a number of programs like mentorship programs for incoming government workers, inter-agency briefings to decrease overlap between agencies, and courses to ensure federal employees have the most up to date training they need.

You can read more about this year’s winners here.

The live feed for the Sammies can be found here.

Victorious VEEP!


VEEP Cast for WHC Insider article

It was another golden night at the 68th annual Emmy Awards for HBO’s VEEP.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus a.k.a. President Selina Meyer, kicked off the gala with one of the evening’s biggest laughs with her cameo in the opening vignette: Emmy host Jimmy Kimmel discovers she’s riding in the back of a limousine driven by former Republican presidential candidate, Governor Jeb Bush.

This year, the beloved actress took home her fifth consecutive win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. During her acceptance speech, she charmed the crowd by apologizing for her show’s unintended influence on the current political climate.

Her win was a poignant won, when Louis-Dreyfus revealed her father William Louis-Dreyfus passed away on Friday at the age of 84.

VEEP won the top prize from the Television Academy for Outstanding Comedy Series for the second year in a row. Afterwards, VEEP Emmy winners Dave Mandel, Lew Morton and Peter Huyck were seen entering Jimmy Kimmel’s after party which included every major comedy player from James Corden and Jimmy Fallon to Chris Rock and Amy Schumer.  Tom Arnold to Jeff Ross, Matt Damon to Kit Harrington and Sophie Tucker. John Mayer dancing to a rockin band, while guests dined out on gourmet liquor, BBQ, and Pizza. The no photos rule gave the 300 or so guests an intimate vibe, but the crowd cheered for Veeples Tony Hale, David Mandel, Lew Morton and Peter Huyck.

Masters in Politics: Maureen Dowd Warns the Worst is Yet to Come in 2016 Election, EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock Targets Donald Trump’s Childcare Plan


On the latest episode of Bloomberg’s Masters in Politics podcast, hosts Tammy Haddad and Betsy Fischer Martin spoke with EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Dowd said she believes things will only get nastier between now and November 8th.

“I think the next 55 days is going to be the craziest and the meanest slice of politics we’ve ever seen,” Dowd said.

That includes the upcoming presidential debates, the first of which will be held on September 26th at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt will moderate despite Donald Trump’s efforts to have   no moderators at the debates.

Dowd told MIP that it’s important to have someone on hand, especially because she believes both candidates have a fluid relationship with the truth.

“You need someone who is really on it. You have to have someone who can fact check in their head in real time. So that’s more important than ever so these things can’t be treated as an entertainment extravaganza even if they’re entertaining. You’ve got to have people who really are steeped in the issues.”

EMILY’s List, a political action committee dedicated to helping elect pro-choice Democratic women, has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Schriock told “Masters in Politics” hosts Tammy Haddad and Betsy Fischer Martin, that she believes women voters are really looking for candidates who are leading on strong economic issues based around the family, and is disheartened by the childcare policy plan Donald Trump announced this week. She wishes he had stuck closer to the plan his daughter Ivanka proposed at the Republican National Convention.

“What I’m saddened by is that Ivanka at the convention laid out a really nice vision for affordable childcare. That is not the policy that they rolled out this week, and the policy that Donald Trump decided to take on is one that is not going to have the effect. I continue to say that I’m ready for Ivanka to switch parties and become a Democrat because [she] sounds like one already. I am ready to sit down with her at any time to discuss her political future as a Democratic woman.”

Schriock considers Donald Trump’s announcement a half-hearted effort to woo back female Republican voters who are questioning whether they can support the nominee after some of the negative remarks he has made about women in the past and throughout the campaign.

“I will say that for someone who clearly has realized with less than 60 days out that he has a gigantic problem with women voters, he is just trying to throw something together and that is what that policy looked like.”

You can check out the full interview here.

DC Media and Politicos Welcome Back Jill Hazelbaker

Uber execs Todd Bowers, Megan Capiak, Crysten Glawe, Dave Barmore with the milkshake man from Captain Cookie and the Milkman Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

Uber execs Todd Bowers, Megan Capiak, Crysten Glawe, Dave Barmore with the milkshake man from Captain Cookie and the Milkman, one of UberEATS’ most popular delivery places, Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

Friends and colleagues gathered Tuesday night, September 13, to welcome Jill Hazelbaker, one of their own, back to Washington DC. Hazelbaker is currently Senior VP of Public Policy and Communications at Uber after longtime executive positions at SnapChat and Google. Hazelbaker had previously served as an aide to Sen. John McCain. Politicos, media, and techies gathered in the backyard of Tammy Haddad, the former site at the White House Correspondents’ Garden Brunch, to catch up with Jill and enjoy food from UberEATS vendors.

Jill Hazelbaker, Michelle Lee, Niki Christoff, Cecilia Kang

Jill Hazelbaker, Michelle Lee, Niki Christoff, Cecilia Kang at Uber EATS Dinner

Among the guests were Greta Van Susteren, recently departed from FOX, and her husband John Coale. Guests like Facebook’s Erin Egan were talking about the 4 million viewers Susteren had from her most recent Facebook post. The link to Greta’s post is here.

Guests from the White House included Shailagh Murray, Deesha Dyer and Kirby Bumpus. Marty Baron, Editor of Washington Post was seen talking to former employee Cecilia Kang, now with the New York Times. Her colleague Jeremy Peters, Rick Klein, Betsy Fischer Martin, Robin Sproul, Kevin Cirilli and Craig Gordon rounded out the political journalists.  Hill favorites Heather Podesta, Juleanna Glover, Kimberley Fritts and Ron Bonjean were on hand.  Four Seasons Women Breakfast Club members Carol Melton, DeDe Lea were also in attendance.

Food for the gathering was provided by a variety of UberEATS vendors such as Mason Dixie Biscuit Co., Captain Cookie and the Milkman, Zombie Donuts, Ghibellina, Chaia, Hill Country BBQ, Buredo,  and The Chickery.


Masters In Politics: Ben Carson Refuses to Say Whether Obama is a Better Leader than Putin, Clinton Foundation COO Craig Minassian Does a Deep Dive on Their Policies and Procedures

Ben Carson at the first Republican Primary Debate in Cleveland, Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

Ben Carson at the first Republican Primary Debate in Cleveland, Photo Courtesy of Haddad Media

On the latest episode of Bloomberg’s Masters in Politics podcast, hosts Tammy Haddad and Betsy Fischer Martin spoke with Clinton Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer Craig Minassian and former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson. Carson attempted to clarify Trump’s comments on Vladimir Putin, and Minassian discussed controversial donations to the foundation.

Carson, who has lent his services to the Trump campaign as an informal advisor, believes Trump has no need to apologize for his comments regarding Russian Leader Vladimir Putin. “He’s saying that Putin is looked upon in his country with a great deal more respect than Obama is in this country.” When asked whether Putin was a better leader than President Obama, Carson ducked. “He tends to be more aggressive, more assertive, and more of a leader, and therefore gains more respect in his country.”

Hosts Tammy Haddad and Betsy Fischer Martin questioned Craig Minassian on the controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation’s donors and programs. “Countries were donating before [Clinton] was Secretary of State, and most of those donations came pre-2004”. When asked about Saudi Arabia’s contributions to the foundation, Minassian explained, “Saudi Arabia never donated while she was Secretary of State. They did contribute again after she was out of office but the majority of countries did not.” He also noted to the fact if Saudi Arabia wrote a check today to the foundation that they would be unable to do so. Minassian is a longtime Clinton advisor going back to the Clinton White House years.

You can check out the full interview here.

Volta Insider: Art and Activism at the RNC and DNC


Rachel Greenberg at the DNC, Photo Courtesy of Volta Insider

As the political forces of the Democratic Party descended on Philadelphia for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, activists, protesters, artists, and performers, converged on the streets of downtown Philly to entertain, provoke, and raise awareness for their issues. Rachel Greenberg, host of the Volta Insider podcast, went to the DNC to find out why those from outside the world of politics come to the national conventions.

Greenberg caught up with artist Andrew Purchin to discuss the DNC, his hopes for the election, and the intersection of art and politics.


Rachel Greenberg with Andrew Purchin, Photo Courtesy of Volta Insider

Andrew Purchin brought his interactive project “The Curious End to the War Against Ourselves” to both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this year. The piece, a 144-foot linen scroll, is designed for passerbys who stop by to contribute. Purchin describes the project as “a guided art-making meditation”. His goal with the work is to connect with people across the political spectrum and get them to collaborate in the same space with people who share dissimilar views, be it social or political. This apolitical work is an attempt at reconciling what Purchin calls “the infighting both within our heads and with each other”.

To watch Greenberg’s interview with Andrew Purchin click here. You can find more Volta Insider episodes here.

To find out more about Andrew Purchin’s art and his project visit his website here.

Ron Fournier: Politics and Journalism Will Miss You!


fwiw …

I left political journalism once before—to help launch a social media site designed to engage political influencers in civil conversation. It failed (one critic called it “the idiotic”), but among the many lessons I took away from the experience was one about journalism.
In a meeting just before the site launched, my business partners—six of the smartest, most successful political consultants in Washington—debated which reporter would be given an interview announcing our venture.

Inline image 1
I mentioned a particular journalist known to be an easy mark inside the White Houses of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Afraid of confrontation, eager to please, and lazy, this reporter printed whatever minor bits of news and color aides fed him, without skepticism or criticism. I didn’t respect the guy. Nor did most other reporters forced to compete against a patsy who benefited from a policy of mutual-assured promotion.

“He’ll gobble up what we feed him,” I told my partners.

One groaned. Another winced and said, “Yes, but nobody will buy it. Nobody respects him. They’ll know it’s just a press release.”

Until that moment, I assumed the people we covered in politics valued pushover journalists. I thought this particular reporter got ahead by going along. That might be true on the small stories, but not for the stuff that matters.

One of my partners asked about a Washington Post political correspondent known for his tough, insightful coverage. “You think Dan Balz would buy this?”

“I don’t know,” said another. “But if Balz loves Hotsoup, we’re golden. If he hates it, we’re toast.”

Balz never did write about the project, and we were toast. But I left the meeting knowing that if I ever returned to journalism, I didn’t want to be taken for granted liked the first reporter. I wanted to inspire in my sources what Balz had earned from my partners—respect and fear.

Now that I’m leaving political journalism again, I’d like to share a few other things I’ve learned since joining the profession 30 years ago in Arkansas, where I covered Bill Clinton.

Don’t lose sight of your mission. A reporter’s job is to get as close to the truth as possible, overriding personal biases and sifting through a rising churn of spin and lies to explain what happened and why it matters. At its highest levels, journalism informs (via scoops and insights that would otherwise be unknown), provokes (via new thoughts and action), and holds powerful people accountable (with no fear or favor).

You’re not working for your editors, other reporters on your beat, or your sources. You’re working for the public, your audience, which is why you don’t slip acronyms, anonymous quotes, and other insidery detail into your stories just to impress folks on your beat. Also, remember for whom you work when you’re rewriting a press release or broadcasting a spoon-fed story for the wrong reasons—“because I’ve got to keep them happy” or “I’ve got to show them I’m relevant, that I’m the reporter they come to.” That’s how you become a patsy. It’s not how you develop sources.

A reporter’s job is to get as close to the truth as possible.
You develop sources by building relationships. Draw up a list of the people on your beat who know things your audience needs to know. Call or email every one of them and ask them out for coffee or lunch. Keep lists. Keep calling. When you’re meeting a potential source for the first time, keep the conversation informal. Get to know him or her. Where’s she from? How does she get along with her family? What are her hobbies? Write a thank-you note after that first meeting, and follow up for a second and a third and a fourth. Don’t consummate the relationship until you’ve built one; it might take weeks, months, or even years to accumulate enough trust for a source to give you information that is valuable for your audience to know and dangerous for your source to convey. (I conducted workshops at The Associated Press that compared source development to the rituals of dating.)

Don’t hesitate to hurt a source. One of the reasons to build relationships with people you cover is so that they understand your mission, which means they shouldn’t expect favors when they find your job in conflict with theirs. Fairness and honesty are central to any relationship, and nobody likes surprises, which is why I tell sources, “I’ll never stab you in the back. I’ll always stab you in the chest.” In other words, you’ll know when I’m writing about you or your boss, you’ll know exactly how negative the story will be, and you’ll get a chance to argue your case—but you’ll still get the sharp end of the knife. A reporter’s job isn’t to make friends. It’s to build relationships that inform and provoke readers, and to hold powerful people accountable. Remember the Balz lesson: Your sources are more likely to respect you if they’re a little afraid of you.

Don’t cede power to the powerful. I’ve written repeatedly (here, here, and here) about how the media needs to confront a dangerous shift of power away from journalists and toward the people they cover. The short version: Stop ceding control and start doing things that bring powerful people to heel. You don’t like background briefings? Stand up at them and say, “I am filing this briefing to Twitter and quoting you by name.” You want Donald Trump to release his tax records? Impose an embargo on his free airtime until he does so. Campaign officials are bullying one of your reporters over a tough story she did? Get her help: Assign four more reporters to the story and tell them to dig deeper, because apparently she’s on to something. Political operatives are adapting, finding new and ruthless ways to mislead the public. Journalists must adapt, too.

You control the ground rules. An addendum to the rule above, all news and information is on the record and suitable for publication or broadcast, subject to the sole discretion of journalists. On your beat, any exceptions to that rule must be approved in advance by you. A company email marked “off the record” or “on background” and sent to you unsolicited is an email you can publish—on the record. An advanced text of a speech marked “embargoed” and sent to you unsolicited is a speech you can publish—immediately. A government official who tells you something in an interview and then says, “That’s off the record” gets a polite but curt reply, “It’s on the record, sir. I’m a reporter, not a priest.”

You may want to talk on background. Before granting somebody anonymity, ask yourself, “Am I doing this in service of my audience or my ego?” The standard rule for using anonymous sources, published in Associated Press style books used in almost every newsroom, is: “Whenever possible, we pursue information on the record. When the source insists on background or off-the-record ground rules, we must adhere to a strict set of guidelines.” First, the material is information “and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.” Second, the information is not available on the record. Third, the source is reliable. Many times, the only way to reveal secrets and ugly truths is to disguise the identities of people who expose them.

The truth is rarely black and white or evenly balanced between poles.
Write with authority. Don’t use crutches like “critics say” when the truth can stand on its own. If the president has said something that is factually wrong, just write or say, “The president is wrong.” If you can show the deception is intentional, tell your audience, “The president lied.” Don’t strain for balance or equivalence in a story where there is none. The truth is rarely black and white or evenly balanced between poles. When you’re writing and editing a story, focus on your first paragraph—the lede that tightly explains what happened. But spend the most time on your “nut paragraph,” that chunk of context explaining why the news is important to your audience or what it might say about future behavior. If you’re writing an opinion piece, that “nut paragraph” may actually be your lede.

Politics isn’t just about winning. I loathe political journalism that reduces every development or controversy into a single lazy question: “What does this say about how Candidate X will fare on Election Day?” The better question is often ignored: “What does this say about how Candidate X would govern?” This horserace bias helped fuel Donald Trump’s rise, as each outrageous utterance seemed to be forgotten, if not excused, when polls showed that the callousness was not hurting his poll numbers. In most campaign coverage, “Will he win?” trumped “Should he win?” It wasn’t until Trump’s approval numbers started tanking in general election polling that his suitability for the office became a mainstream issue.

Politics isn’t just a science. For as much as reporters should use data and study political science, they shouldn’t ignore the sociology of the beat. We don’t cover mere numbers or studies or even candidates; we cover people—people who want to lead a nation of people buffeted by a confluence of economic, technological, and demographic change unlike anything the United States has experienced since the late 1800s and early 1900s. Understand that history. Get outside of Washington and ask people how their lives and politics are changing. This is how I wrapped my head around why good people support a bad candidate like Trump, people who I started calling “Crazy Buts.”

Don’t follow the herd. Journalists in Washington tend to chase the same stories based on the same assumptions to reach the same conclusions. Resist the temptation because it’s boring and bad for your career. The way to advance in journalism is to be distinctive, which means telling stories that nobody else is telling, which starts by asking questions nobody else is asking, which can only be done if you ignore the convention wisdom and group think, which takes guts. Take a chance. Take control.

Eventually, the dynamic shifts. You start breaking stories and stabbing people in the chest, and now the powerful people need you more than you need them. You stop begging for information, because now they beg you. “What are you working on?” ask government and campaign officials, the same people who used to ignore your emails and calls—and that’s when you know you’ve got ‘em. They trust you. They respect you. They may or may not like you, but what really matters is this: They’re a little afraid of you.