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Morning News Brief: Jared Kushner Rising, Bill O'Reilly's Future, YouTube Ads


Yeah. So up first, Rachel, Donald Trump's 36-year-old son-in-law Jared Kushner - he is wearing so many different hats in the White House these days. Officially, now his title is senior adviser to the president, but what does that mean? Well, he's been leading a new White House initiative on innovation. He also flew to Iraq with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Here is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.


SEAN SPICER: Jared's going to specifically express the commitment of U.S. of the United States to the government of Iraq, meet with U.S. personnel engaged in the campaign, and it's not like this is a one-shot deal. In the course of conversation and extensive meetings, that invitation was extended, and they took it up.

GREENE: And so, by the way, Kushner is also the guy that President Trump has tapped to come up with a plan for peace in the Middle East. He's doing a lot.


Yeah. A little busy. OK. So with us this morning Domenico Montanaro of NPR's Politics team is here with us. Hi, Domenico.


MARTIN: And we have David Folkenflik. He covers media for NPR. He's joining us on the line from New York. Hi, Folkenflik.


MARTIN: And you will be Folkenflik in this conversation because we have two Davids. It's too confusing.

FOLKENFLIK: (Laughter) Proud of it.

GREENE: Please, please.

MARTIN: We're just going to do it that way. But we're going to start with Domenico. So let's talk about Jared Kushner here. The Washington establishment has thrown a lot of barbs at this guy, criticizing his lack of experience on foreign policy in particular. But he's not a Cabinet secretary. He's a senior aide to the president. And as far as I understand, the only real job requirement for those people is to have the trust of the president, right?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, that's true except for the fact that at least Cabinet secretaries have to go through these long confirmation hearings where you do get to learn about what they believe and what their experiences, and, you know, the thing is when somebody has that much influence. There are a lot of legitimate questions about the kind of advice the president is getting.

You know, nothing against 30-somethings - just saying - but Kushner has a wealthy dad, is married to Trump's daughter, has no policy diplomatic or government experience and now looks like the most powerful person in the White House who's not the president.

MARTIN: Do we have any sense at this point - I mean, we see him in a lot of photos. But do we know what his imprint has been on policy yet?

MONTANARO: We don't really because he doesn't have a ton of policy experience. We know that he's of what's the so-called New York wing of the White House warring factions, if there are that many. But he's, you know, more moderate on a lot of different positions. We've heard that he and Ivanka have pushed this president on things like LGBT rights, a little bit more than the Steve Bannon wing, for example, which is much more nationalist, populist.

MARTIN: And we'll get to that, but, Folkenflik, you've reported on Kushner's time in New York as a real estate mogul himself. How could his experience there influence how he is advising the president?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, there are a couple of things. You know, in some ways his greatest success has been to be taken seriously in New York itself. He comes from a New Jersey family. His son, a very wealthy New Jersey real estate developer, who groomed him in politics and who, you know, was a huge fundraiser for major Democratic politicians that used to come through his New Jersey home and give talks and, you know, to figures who would give money there. Benjamin Netanyahu did that. He comes from a Jewish family.

So, you know, Netanyahu as a rising Israeli politician basically did the same thing decades ago. But his great success was to be taken seriously in New York. He went and bought the New York Observer, a bird that sort of caters to lead interest covering things like banking and real estate and gossip...

MARTIN: Kind of a presumptuous move.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. Well, but it was his entree into the elites. He also wildly overpaid for major building here on Fifth Avenue, simply to ensure that his real estate empire was taken seriously in this - in the media capital, the banking capital of the world.

MARTIN: So real quick, Domenico, you mentioned Steve Bannon. Kushner's up. Is Bannon down?

MONTANARO: Probably, yeah. Most likely there's - Jared Kushner is ascendant in the White House. Steve Bannon's influence definitely seems to be waning just a bit.

GREENE: You know, Rachel, here we are trying to figure out who this guy Jared Kushner is. That's what confirmation hearings are for. We covered so many of them, as you said, Domenico. I mean, so many tough questions from lawmakers about people who would presumably be playing these big roles revealing themselves. Jared Kushner hasn't had to reveal much at all, and I'm looking for moments if they come when we can learn something - his beliefs or whether he's defined by ideology somehow like Steve Bannon. Those moments haven't come yet.

MARTIN: All right. We're going to move from a rising star in Jared Kushner to who appears at this point to be a person falling from grace. We're talking about Bill O'Reilly one of, if not the top anchors at Fox News. He's going on a vacation, David.


MARTIN: And tell us why this is news.

GREENE: Yeah. Vacation-ish maybe. I mean, he's going on a vacation at a time when he's facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Five women have received payouts totaling about $13 million to settle lawsuits against O'Reilly, and more than 50 companies have now pulled their advertising from his show. So is O'Reilly really on vacation or is this a sign that he is being pushed out? Here's what he told his viewers the other night.


BILL O'REILLY: Often around this time of year, I grab some vacation because it's spring and Easter time. Last fall, I booked a trip that should be terrific, not going to tell you where it is, but we have a contest on billoreilly.com, guess where Bill's going. I'll have a full report when I return.

GREENE: So O'Reilly has - we should say one very powerful defender, and that is President Trump. Last week, Trump told The New York Times that O'Reilly is, quote, "a good person." And Trump said, quote, "I don't think Bill did anything wrong."

MARTIN: All right. Folkenflik, what's going on here?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, look, let's pretend that this is actually what happened, and the sequence is real that he did book, as people inside Fox claim, his tickets last October. He sure announced this awfully abruptly this week, and he's skating on the thinnest ice of his career. He settled these allegations against these women. They weren't all lawsuits actually.

What happened was one of the big one's lawsuits, but they - a number of them were settled quietly to keep them out of the public eye. And The New York Times, you know, rammed them right back into the public eye a few days ago. There's a complaint made by a woman who can't file a lawsuit. She's outside the statute of limitations, a woman named Wendy Walsh - we interviewed a few days ago, had her on the air. And she decided to go through the formal complaint process with Fox anyway and say this happened to me, so they're reviewing it. If they want to, this can be a pretext for them to shove him out.

But there's also something else going on. You know, the real subtext to all this is that Roger Ailes, the founding chairman, the creative drive behind the success of Fox was forced out last summer for sexual harassment. And right now, you know, Fox is under the gun for this and also under a federal inquiry to see if they hid payments to women to try to keep it a secret, not only from the public, but from shareholders that could constitute federal crime.

And if that's the case, then anybody connected to the idea of payouts for sexual harassment - secret payments to keep them out of the public eye - that becomes a real problem for Fox News and for the Murdoch family that controls it.

MARTIN: Domenico, President Trump has come to O'Reilly's defense as we heard. Fox is aligned with the political right in this country, but Trump really does have a unique relationship with this network, right?

MONTANARO: Well, look, any Republican president, any Republican is going to need Fox News. Fox caters to a conservative audience which is why I was so surprised, frankly, during the presidential primaries when Trump took aim at Fox News and said they weren't being fair to him, took aim at Megyn Kelly who at the time was the top rated anchor on the network and has since left for NBC.

The fact that Trump won in that situation was really mind-boggling because that's just not what happens in a Republican primary. But the irony here of Trump himself who has been somebody who's been accused of sexual assault to be somebody who's defending Bill O'Reilly, you know, without really knowing the facts or the evidence is not usually something any president does.

FOLKENFLIK: And let's be clear, you know, Bill O'Reilly defended Donald Trump...

MONTANARO: Good point.

FOLKENFLIK: ...When he came under attack for this. These two guys are built for each other. You've got bombastic, older men who basically fall in roughly the same place of the quasi-center right. They're built for each other. He's perfect for the Trump age, and that's what makes it hard.

MARTIN: They've had a long relationship those two.

GREENE: Yeah, I mean, I just want to see what Fox's next move is. I mean, this is the highest rated cable news show on television. Fox doesn't want to jeopardize that. They also want to be seen as doing the right thing, and what about Donald Trump? Many people voted for him despite those stories about how he treated women. I want to see if there's a political cost if Trump stands by someone like O'Reilly now that he's president.

MARTIN: All right. We'll leave it there. Domenico Montanaro of NPR's Politics team. We also were joined by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Hey, you guys. Thanks so much.


MONTANARO: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: All right. OK. We've got one more story. Sounds like YouTube is in a bit of a bind, David.

GREENE: Yeah. I would say so. This started a couple of weeks ago. The Wall Street Journal reported that ads for some big brands like Coca-Cola were popping up next to extremist, anti-Semitic YouTube content. Advertisers pulled their accounts from YouTube. Youtube changed its algorithms to try and fix this, but some content creators are saying like come on I'm losing ad money for just saying a bad word.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Guys, I don't think that I can call you beautiful bastards anymore because apparently that and several other things I do are not, quote, "advertiser friendly." I had heard murmurings. I had heard a few...

MARTIN: All right. We've got someone here to explain this, Laura Sydell. She covers tech. She's on the line from San Francisco. Hi, Laura. Good morning. How exactly are these new algorithms hurting YouTube content creators?

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Well, first, let's say there's just the overall sense that all these advertisers have pulled out, so there's less money. Secondly, what seems to be happening is that, you know, it's far from perfect, this algorithm. So I talked with comedy producer Ethan Klein of H3H3 productions, and he told me that some videos with the word dioning (ph) got ads taken off. And, I mean, like, you know, we're talking I almost died laughing.

SYDELL: Oh, man.

SYDELL: This other content creator - right? - it's a channel called Real Women Real Stories, and it features interviews, you know, with women about like hardships, sex trafficking. And the videos aren't graphic, it's just a - it's an advocacy group for women. But it relies on the ad revenue to fund the production of these videos.

MARTIN: All right. It's a story we will continue to follow. NPR's digital culture correspondent Laura Sydell in San Francisco. Hey, Laura, thanks so much.

SYDELL: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.