The ‘Trump Media War’ Escalates!


CNN and Acosta are taking the extraordinary step to sue POTUS over last week’s fiery news conference. According to the suit, CNN believes Trump violated its First Amendment right by revoking Acosta’s “hard pass” … thereby hampering his ability to cover the White House.

Thoughts on the “Acosta/CNN vs. the White House” press pass debacle that just escalated to the lawsuit level – and some tips for companies thinking of pulling someone’s credentials.

In our opinion, the White House blew this controversy way out of proportion by pulling Jim Acosta’s “hard pass” – now they have an even bigger mess on their hands. Pulling a reporter’s credentials should be done as a LAST RESORT, only when a CLEAR violation has been committed. If that action has to be argued, especially in court, it was the wrong move.

To be clear, CNN apparently has no issue (and perhaps encourages, wink, wink, ratings) their reporters to grandstand, as the White House has pointed out. That’s especially true in Jim Acosta’s case. He has garnered a reputation and a following for injecting his personal situation/opinion into many a report (“my grandfather was a Cuban immigrant”, “the Caravan is not an invasion”, etc). He is widely seen as President Trump’s top agitator and does not shy away from hiding his PERSONAL feelings on any issue.

The fact is, in the last few years the line between ‘reporter’ and ‘pundit’ or opinion writer has blurred, to the detriment of journalism everywhere. Reporters and news organizations should NEVER become part of the story but in the struggle to stand out amid the social media/internet din sadly, this has become the norm. A ‘hot take’ is now ‘reporting’. 

That said, like most of their other PR controversies, the White House has handled this horribly. They simply have no sense or no regard, for the fallout after their knee-jerk reactions. The White House staff and the President could have diffused this in a number of different ways and you can do the same!


  1. The could have simply not called on Jim Acosta – a novel idea!  
  2. They didn’t have to hand over the microphone in the first place, they could have had someone else (like the infamous intern) hold it for everyone.
  3. Have some press conference rules to begin with – each reporter gets one question and a follow up or assign a time limit that every reporter must abide by.
  4. Answer a reporter’s challenging, annoying questions using proper MEDIA TRAINING Rules/Tools and move on (ie, the answer/non-answer, use a bridge to a talking point, deflections, etc.)
  5. After the presser pull the reporter aside or have a sit down with CNN to talk over the dispute and if need be, implement changes.

After those and other methods, if pulling a credential seems like the only option, give your reasons immediately and clearly. That  did NOT happen in this case.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially said Acosta had “assaulted an intern” by blocking the woman’s arm when she tried to take the microphone back. They said he acted unprofessionally. They reportedly used a doctored video from an unauthorized source to back up their claims, all of those responses inflamed the controversy.

Their response to today’s lawsuit was to say Acosta was “monopolizing the floor” and “this was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.” That’s a far cry from assaulting an intern and not much of a First Amendment legal defense.

What it boils down to is the White House and the President just don’t like Acosta’s style or the questions he asks. So, they pushed the Nuclear Button, for lack of a better term and pulled his ‘hard pass’.

Former press secretary Ari Fleisher pointed out on Twitter that Acosta “has access to the White House, the same every other opinion writer or op-ed writer has. He remains a member of the press corps and he can apply for a daily WH press pass. The only thing he lost is a hard pass, which clears him daily w/o need for a day pass.”

Fleisher has a point. (and apparently, an update!)

Still, none of it is a good look for the White House OR Jim Acosta/CNN.

The Trump Media War continues … stay tuned.


We can help you with press conference set up, credentialing rules and handling those ‘annoying’ reporters with their tough questions!
Give us a call at 206-900-6579 or send us an email at



Anyone worried about the volatility in the stock market, like I am? To understand it better I’ve been watching CNBC a bit more but I’m no finance/investment expert and sometimes I get lost. Not just in the numbers but in the language, the jargon.

A shame really, because to grow an audience, one would think outsiders need to get the message  Hello, MEDIA TRAINING!  Below are few examples from this afternoon’s Squawk on the Street.

 Ari Wald is the Head of Technical Analysis for Oppenheimer. He knows his stuff and is clearly personable and comfortable on camera but listen to his comments on the issue of Amazon’s price drop:


“Given the macro backdrop”, “shape of the yield curve”, “no support levels have been breached”, huh? 

That was so full of jargon Finance 101 for dummieswas my first google destination! – 34 seconds of “moneyspeak” to get to the last line “Amazon’s a winner, let it run”. 

Now, for comparison take the opposite guest, Gina Sanchez, CEO of Chantico Global.


She picked one side of an argument and delivered her opinion, backing it up in a way that anyone could relate to.  

Again, it’s clear Wald knows his stuff and I assume Wall Street and hardcore viewers understand what he’s talking about. Will the entire audience, a new audience?

You often find some of the same disconnect in Silicon Valley. Some Exec’s and engineers spew so much “Tech Speak” the message gets lost. If you want to masses to know about your product or service, that pitch needs to be relayed in language EVERYONE can understand.

Wald did a much better job in this clip about Snap, Inc. even getting in a great “falling knife” analogy. However, he was once again overshadowed by the second guest, Boris Schlossberg, who was quite convincing by comparing Snap to MySpace and finishing with, “…it’s a dead man walking!”

Unfortunately for Snap, Inc. I understood that completely!

Need some help moving from “MoneySpeak” or “TechSpeak” to language EVERYONE can understand? In just one four hour session, FRMediaTrain can make sure your message is heard loud and clear. Shoot us an email or comment below for a free consultation!

Here’s a clip we’re proud of:  William Bruzzo, an Orange County defense attorney and former Marine was asked by i24TV to talk about the legal strategy of President Trump’s newest lawyer, one Rudolph Giuliani. 

We love the fact that right out of the gate, he gave definitive answers and cited several examples (Nixon, his own experience) to back those points up. Not shy about blasting the administration, by our count he worked in no less that six great lines to get his point across. He was clearly prepared and delivered in context, grabbing the viewers attention quickly! 

How about this one, “Trump may own the circus, but the latest Ringmaster is Giuliani” or “It’s almost as if Giuliani was sleepwalking through this thing, or talking casually to his family at Thanksgiving dinner”,  “I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing”! Bruzzo does, well crafted, opinionated, well delivered. Bravo, Sir, Bravo!

(and yes, we helped refine that ability to answer questions AND entertain, media training works!) Send us an email if you’re interested in doing the same:


Five days of silence, then a Post on his page, then an interview on CNN.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg has finally broken his silence and addressed the numerous scandals his company has faced recently, culminating in the Cambridge Analytica data breach. (See our previous post for detailed info on what a rocky six months it has been for the social media giant)

Here’s a clip from CNN last night where Zuckerburg gave his FIRST real (if canned and nervously delivered) apology.


Now a Confession- I set up my Facebook account in 2006 to be able to track down the teenage friends of recent victims of crimes, auto accidents or some other peril that was destined to lead our newscasts that night at Channel 4 in Washington, D.C. It was a great tool – you could find most everyone right there on one website and by going through their page learn A LOT about them in a short amount of time. 

Fast forward to today, that data (and more) that I so easily found, is being used in much more manipulative and some would say nefarious ways. Which brings us to baby faced and seemingly innocent looking Mark Zuckerberg — who in his mea culpa opportunity with CNN and others — failed the most basic PR principle when addressing a crisis; respond quickly and apologize. I believe FB’s customers deserved both immediately and perhaps even back in 2015 when they first learned of this breach.

Had I been inside the FB corporate bubble these past five days I would have deployed my best persuasion techniques to encourage the company to be very public and transparent about the problem and the new privacy change fixes that  Zuckerburg so easily put in his Wednesday “post”. 

As many companies have found, United Airlines, Equifax, Chipotle, in a crisis you rarely have the luxury of sitting in silence and waiting for all of the facts – guess what? you’ll never that luxury of knowing all of the facts, that much Zuckerburg even admitted later in the CNN interview.

Waiting merely allows others to quickly fill the void with speculation and brand damaging opinion. As this clip from one of our training sessions shows, we ENCOURAGE speaking up at the first sign of a crisis. Let’s put that fire out before it grows into an inferno! 

The Facebook community is more like a country – 2 billion strong – failing to address a crisis ‘in the moment’ is a failure of leadership. Hiding from crisis as Mr. Zuckerberg has learned makes you part of the problem and damages the public trust you’ve worked so hard to build.

Sound PR practices applied to handling any crisis – that is the solution and is the sign of a true leader. Hey Mark, you helped me with those searches more than a decade ago, give us a call, we’ll return the favor when your next crisis hits. (and we fear, it’s just around the corner)!

If it takes Twitter hashtags (#WheresZuck, #DeleteFacebook) to finally go in front of a camera and make a statement defending your brand in the midst of a growing crisis – you’re doing it wrong.

There’s no argument Facebook is going through the biggest crisis it has ever faced. The allegation that data on 50 million users of the social media network had been taken from the company and used by Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm used by the Trump presidential campaign will no doubt lead to massive change in the companies privacy policies (again!) and could also lead to federal regulation. Three states and the FTC have launched investigations in the past few days.

All of this comes on the heels of the “Fake News” revelations late last year and the admission by the internet giant that Russian trolls’ weaponized the platform to cause divisiveness among users and interfere in the 2016 election.

Yet CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the two very public “faces” of Facebook have remained silent. Only today has word come out that Zuckerberg will make a statement “.. sometime Wednesday”. Axios is reporting that Zuckerberg’s remarks “will aim to rebuild trust.”

Well, guess what Zuck? Too late for that. The prolonged silence exacerbated that damage and made the company look unorganized at best and guilty of hiding something at worst.

This didn’t help either – prompted by numerous media inquiries a Facebook spokesperson released this written statement late Tuesday:

“Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens”  

Already playing the Blame Game?

According to a CNN report even some top-level executives are frustrated by the lack of transparency and accountability from Zuckerberg and Sandberg.

“These things have so much nuance in them,” a top-level executive said. “Every answer has tradeoffs.” The public rarely gets insight into the behind-the-scenes conversations at Facebook, even when the decisions made during them could impact a significant portion of the population. “We want to tell the public more…tell the hard story more. If we don’t tell it, people write it for us,” he added.

THAT IS EXACTLY what we tell our clients here at FRMediaTrain. “If you’re not telling your story, you can bet someone else is!”

Axios, which first reported Zuckerberg’s “plan”, said the CEO wanted to say something meaningful rather than pushing out a comment quickly. At first glance and thought understandable, but definitely the WRONG strategy. What is prevening you from doing both (meaningful and quick) ?? According to the report Zuckerberg has been speaking to engineers about how to make its website more secure, and make people feel their data is safe. Sorry Mark, that horse has left the barn.

It will be interesting to hear his comments later today – especially considering Facebook has been under   pressure to explain why they didn’t notify users that its data been used in a way that violated its terms of service — since it learned of the violation in 2015!


It’s been called a “Train wreck” and “tough to watch”. Even the White House is “alarmed”.  The headlines and tweets were merciless.  Already described by many (in both parties) as unqualified for the job of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos did herself no favors while being grilled by Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes”.



Unprepared. For “60 MINUTES”! The premier destination for television interviews not just in this day and age but in American history!!! My first thought, this was akin to playing in the Super Bowl without practicing the week prior but after watching the interview multiple times – it’s more like starting the season without a playbook!

(we’d love to post the entire 12 minute interview but CBS has placed a copyright on it)

The shame of it is – throwing gasoline atop a mountain of fervent criticism was avoidable – with just a few hours of preparation! DeVos said she was “…committed to a process that’s fair for everyone involved”  and “…committed to giving students an opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to learning”

She needs to commit to a few talking points – quickly.

For example, this exchange touches on the ONE area where DeVos should be well versed. She’s been an advocate for School Choice for years and in fact, it’s the platform that got her appointed:

DEVOS: Well, in places where there have been — where there is — a lot of choice that’s been introduced — Florida, for example, the — studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually — the results get better, as well.

STAHL: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.

DeVOS: Michi — Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.

STAHL: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DEVOS: I don’t know. Overall, I – I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.

STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.

DEVOS: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this — the students are doing well and –

Oh man – at least know what’s happening in your home state, know a few numbers. Pick a school any school, spin it! Cite the actual study in Florida, cite any real study! Have an argument- ONE talking point,ONE! Please. 

The only thing she really had going for her was honesty. When asked if she had visited any under performing schools she admitted, she hadn’t. When asked what her confirmation hearing was like she gave her best line, “I’ve not had a root canal but I can imagine having one might be more pleasant than that was”. Great analogy! She even opened up about the constant criticism “hurting” at times and you could tell she was feeling it right then and there.

We can’t help but think some of that honesty, infused with a few simple facts may have given her a passing grade – or at the very least upgraded the interview from “train wreck” status.

We’d like to know who exactly is counseling DeVos? Are any communications professionals on staff, any experts/advisors there to help? Anyone? Secretary DeVos give us a call! Your reputation depends on it!


What used to be called “Politics” is all the rage on cable news these days. From the moves (and tweets) coming out of the White House to the divide on Capitol Hill – nearly every night there’s something new for pundits to debate. 

One might think, at some point, the audience would burn out. But there seems to be no sign of that. Ratings rise like Amazon stock and the echo chambers are in control. Viewers enjoy – and have come to expect – hearing, like-minded commentary and spin, regardless of the issue. They tune-in in record numbers to validate their own opinions, branding the opposite side “fake news”. The networks are of course complicit because having a fervent, dedicated audience is a cash cow.  But that’s a topic for another post…  The point here is watching that nightly spin is often times monotonous and predictable, which is why it’s refreshing to hear someone on the other side of the aisle give a straight but also entertaining answer to a question that could easily have been another chapter in that spin cycle.

Take notes kids! During a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “11th Hour” Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist was asked about the Democrats big gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey and what it might mean for the 2018 mid-term elections. Listen to this! —>

Murphy broke it down in two minutes, reminding us of his political experience and adding flair to his answer by featuring 5 or 6 memorable phrases and analogies. From “he couldn’t deliver a pizza “, to “it’s like living in Sparta”, he had the anchor and the other guest laughing and nodding their heads. 

He absolutely STOLE a 10-minute segment on election politics with that single answer. It’s a big reason, along of course, with his credentials – that keeps the phone ringing and his calendar booked.

The lesson is simple: In today’s saturated political talk-fest it’s good to be an expert. But in order for your commentary to resonate you must be entertaining as well. 




FRMediaTrain can teach you how to be an “Entertaining Expert”.

Free Consultation!



Chris Jensen Interview courtesy of @Intelivideo

For more tips and tactics like this send us an email or click below


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Want to make sure you deliver all of your talking points? Want to have the “Last Word”? Here’s a simple and effective tactic used by Chris Jensen of Chase for Business in Denver, CO.  At the end of an on-set interview during Denver Startup Week, he realized he had one more thing to say so, when the thank you’s came from the hosts he quickly but politely interjected “… Can I say one more thing?”  they of course accommodated him and he made his comment relatively quick.  The host was right “that was a good closer!”                

Our only critique? Don’t ask! If you really want to get one final message or talking point across just say “and let me add one more thing…” OR  “..before we go, I’ve got one more comment to make…”

Unless the producers are REALLY pressed for time the hosts will almost ALWAYS let you make that final comment. If they don’t, they risk looking rude themselves. Most anchors don’t want to be seen in that light. So, go for it, have that last word!   

I think we can all see by the many headlines where this one went bad! The Commissioner of the NFL, on a talk show to promote the season kickoff was asked about quarterback Colin Kaepernick who is without a job at the moment. Many believe he’s unemployed not because of his football skills but because of his controversial decision to protest social injustice by kneeling each week during the national anthem. Goodell was asked whether or not Kaepernick should be on a roster. Here’s the edited clip:


Talk about bad optics!! Though his comment can easily be taken out of context (he meant he’s not a “talent” evaluator) Goodell was widely panned for his choice of words. And considering the too many to name here controversies the NFL has been involved in lately, it only adds fuel to the belief that the commissioner is doing a sub-par job leading the most popular sports league in the world.

The lesson, be prepared and choose your words wisely or EVERY headline afterwards will include the quote that gives the impression you’re wearing a red clown nose …and bury any message you wanted to deliver in the process!




WH Advisor Stephen Miller faces off with CNN’s Jim Acosta

One week ago, I planned on writing about the godsend that was Anthony Scaramucci – an outspoken, ill-mannered alternative to the irreplaceable Sean Spicer – but alas, he lasted only 10 days! However, knowing the communications gaffes and mixed messaging this White House is prone to, I figured It wouldn’t be long before some media training ammunition was spent.

It came in the form of a dust-up between White House adviser Stephen Miller and CNN’s Jim Acosta. The showdown took place during a briefing held to trot out the administration’s new immigration policy. The nearly 7-minute back and forth has been described as going “completely off the rails”. That is accurate.

Here’s most of the clip: (Note, as bad as it was – surely it will be surpassed by another more shocking incident in the near future)


Both parties are to blame for turning up the heat. Acosta clearly displayed his disdain for the new policy. He’s been fighting with and criticizing the Trump White House for the better part of 6 months, a media bias that many scream, should not exist. He’s also been accused of “grandstanding” and by quoting the poem on the Statue of Liberty and telling a story about his father, it appeared to some he simply chose a side and held court. Those type of “questions” or statements, play better during an opinion/analysis type show (like for instance, the many he appeared on after this incident).

On the other side, Miller committed the sin of all sins when trying to communicate one’s message. Job number one that afternoon was to be an advocate for a new immigration policy, to present it to the American people by successfully delivering the merits of the proposed action. Maybe more importantly to present it to Republicans in Congress who will have to fight hard to pass the eventual legislation. Instead, he attacked the reporter on a personal level and never even bothered to defend the actual policy during the exchange. Had he used some talking points here, no matter what Acosta was asking, he may have been able to save the roll out. But he muddled things further by name calling, accusing Acosta of bias, ignorance and confusing the narrative. Miller may have begun his press conference by laying out the policy but by the time the back and forth with Acosta was over no one remembered a word he said with regard to immigration.

Sure, his rant fired up the conservative base and it may have made his boss in the Oval Office happy but it did nothing to help get the policy passed. Miller allowed himself to be pushed and prodded, straying so far from the actual message he was there to deliver, he wasted everyone’s time, including his own.