March 12, 2014

Bill O'Reilly has some questions about President Obama's interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns: Was appearing on the awkward-is-funny, absurdist talk show a worse idea because of Vladimir Putin, or because of Abraham Lincoln?

O'Reilly noted that Obama filmed the Funny or Die video two weeks ago, before Putin invaded Ukraine, but said that the president needs to be aware "of how his enemies perceive him." (Presumably he means Russia here, not Fox News.) "It looks like Putin believes the president is a lightweight, will a comedy video counter that?" O'Reilly asked.

On top of that, he added, sending the president himself to tape web-only comedy series to promote the "dubious" Affordable Care Act smacks of desperation. "All I can tell you is, Abe Lincoln would not have done it," he added — which, I think we can all agree, is true. Whether that's because we're a deeply divided nation and "serious times call for serious measures," as O'Reilly argued, or because Lincoln wasn't very funny, didn't know what a video was (much less the internet), and didn't have ObamaCare to defend... well, that's another question.

The White House is pleased that Obama's Between Two Ferns appearance sent a horde of young people to But Obama-joking-while-Putin-pillages is also the focus of Kathleen Parker's column in Wednesday's Washington Post, so whether you think Obama's PR stunt was brilliant or disastrous, you'll probably hear about it until the 2014 midterms. --Peter Weber

2:26 p.m. ET
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The White House might be temporarily "sidelining" Kellyanne Conway from television after reporters and TV show hosts raised questions about her credibility, CNN reports. Conway has not given a television interview since last week when she claimed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn volunteered his resignation, prompting clarification from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said President Trump had asked Flynn to resign.

Conway was reportedly "off message," a person familiar with the discussions told CNN. "Clearly they're having much more of a drama-free week. Having Kellyanne off television is helping them." Another person familiar with Conway's alleged sidelining told CNN: "Trump was using her as an effective surrogate, then she started becoming ineffective, so they're letting the heat cool off."

The White House has flatly denied CNN's reports. "This is another wild goose chase," White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said. "Kellyanne has a number of media appearances this week and also has a large portfolio at the [White House] and is spending significant time focusing on it." Jeva Lange

1:26 p.m. ET

NASA announced Wednesday that it has found an entire solar system that could potentially support life. Some 40 light-years away lies a grouping of seven planets, all roughly the size of Earth, orbiting closely around a single dwarf star. Scientists initially reported the system last year, but at that point they only knew of three planets orbiting the star.

The discovery, uncovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, sets the record for "the most Earth-sized planets and most potentially habitable planets ever discovered around a single star," NPR reported. NASA noted in a press release that all seven of the planets could have "liquid water — key to life as we know it — under the right atmospheric conditions." "This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Answering the question 'Are we alone?' is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal."

Scientists plan to further explore the solar system. But already, University of Leiden astronomy professor Ignas Snellen said, the discovery indicates these systems are "even more common than previously thought." Becca Stanek

1:05 p.m. ET

President Trump's former campaign staff formulated a strategy for keeping the quick-to-tweet candidate off of Twitter, and it involved healthy doses of praise from the media. When there was none, the staffers would work with Trump-friendly outlets to ensure there would be something they could print and deliver to Trump's desk, Politico reports:

For example, when Trump engaged in a Twitter war with the father of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier in Iraq, Khizr Khan, the team set up a meeting with Gold Star Mothers of Florida and made sure to plant the story in conservative media. Breitbart also wrote stories about Khan's relationships with the Democratic Party. "We made sure that conservative media was aware of it, they connected the echo chamber," the former official said.

During another damage-control mission, when former Miss Universe Alicia Machado took to the airwaves to call out Trump for calling her "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping," the communications team scrambled to place a story in conservative friendly outlets like Fox News, the Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller, and Breitbart. [Politico]

"If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable," explained former communications director Sam Nunberg. Another former Trump campaign official added: "[Trump] saw there was activity so he didn't feel like he had to respond. He sends out these tweets when he feels like people aren't responding enough for him."

Politico adds that aides in the White House might be taking note, as they have noticed "leaving [Trump] alone for several hours can prove damaging, because he consumes too much television and gripes to people outside the White House." Jeva Lange

12:22 p.m. ET
Jack Gruber-Pool/Getty Images

Tennessee is a Republican stronghold, a fact that was demonstrated by President Trump's 61 percent victory in the state last November. But high opinion of the president in the Volunteer State is fading — and it's fading fast, a Middle Tennessee State University poll discovered Wednesday. Today, Trump is approved of by just 51 percent of Tennessee voters.

"New presidents often enjoy a so-called honeymoon shortly after winning their first election, when unifying inaugural addresses and a public that hopes for the best contribute to even greater support and job approval than their winning vote totals," explained the associate director of the poll, Jason Reineke. He dubbed Trump's plunge a "hangover" for voters, with Trump's "job approval at the outset of his presidency ... actually worse than his winning vote total in the state."

Even former President Barack Obama had a higher favorability rating in Tennessee during his first term, when 53 percent of the state's voters approved of his job in office.

The conclusions come from a survey of 600 registered voters between Feb. 12-16. The survey has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Jeva Lange

11:58 a.m. ET

More than 100 women flocked to the Twin Cities tattoo shop Brass Knuckle on Tuesday to get the words "nevertheless, she persisted" inked permanently on their bodies, Star Tribune reports. The quote has become something of a rallying cry for liberal women after it was used by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) earlier this month.

"Did I ever think I would get a Mitch McConnell quote tattooed on my body? No, I did not," said organizer Nora McInerny. "But those are three words that any woman would be able to see themselves in, regardless of politics."

McInerny had originally planned for a few friends to get the tattoos together for charity, but she accidentally set her Facebook event to public, not private. Because of McInerny's following as a blogger and social media star, nearly 2,000 people expressed interest in the event after just a few days.

Some people waited more than six hours to get the tattoo, and anyone who couldn't get in was told they could make an appointment through March, with $55 of the $75 tattoo going to a local pro-choice nonprofit.

A post shared by Nora McInerny (@noraborealis) on

"Those words remind me of every woman I know who has kept going even though it's difficult or it might make you unpopular. I just thought it was a perfectly beautiful sentiment,” McInerny said. "Also, I'm incredibly impulsive.” Jeva Lange

11:51 a.m. ET

Almost two-thirds of Americans have at least some concerns about the U.S. getting into a "major war" during the next four years under President Trump, an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll released Wednesday revealed. A plurality, 36 percent, reported being "very worried," while 30 percent were "somewhat worried." Twenty-five percent said they are "not too worried" about the threat of war. Only 8 percent said they are "not at all worried."

Levels of concern varied widely between Republicans and Democrats. A striking 88 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said they were worried about the possibility of war, while 60 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters said they weren't at all concerned.

The poll was conducted online from Feb. 13-19 among 11,512 adults. Its overall margin of error is plus or minus 1.4 percentage points. Becca Stanek

11:09 a.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is the proud owner of 3,643 website domain names. Some, like,, and, make sense for a former real estate mogul to purchase. Others, like,,, I', and, are purchases perhaps intended to avoid potentially damaging content being published under embarrassing URLs. But then there are some Trump domain purchases that defy explanation, like and

Visiting those websites doesn't provide any answers either. Like most of Trump's registered domains, all that pops up is a GoDaddy template, indicating the domain name is purchased and paid for, but inactive. In the past, Trump has purchased domain names shortly before they became relevant, like when he purchased in 2012, when he was contemplating a presidential run. Shortly before announcing his presidential campaign in June 2015, he bought the domains and

Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller told CNN that Trump's purchases are a way to protect "corporate identity" and "intellectual property," and noted "the use of 'negative' domain names is a serious issue facing all large companies around the world." She did not, however, shed light on why Trump registered the domain despite his repeated claims he owns "nothing in Russia," or why he may have purchased a domain referring to his "Army" long before he became America's commander-in-chief. Becca Stanek

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