Last night's season finale of The Bachelor was both surreal and shockingly real: For the first time in the show's 12-year history, the show's final episode (and subsequent "After the Final Rose" special) anointed the protagonist Bachelor a bad-boy antihero.
Before he gave registered nurse Nikki his final rose (but not an engagement ring), Venezuelan-born retired soccer player Juan Pablo endured no small amount of controversy. From calling gay people "more pervert" [sic] to slut-shaming a contestant who romped in the ocean with him, Juan Pablo had certainly been playing by his own rules. And ABC, for the most part, let him dig his own grave.
As a series of smart, sensible women decided to leave The Bachelor of their own accord, says Linda Holmes at NPR, "the show actually allowed their eligible bachelor, who represents the prize for which all these contestants are competing, to be portrayed as (1) not too bright, (2) kind of self-centered and boring, and (3) coarse and vulgar."
For a show so set on portraying a perfect vision of romantic love, the fact that ABC decided to turn on its Bachelor is pretty groundbreaking. "Generally," says Holmes, "the near-universal desirability of the Bachelor/ette is sacrosanct." Holmes continues:
The true story is that somewhere, somebody who makes The Bachelor decided that they needed a different framing for the season — one in which their bachelor was kind of...a jerk. They made a choice to cut him loose. To throw him, in reality show terms, under the bus." [NPR]
Fox News just retracted its Seth Rich conspiracy story, admitting it wasn't 'subjected' to a 'high degree of editorial scrutiny'
Fox News on Tuesday officially retracted its conspiracy theory about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. In a statement, Fox News admitted that its "scoop" published May 16, alleging that Rich was in touch with WikiLeaks just before being "mysteriously" murdered, was "not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny" usually required.
"Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed," the statement said.
Rich's family has been ardently denying the story since its publication, saying such conspiracy theories are harmful to "the memory and reputation of Seth Rich." Washington, D.C., police have reported Rich was killed in what was likely a botched attempted robbery. Moreover, Fox News' source, private investigator Rod Wheeler, admitted nearly a week ago that his only source for the story was a reporter at Fox News and that he had no actual evidence to back the conspiracy.
Fox News host Sean Hannity was still pushing the story as recently as Tuesday morning, enraging even his fellow anchors. Just over an hour before the retraction was published, Hannity was tweeting about Rich.
Fox News vowed in its statement that it would "continue to investigate this story" and "provide updates as warranted." Becca Stanek
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has a famous sense of humor, one that, in a previous life, served him as a Saturday Night Live comedian. Now Franken has become one of the most merciless Democrats in the Senate, holding President Trump and his appointees accountable — even when they're friends.
As Franken writes in his new book, jokingly titled Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, he has made an effort to extend a hand across the aisle. "Behind the scenes, he tried to cultivate friendships, including with conservative Republican senators who wouldn't be among his natural allies," USA Today writes.
That includes former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). It does not, however, include Sen. Ted Cuz (R-Texas):
While the book provides a glimpse at some surprising friendships among senators across ideological lines, there are no kind words in it for Ted Cruz. The Texas senator gets an entire chapter of his own, titled "Sophistry," that describes him as "singularly dishonest" and "exceptionally smarmy." (Cruz's office didn't respond to a request for comment.)
"You have to understand that I like Ted Cruz probably more than my colleagues like Ted Cruz," Franken said in the interview, "and I hate Ted Cruz." [USA Today]
Former CIA Director John Brennan offers a stirring explanation of why Russia's election interference matters
When asked to explain why the American people should care that Russia tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, former CIA Director John Brennan was not shy. "Our ability to choose our elected leaders as we see fit is an inalienable right we must protect with all of our resources and all of our authority and power," he told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
"For the last 241 years, this nation and its citizens have cherished the freedom and liberty that this country was founded upon," Brennan said. "Many, many brave Americans over the years have lost their lives to be able to protect that freedom and liberty."
Brennan added: "The fact that the Russians tried to influence that election so that the will of the American people was not going to be realized … I find outrageous and something that we need to, with every last ounce of devotion to this country, resist." Watch Brennan's stirring speech below and read more about his testimony here at The Week. Jeva Lange
Q: Why should we care?
BRENNAN: Our ability to choose our elected leaders as we see fit is an inalienable right we must protect. pic.twitter.com/Ry7o8CKXlx
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 23, 2017
Mick Mulvaney says the White House's budget proposal will help people 'take charge of their own lives again'
In a press briefing Tuesday unveiling President Trump's full budget, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney defended the plan's steep cuts. The $4.1 trillion plan proposes slashing funding for Medicaid, social services for the low-income and disabled, and the Children's Health Insurance Program, while increasing spending on defense, the Veterans Affairs Department, and a new plan for parental leave.
"We're no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off of those programs," Mulvaney said Tuesday. "We're not going to measure compassion by the amount of money that we spend, but by the number of people that we help."
Mulvaney said that this approach would enable the Trump administration to achieve a balanced budget and economic growth. "That is how you can help people take charge of their own lives again," Mulvaney said.
Watch a snippet of Mulvaney's remarks below. Becca Stanek
"We're no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs... but by the number of people we help get off those programs." pic.twitter.com/0kFlg6DsQx
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 23, 2017
While testifying Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA Director John Brennan revealed that FBI intelligence uncovered "contacts and interactions" between Russian officials and individuals involved with the Trump campaign. Brennan said he had grown "concerned" that those individuals may have been influenced to act on behalf of the Russian government.
Those worries persisted when he stepped down as CIA director on Jan. 20, Brennan testified. "I had unresolved questions in my mind, as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion," Brennan said, calling the FBI investigation into Trump associates and Russians "well-founded."
Though he's certain that "Russia brazenly interfered in the 2016 election process," Brennan noted he does not "know whether such collusion [with Trump associates] existed."
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) May 23, 2017
Brennan said he explicitly warned Russia against meddling in the U.S. presidential election in a phone call on Aug. 4 to the head of the Russian intelligence service. Brennan testified that he'd threatened such interference would "destroy any near-term prospect of improvement" in U.S.-Russia relations. "I believe I was the first U.S. official to brace Russia on this matter," Brennan said. Becca Stanek
The health news website Stat asked psychologists, psychiatrists, and experts in neurolinguistics to compare President Trump's way of speaking in 2017 to interviews he gave decades ago. "They all agreed there had been a deterioration," Stat reports, "and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump's brain."
Some of the experts noted that linguistic decline can result not just from neurodegenerative disease but also "stress, frustration, anger, or just plain fatigue." "In fairness to Trump, he's 70, so some decline in his cognitive functioning over time would be expected," pointed out New York City psychologist Ben Michaelis.
But others found the stark differences in Trump's way of speaking to be concerning:
In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print […] Now, Trump's vocabulary is simpler. He repeats himself over and over, and lurches from one subject to an unrelated one … [Stat]
"It's hard to say definitively without rigorous testing," said another New York City psychologist, John Montgomery, "but I think it's pretty safe to say that Trump has had significant cognitive decline over the years."
Dr. Robert Pyles of suburban Boston, who supports President Trump, said: "I can see what people are responding to" when they suggest there has been a decline. He added: "[Trump's] language difficulties could be due to the immense pressure he's under, or to annoyance that things aren't going right and that there are all these scandals. It could also be due to a neurodegenerative disease or the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging."
President Trump paid a visit Tuesday to Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial. While he was there, he left a brief message in the guestbook, in which he managed to incorporate the words "great" and "so amazing":
— Raoul Wootliff (@RaoulWootliff) May 23, 2017
For comparison's sake, here's the message former President Barack Obama left in 2008, when he visited as a U.S. senator. It did not evoke comparisons to yearbook signings:
— Raoul Wootliff (@RaoulWootliff) May 23, 2017
The chairman of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, told ABC News that he did not think the message Trump left in the guestbook, after his "very meaningful remarks," was "insensitive." "He touched all the essential elements that should be touched," Shalev said.