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January 9, 2017

"I went to Austin to hang out with Alex Jones for Vice News Tonight," said Michael Moynihan on Twitter. "It was... well... you'll see." In the video he was teasing, Moynihan describes Jones as "probably America's best-known and most influential conspiracy theorist," noting that Jones thinks both 9/11 and the Sandy Hook murder of schoolchildren were hoaxes. Still, his YouTube channel has nearly 1.2 billion views, nearly three times the views on the channels of Fox News and CBS News, Moynihan points out, and "while Jones' views might live on the political fringe, he's no longer a fringe player."

In Austin, Jones has a big, state-of-the-art studio, indicating that the conspiracy-mongering and supplement-hawking business is going well. "The whole takeover failed, and now who gets to talk to the president?" Jones is shown boasting on-air, after railing against the "new world order." "Who gets to talk to the Supreme Court justices? Matt Drudge, Alex Jones." Donald Trump appeared on Jones' show during the campaign and called him to thank him for his support after prevailing in the election.

Jones told Moynihan his show was part of the wave that Trump surfed into the White House because while the mainstream media ignored "flyover country" for decades, "we'd already taken the nation back psychologically many, many years ago. All we do is study the enemy — we know who they are, where they vacation, how they operate, what their plans are, what types of satanism they carry out, we know their operations." Moynihan asked about the "satanism" comment, and Jones explained: "They're psychopaths, so their religion is basically satanic."

If that seems a little over-the-top, that's kind of Jones' thing. "Is there an element of theater to it?" Moynihan asked. "I mean everything I say when I'm being serious," Jones insisted, "and more and more, I'm probably serious 95 percent of the time." Moynihan asked Jones how he can believe that government is incompetent and crooked but is also able to do all the crazy things he alleges? "I see the globalist-run government upset by Trump, because they know what he's trying to do, so I'm trying to give that a shot at reforming it," Jones said. "This is part of the global awakening to the new world order."

Let's hope nobody tells Jones about all the Goldman Sachs and Big Oil executives in Trump's historically well-heeled Cabinet. Peter Weber

2:06 p.m. ET
iStock/Wolterk

The world's largest retailer is being accused of discriminating against its pregnant employees, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Reuters reports.

The lawsuit alleges Walmart Inc.'s Wisconsin distribution center has discriminated against its pregnant employees since 2014 by forcing them to take unpaid leave and denying their requests for easier tasks, per Reuters. The lawsuit stems from a complaint filed by formerly pregnant Walmart employee Alyssa Gilliam, who says Walmart would not give her additional breaks or a chair to sit on while working and alleges Walmart denied requests for restrictions on heavy lifting, Reuters says.

The EEOC said Walmart granted these requests for workers with disabilities or injuries but failed to grant them to pregnant workers. Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers are required to treat pregnant employees the same as temporarily disabled employees by providing modified tasks.

Walmart currently employs nearly 1.5 million people in the U.S. — more than half of them women. Read more about the lawsuit at Reuters. Marianne Dodson

1:38 p.m. ET

Despite President Trump's focus on the matter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn't think the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are ultimately consequential.

McConnell on Friday spoke at the Values Voter Summit, sounding very confident that allegations from Christine Blasey Ford are a mere hiccup in Kavanaugh's confirmation process, as his GOP colleague said. He reassured the audience that "in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court," receiving a standing ovation.

"Don't get rattled by all of this," he said. "We're going to plow right through it, and do our job." Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her when they were in high school, an accusation Kavanaugh strongly denies. McConnell called the allegations, and subsequent call for a delay in Kavanaugh's confirmation, obstructive "tactics" that Republicans would overcome. And if "plowing through" angered his Democratic colleagues, all the better.

Bloomberg reports that McConnell also riled up the crowd by reveling in the discontent. "Look how angry the left is," he said. "The angrier they get, the better we're doing." Watch the moment below, via C-SPAN. Summer Meza

1:29 p.m. ET
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Netflix loves to revive shows that are struggling to attract audiences on traditional television. Its latest target may be the most needy yet.

Vanity Fair reported Friday that "key people" at the Academy are beginning to discuss whether the Oscars should move to a streaming service in the future, rather than continue languishing on television. The show has been losing viewers on TV year after year, with fewer people watching in 2018 than ever before, per Variety. One anonymous board member told Vanity Fair that "TV is going nowhere. So why don’t we just get our money [from a streaming deal], not worry about ratings, and call it a day?”

The report also states that Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, approached the Academy last year to express interest in streaming the Oscars. The Academy's options are limited for now, as it has a deal with ABC that lasts until 2028. Academy governor Sid Ganis told Vanity Fair that the organization and ABC are "happily partners."

Clearly, though, the powers that be have recognized the need to shake things up. The Academy has delayed plans to introduce a "best popular film" award after the idea received swift blowback, but it stills intend to cut down the length of the show in 2019, hoping a shorter runtime will keep more people engaged. But if these tweaks don't stanch the ratings bleed, it seems like the Oscars could celebrate their 100-year anniversary in 2029 by making their streaming debut. Brendan Morrow

11:54 a.m. ET
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump began the week by ordering that certain documents related to the Russia investigation be declassified. He's ending the week by walking that demand back.

On Monday, Trump ordered the Justice Department to declassify some materials related to the Russia investigation, including pages of the warrant the FBI obtained to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016, The New York Times reports. He also called for the release of text messages between DOJ and FBI officials who the president has accused of being biased against him. Trump faced criticism for pushing the release of documents related to an ongoing investigation that his campaign is the subject of, and Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the Justice Department would still heavily redact the documents before releasing them.

Now, Trump is walking the order back entirely, saying on Twitter that the Justice Department feels releasing the documents "may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe." Trump also said that "key Allies" have asked him not to release the documents, echoing his statement in an interview on Thursday that he's "dealing with foreign countries that might have a problem" with the declassification order. Therefore, Trump has instead asked the inspector general to "review these documents on an expedited basis." But the president concluded by teasing he may change course yet again, writing, "In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary." Brendan Morrow

10:57 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

It's easy to win a battle when your opponent isn't in the room.

That was reportedly senior adviser Stephen Miller's strategy for convincing President Trump to cap refugee admissions at 30,000 in 2019. Miller pushed for the record-low limit in a meeting with top Trump administration officials, NBC News reported Friday — but didn't invite colleagues who he thought might make his job more difficult.

Miller reportedly left U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and other officials out of the meeting. The ones who weren't invited, curiously, were officials who have consistently voiced opposition to further lowering the refugee admission ceiling. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the change Monday, not commenting on whether he had had a change of heart since his previous preference for a higher cap. Sources told NBC News that Pompeo eventually bent to Miller's will. "Pompeo got rolled," said one former official.

Miller also headed up the Trump administration's efforts to strictly limit immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, as well as the zero-tolerance policy that lead to migrant families being separated at the southern border. He is an increasingly powerful voice on immigration, reports Politico, gaining favor with Trump with his hard-line views. Read more at NBC News. Summer Meza

10:34 a.m. ET

It wasn't quite the Butt Fumble, but still: Thursday night wasn't a great one for fans of the New York Jets.

The Jets relinquished a 14-point first-half lead to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, eventually falling to the home team 21-17. The Browns' victory was their first since Dec. 24, 2016, when they defeated the San Diego Chargers 20-17. Over 635 winless days, Cleveland had failed to prevail in 19 straight games, the NFL's second-longest winless streak since the AFL merger in 1970, per The Boston Globe. In Week 1, the Browns managed a 21-21 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which technically ended their losing streak at 17 games.

Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield entered the game for Cleveland in the second quarter after starting signal-caller Tyrod Taylor exited with an injury, with the Browns trailing by two touchdowns. Mayfield, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, threw 17-23 for 201 yards and caught a two-point conversion to seal Cleveland's win. The Jets were led by a rookie of their own under center in Sam Darnold, but Darnold completed just 15 of his 31 passes and threw two picks.

Cleveland fans were understandably a little excited after their team finally, finally picked up a victory:

See more footage of jubilant Browns fans here, or check in on sad Jets fans here. Kimberly Alters

9:43 a.m. ET

Former Vice President Joe Biden still has regrets over the way Anita Hill was treated by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While speaking to Today on Friday, Biden addressed Christine Ford's sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying that Ford "should not have to go through what Anita Hill went through." Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991 and was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden was the chairman of the committee at the time, and he has been criticized by his fellow Democrats for not putting a stop to questions that impugned Hill's character, as well as for not bringing in witnesses who could have backed Hill's claims, Politico reports.

"What the devil have we learned [from the Hill hearings]?" Biden asked rhetorically. He pointed to "some of the questions [Hill] was asked" and the way her integrity was questioned as mistakes not to be repeated in the Senate's handling of Ford's allegations.

Biden didn't totally let himself off the hook for his handling of the Hill hearings, either, saying, "I wish I could've done more to prevent" senators from engaging in "character assassination" when Hill came forward. "I hope my colleagues learn from that," Biden said. "[Ford] deserves to be treated with dignity."

Watch Biden's full appearance on Today below. Brendan Morrow

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