May 20, 2019

It's apparently very unclear where President Trump stands with Rust Belt voters.

As the The New York Times put it in an article published Monday, "there's no boom in Youngstown [Ohio], but blue-collar workers are sticking with Trump." Yet a Politico story from the same day reveals that Trump is "scrambl[ing] to reverse his Rust Belt slide."

Both stories come ahead of Trump's Monday visit to Pennsylvania for a rally, and just after he made campaign stops in Michigan and Wisconsin. Trump is apparently "moving aggressively to shore up his support" in those three states, which he won in 2016 "but where his own polling shows him in trouble heading into 2020," Politico writes. Former Vice President Joe Biden has reportedly started to pull ahead in those states, according to people briefed on the Trump campaign's 17-state polling project.

"People close to the president insist they're not panicked," Politico writes. And if they take the The New York Times' word for it, they'd be right. Despite the fact that Rust Belters never saw the economic resurgence Trump promised, he "appears to have lost little of his blue-collar support here," the Times reports. The former Democratic chair of an Ohio county says his party "has lost its voice to speak to people that shower after work and not before work." Those voters "don't care" about Trump's tax returns, former chair David Betras continued, and they're bound to turn the Midwestern purple states red once again.

Of course, the 2020 election is still a year and a half away, and Democrats haven't even chosen a nominee yet. Let the speculation continue. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:30 p.m.

Get ready to swipe for your life.

Tinder has realized its users are running out of ways to continue conversations with people they've never even met. So it's getting ready to plunge swipers into an apocalyptic choose-your-own-adventure miniseries that leaves them with matches — and things to talk about — once they've made it through, The New York Times reports.

Swipe Night, as the 4-episode series is called, puts users in the middle of an apocalyptic world that challenges them to figure out who they want to spend the last night of the world with. They'll swipe left and right through a series of choices to survive and create a love story along the way, per CNBC. Those choices eventually connect them with romantic matches, who they're encouraged to talk about the adventure with.

The series is the product of 23-year-old director Karena Evans, who's behind some of Drake's music videos. It also includes writers from Netflix's Big Mouth and HBO's Insecure and a diverse group of actors in an effort to appeal to Tinder's target 18- to 25-age range. Swipe Night comes as Tinder fights a growing set of online dating competitors, including Facebook's dating feature that rolled out last month. It also acknowledges the fact that users might rather fight a pack of zombies than deign to answer another unoriginal "hey." Kathryn Krawczyk

2:07 p.m.

House Hunters' longtime host Suzanne Whang died Tuesday, 13 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, her longtime partner Jeff Vezain announced in a Friday Facebook post. She was 56.

Whang led the original iteration of the HGTV show from 1999 to 2007, starting out by appearing onscreen but eventually transitioning to fully narrating the show from offscreen. She also had recurring roles in a number of sitcoms and TV dramas, and often used what Vezain called her "audacious sense of humor" for standup comedy.

Whang was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and was given just six months to live. But she beat the disease and used it for comedic fodder, and lived cancer-free until about a year ago. Find Vezain's whole tribute to Whang below. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:08 p.m.

Game of Thrones and Veep are poised to win big at the 2019 Emmys. But as with any awards show, it's always wise to expect the unexpected.

Ahead of Sunday's broadcast, let's check in on the likeliest winners in the top categories, as well as the dark horses to keep an eye on.

1. Bill Hader (or Michael Douglas) - Barry's Hader will probably win the comedy series lead actor award again, but don't count out Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), who defeated Hader in the equivalent category at the 2019 Golden Globes.

2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (or Phoebe Waller-Bridge) - The Veep star's victory is the night's biggest lock; Louis-Dreyfus has never lost lead comedy actress for playing Selina Meyer. Some experts have wondered about a potential upset by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but certainly don't place a bet on that.

3. Veep (or Fleabag) - Veep is similarly favored to maintain its comedy series winning streak. But the critically-acclaimed Fleabag could potentially take it down after winning a Creative Arts Emmys bellwether, while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which won last year but has yet to face off against Veep at the Emmys, has the potential to surprise as well.

4. Billy Porter (or Jason Bateman) - Pose's Porter would make history by becoming the first openly gay black man to win the best drama lead actor award, but after collecting a Screen Actors Guild Award win for Ozark, could it be Bateman's night?

5. Sandra Oh (or Jodie Comer) - Although Oh is favored to take the lead drama actress award, some experts see it as a battle between Oh and her Killing Eve co-star, Jodie Comer.

6. Game of Thrones (or Succession) - Thrones is widely expected to maintain its drama series winning streak, but could the Roy family sneak in? Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson, noting the controversial nature of Thrones' final season, identifies Succession as the "potential disrupter waiting in the wings." Either way, HBO wins. Brendan Morrow

11:45 a.m.

President Trump claimed Friday it "doesn't matter" what he discussed with Ukraine amid the ongoing scandal over a whistleblower's "urgent" concern.

Trump spoke in the Oval Office following days of reporting about a whistleblower's complaint filed in August reportedly about a troubling "promise" Trump made on a call with a foreign leader. The Washington Post reported Thursday it has to do with Ukraine, and weeks before the complaint, Trump spoke over the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But questioned Thursday about conversations with Ukraine, and about whether he spoke about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Trump deflected.

"It doesn't matter what I discussed," Trump said. "But I will say this: somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, because it was disgraceful."

Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, admitted in a CNN interview Thursday he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden over an allegation he bribed the country's former president to fire a prosecutor investigating his son. The president Friday seemed to be referring to Biden's statement recalling telling Ukraine "you're not getting" a billion-dollar loan guarantee if the prosecutor wasn't fired, although PolitiFact writes this was also "the position of the wider U.S. government, as well as other international institutions" and "we found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind."

The president Friday attacked the whistleblower as "partisan" even though he admitted he has no idea who it is. "I just hear it's a partisan person," he said. He also claimed his conversation was "beautiful" despite subsequently admitting "I really don't know" what conversation the complaint concerns. Brendan Morrow

10:54 a.m.

Disastrous weather is a problem, but disastrous climate change that contributes to it apparently isn't.

That seemed to be the take of Fox & Friends hosts Friday morning as they covered massive climate change protests happening around the world. Except perhaps a better description is "took a few cheap shots before ironically changing their focus to devastating effects of a tropical storm hitting the coast of Texas."

The hosts opened their segment by factually declaring that New York City students may be skipping class today because it's "global climate strike day." "Right, because the best thing you can do for climate problems is not go to work or school and scream on the grass and make a sign" host Brian Kilmeade said. They then showed aerial shots of the absolutely massive strikes across the world and played snippets of 2020 Democrats' appearances at MSNBC's Thursday evening climate forum, after which Kilmeade decried Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for "yelling at you."

Next up? Coverage of Tropical Storm Imelda, which caused flooding in Houston and throughout southeast Texas, and is just one of many storms growing in frequency and intensity as human-caused climate change worsens. Watch the irony unfold below. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:56 a.m.

Alienstock ended up facing approximately the same fate as Woodstock.

After gaining millions of RSVPs on Facebook, a joking promise to "storm Area 51" on Friday morning succumbed to its first defeat when event organizers renamed it "Alienstock" and rescheduled it for next year. Yet some brave truth-seekers still set out to the Nevada desert Thursday evening — and found a knockoff Coachella, The Washington Post reports.

In the hours before the proposed 3 a.m. raid of Area 51 to "see them aliens," Daniel Martinez, a 31-year-old Pokémon card dealer dressed in a wolf "spirit hood," was already dancing through a sound check, the Post writes. But Martinez wasn't there to storm the military base. He came for the "big open space" and the moment when the music "infects everybody with positivity," he told the Post. He was among about 1,500 people who had come to two desert towns nearest the base and set up a makeshift stage for a weekend festival, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said.

Of them, only about 150 people drove to the Area 51 military base itself by Thursday night, Lee said. They snapped selfies with the gate and generally seemed to respect strict Air Force warnings to stay out. The only infraction came last week from two Dutch YouTubers, who made it about 3 miles beyond the fence in the nearby Nevada National Security Site before they were arrested, CNN reports.

Find more disturbing glimpses of Alienstock at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:42 a.m.

The hosts of Fox & Friends sure do hate speculation over that intelligence community whistleblower — unless it's their speculation, that is.

Amid the ongoing scandal surrounding a whistleblower complaint reportedly about President Trump communicating with a foreign leader and making a troubling "promise," the hosts of Fox & Friends went to bat for the president Friday, voicing outrage over leaks and slamming the rest of the media for its speculation.

At one point, a whole montage of other news networks' coverage that was "all speculation" was played, and Brian Kilmeade summed it up as the "same exasperating, zero-to-ten type of emotional reaction" that took place during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, reports Media Matters for America's Bobby Lewis.

Yet the hosts weren't above some speculation of their own, with Kilmeade at one point tossing out a theory that the anonymous New York Times op-ed writer, who last year alleged they were part of a "resistance" within the Trump administration, is involved. Ainsley Earhardt, meanwhile, wondered if someone working at the White House is responsible for leaks.

Immediately before the anti-speculation montage played, Kilmeade also speculated this whole thing was simply "the president having a discussion," Mediaite reports.

Still, the hosts seemed to suggest that even if some of the speculation and reporting about the whistleblower is true, it would be just fine, with Earhardt claiming Trump "making promises, leaking maybe some delicate information to another head of state" is just "what they do" and "the art of the deal." Brendan Morrow

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