By Joe Pompeo | 05/18/2017 05:54 AM EDT

With Cristiano Lima

FLACK FOLLIES - Reporters everywhere are no doubt taking immense pleasure in the following passage from last night's Washington Post story about House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he thinks Putin pays Trump:

When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: "That never happened," and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: "The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false."

After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: "This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians. What's more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia's interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity."

"This was a failed attempt at humor," Sparks said.

DATELINE, KIEV - Surely we're not the only ones who couldn't help but notice that Post reporter Adam Entous filed his story from the Ukranian capital? Whatever could he have been working on out there? A Post spokeswoman didn't have an answer to that beyond confirming that Entous had been in Kiev on a reporting trip in recent days and is now back.

TIPS AND COMMENTS: / @joepompeo. Morning Media is edited by Alex Weprin (@alexweprin / and produced with writing/reporting help from Cristiano Lima ( / @ludacristiano). Archives. Subscribe.

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FLACK FOLLIES, PART TWO - CNN diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski on Facebook : "Monday night, as the story of the President giving classified information to the Russians was in full evolution, I get a call from this guy: RC Hammond, the State Department's communications advisor, who had his facts wrong about what was reported and by whom. But he kicked off the conversation with a venomously irate 'What the hell are you doing??!!' Followed up with full-on DEMANDS ... to tell him who my sources were. ... I had to explain to him that wasn't how it worked. This, mind you, is someone employed by the US government to act as a communications professional.

"But he went for another approach: personal attacks. Saying I was losing the 'shred of credibility I had left' ... Not sure what he was trying to accomplish here, but next came Hammond's final attempt: threats. That he would make sure NO ONE ... at the department would speak to me, EVER AGAIN ... I asked Hammond to name one time he had ever shared information with me or responded to a single email ... 'Well maybe there's a reason for that,' he spat into the phone. 'WE don't think you're smart enough to HANDLE OUR information!!!!'"

SAY IT AIN'T SO - "Had anybody but McMaster tried to make the ridiculous case that Trump had done nothing wrong, the press corps would have pilloried him," Jack Shafer writes. "The next installment of Saturday Night Live would parody him. Instead, the press has been filled with more than sorrow than anger for the bald-pated lieutenant general, writing as if they had just witnessed a scene from a Shakespeare tragedy where a military leader has chosen duty over honor. Everybody expected more of him." More: " H.R. McMaster Takes a Dive"

POWER LUNCH - "President Donald Trump is set to have an off-the-record lunch with network anchors on Thursday, two sources with knowledge of the plans and a White House official confirmed. The lunch is expected to cover Trump's upcoming foreign trip. But with bombshell reports about the Trump White House dropping nearly every day this week, the lunch is sure to cover more ground. The get-together is expected to be much smaller than past lunches with the media." More from POLITICO's Hadas Gold.


-- "How Trump learned about the special prosecutor" [POLITICO]

-- "Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House" [NYT]

-- "The Bizarre Story Behind the FBI's Fake Documentary About the Bundy Family" [The Intercept]

-- "The outrageous (and totally necessary) lengths TV and film creators will go to to prevent leaks" [Quartz]

FIRST RENDERINGS OF FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S NEW DIGS - The network distributed them yesterday with its official announcement about the planned newsroom makeover, which has been in the works for some time and is now scheduled to be unveiled in "early 2018." You can check them out here, here and here , courtesy of the tony architecture firm Gensler, which is spearheading the project. In a statement yesterday, 21st Century Fox chief Rupert Murdoch said, "It will be state of the art and open, befitting the most important media outlet in America. This is a major investment in the future of FOX News and a sign of my unwavering confidence." It will also be a morale boost for the basement-dwelling Fox News crew. That's partly because they're still reeling from the scandals have have rocked their employer over the past year, but also because the new space will be a major upgrade from their current newsroom, which Vanity Fair, for one, has taken to describing as a " subterranean, rat-infested ... bunker." (More details here.) Additionally, FNC executive Jay Wallace announced the network will hire "new journalists and content creators" as part of an effort to expand its digital footprint.

CNN TO ADVERTISERS: WE'RE NOT FAKE NEWS! by Alex Weprin - Turner's upfront presentation at the Theater at Madison Square Garden Wednesday morning included a full-throated defense of journalism from familiar faces at the company's flagship cable news channel. Set to an audio montage of politicians attacking the media (the culmination of which featured a full-throated, "You are fake news!" from President Trump), a team of CNN anchors took the stage and made their case to advertisers. "Now, more than ever, our mission is clear, to find the truth, accept the facts, report the story, and hold those in power accountable," Anderson Cooper said. "Politicians lie, they have staffs and allied who lie and spin and sometimes try and confuse the public as to what is real and what is fake," added Jake Tapper. "The press needs to be there, and be worthy of the amendment that protects our work."

SIMILAR VIBE AT THE CBS UPFRONT - again, Alex reporting : CBS News and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" were the toasts of the event. "There has never been more news or more need for real news right now," said CEO Les Moonves. "At a time of unfair criticism of the veracity of mainstream news, the team at CBS News has never been more essential." Moonves noted that "60 Minutes" will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, and that Oprah Winfrey will be joining the program as a correspondent. (CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl: "Good luck, Megyn Kelly!") As for the resurgent "Late Show" star, Moonves said: "Who would have guessed a year ago that Stephen Colbert would be number one on CBS, while Bill O'Reilly would be doing a podcast in his underwear?"


-- "Look at the way I've been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly." [Donald Trump]

-- "Use that on the press, sir." [DHS Chief John Kelly]

-- "He doesn't understand our role. He wants 'Fox & Friends' coverage instead." [Dean Baquet]

-- "There is really only word to describe this president, and the FCC asked me not to use it anymore." [Stephen Colbert]

CHELSEA MANNING IS REPORTEDLY GETTING A VOGUE SPREAD - via WWD: "The 29-year-old Manning, who spent about seven years in prison for disclosing archives of secret files to WikiLeaks, will be in an upcoming issue of Vogue. It could not be determined which issue, but sources said editor in chief Anna Wintour is asking designers to submit looks for the fashion spread."

MORE ON THE MERCER-GUARDIAN SHOWDOWN - via HuffPost's Michael Calderone : "Cambridge Analytica, a U.S. data analytics firm backed by Robert Mercer, and its British affiliate, SCL Elections Limited, have threatened to sue The Guardian following a series of articles investigating links between the conservative billionaire and last year's Brexit vote to leave the European Union. On Wednesday, The Guardian informed staff that the firms had threatened legal action and it added a disclaimer to more than a half-dozen articles and editorials." Cambridge Analytica spox: "We can confirm that we are pursuing legal action in this matter."

READ THIS JIMMY FALLON PROFILE - By Dave Itzkoff in The New York Times : "He is weathering the most tumultuous period in his tenure [at NBC's "Tonight Show" -- a predicament for which he has himself to thank, and one that raises the question of whether the multitalented but apolitical Mr. Fallon can ride out the current era of politicized, choose-your-side entertainment, when he just wants to have a good time. ... The program is still profitable and strongly supported by advertisers, so if Mr. Fallon faces any crisis, it's an existential one: What if the broader shift to a more partisan, more openly anti-Trump late-night isn't temporary? If it has a longer life and a bigger impact than anyone foresees, what does he want his show to be?" More: " Jimmy Fallon Was on Top of the World. Then Came Trump."


-- AP announcement: "The Associated Press has promoted reporters Kathleen Hennessey and Bradley Klapper to a pair of key leadership positions in its Washington bureau. Hennessey will direct coverage of the White House and the Trump administration, while Klapper will oversee AP's reporting on foreign affairs." More.

-- The Daily Beast has hired Ira Madison III from MTV News as its new entertainment reporter.

-- At Time Inc., Jeffries Blackerby is shifting from executive editor of Travel + Leisure to EIC of Departures. Read all about it at WWD.

MARTHA NELSON HAS DECIDED NOT TO TAKE THE OATH - We somehow missed Tim Armstrong's April 27 memo outlining the C-suite of the coming AOL-Yahoo mashup, "Oath," else we would have noticed the absence of Yahoo EIC Martha Nelson. But Keith Kelly reported in yesterday's New York Post, and Morning Media confirmed with a few sources independently, that Nelson -- a former Time Inc. bigwig recruited by outgoing Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer in 2015 to run the company's editorial brands -- will leave next month after the close of Yahoo's sale to AOL owner Verizon.

We're told Nelson was offered a senior level position at Oath but decided it was time to move on. (Maybe she just couldn't get past the name?) We also hear other senior-level editorial folks at Yahoo are "weighing their options" ahead of a merger that will put them under the same corporate umbrella as another major media brand, HuffPost. (Lots of questions about how that's all gonna work.) One high-profile figure who is expected to stick around is video head Alex Wallace, a former NBC News executive who's been with Yahoo since November. More to come as the closing nears.

Nelson's statement, through a Yahoo spokeswoman: "I am proud of the work we have done at Yahoo Media and I leave the team in a great place. Right now, I remain focused on Yahoo and a smooth transition to the new company. After a summer off and some exciting travel, I will sort out what comes next."

SOUNDTRACK: The Sex Pistols, "No Feelings"


-- Brian Stelter: "White House PR strategy in chaos: Conway interview offered to Fox, then canceled" [CNN]

-- Margaret Sullivan: "Trump's wish to jail reporters is more than possible. Ask his international friends." [WaPo]

-- "How Kimberly Guilfoyle went from San Francisco's first lady to Trump's short list for press secretary" [The Mercury News]

-- The family of a slain DNC staffer, whose unsolved murder has set conservative media ablaze, is demanding retractions from Fox News and its local affiliate. [CNN]

-- Facebook's latest anti-clickbait measures. [FB]

-- The return of the Bluths. [NYT]

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