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Posts Tagged ‘Lester Kinsolving’

FishbowlDC Interview With Paul Brandus

Say hello to Paul Brandus who writes West Wing Reports and a column for The Week. He’s an independent White House Correspondent who writes a blog and has a Twitter account in which he doesn’t use his name. How come he goes nameless? “Here’s a question for you,” begins his standard refrain about it. “Name the CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN & Fox reporters at the White House 10 years ago. How about five years ago? This may come as a disappointment to many folks in this egocentric town, but most people can’t remember the names. And that’s at the most visible beat in Washington. Names fade quickly. But brand names have enduring market value. People have no idea who I am personally. I’d prefer they know my brands, one of which is West Wing Reports. Brands can be licensed, flipped, monetized in more enduring ways.” Even so, let’s get to know the man behind the brand, shall we? Brandus was a foreign correspondent in Moscow for five years. He worked for the U.S. Embassy, eventually NBC and NPR and did some magazine work. While in Moscow, he bought the broadcast rights to the Super Bowl from the NFL. He later worked at MSNBC and Fox — he says the concept of this makes people’s heads explode. “I helped launch MSNBC back in 1996,” Brandus explains. “Worked for Steve Capus, who went on to become President of NBC News. Good man. I was a writer, but apparently too good of a writer because they put me in charge of editing all the other writers. That’s where I learned the 80/20 rule: 20 percent of your people will cause 80 percent of your problems. At Fox News, I was a senior prime time producer in New York, working on news cut ins every half hour. If the you-know-what hit the fan, we had to run into the control room across the hall and break into Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity & Alan Colmes. Great fun.” Brandus worked on Wall Street for several years, cashed out and started another media company, his own. In 2011 he became a columnist for The Week. He moderates conferences for them on energy and cybersecurity. He also works with a Northern Virginia venture capital firm. Brandus won’t be found on the Washington cocktail circuit. Instead, he spends his weekends with his 18-month-old daughter or family horses in Fairfax County.

Now let’s proceed to the really important stuff.

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? Cherry Coke Zero

How often do you Google yourself? Once or twice a year.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? My old boss, Jim Farley, who hired me twice – first at NBC years ago and later at WTOP – taught me WGAS: “Who gives a shit?” It has universal applications today and I’ve used it to great effect in various times and places. WGAS is also text-friendly.

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? Anyone who understands it’s not about them. Anyone who eschews the limelight and simply focuses on finding things out, communicating about it well and not pretending to be an expert or feeling compelled to have an opinion on everything.

Who is your favorite White House reporter and why? The wire service folks are usually the best. Not flashy, just solid, nose-to-the-grindstone types day in and day out. I really admire them.

Do you have a favorite word? “Dada.” Uttered by a certain 17-month old little girl.

What word or phrase do you overuse? “Dumb ass.” Use it a lot.

Who would you rather have dinner with – CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s John King or CNN’s Piers Morgan. Tell us why. I think John King is an honest, hard-working, straight shooter guy. You know what I like about him? He made a mistake during the Boston coverage and dealt with it in a transparent, humble and honest way. People err – and it’s how they deal with it – for better or worse – that I remember. I tend to get along well with people like that.

What is the most interesting conversation you’ve had in awhile in the course of your work and who was it with? If I hadn’t hung up on Ronald Reagan in 1990, it might have been the time when, on a dare, I called him at home in 1990. This was a year after he left the White House. The Reagans were living in Bel Air and I never thought he would answer the phone himself. But I heard that famous voice: “Hello?” on the other end, freaked out and hung up. To use my favorite word, I was such a dumb ass. So I guess the answer would be the time I downed vodka shots with Boris Yeltsin at a Fourth of July party at Spaso House, the home of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia. I was lurking by the bar when he came over and we wound up downing a few and chatting. That’s what you do in Russia. Drink. Talk. Drink some more.

Tell us a funny story from the White House Briefing Room. Can be long or short. There used to be a guy named Lester Kinsolving, who used to show up in the briefing every day. Haven’t seen him in many months. He used to ask the most bizarre, completely out of left field questions imaginable on completely obscure, irrelevant matters. Bush’s flacks and now Obama’s used to call on him as a diversion. And, in this digital age, he used to carry a giant cassette recorder around with him like it was 1983 or something. Not picking on Lester, he is a nice guy. Hope he’s OK.

Without naming names, tell us some shitty thing that happened in the course of you covering the White House… Read more

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Tapper Tantrum

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney seems to have broken tradition with the way he takes questions at the White House Press Briefings. In the past, a press secretary would take questions from everyone on the front row before moving on to other rows behind those media gods. In recent months, though, Carney is using the “jump around” method. You never know where he might land. He’ll take a few from the front row, then move to the back, then the middle. It’s a move that’s been going on for months, but yesterday, ABC’s Jake Tapper let Carney know that he was not a fan. The LAT reports that when Carney went to take a question from National Journal’s George Condon, Tapper was clearly flustered. Carney addressed Tapper’s concerns and said “Jake, I’ve been doing this for months.” Tapper responded with, “It’s annoying.” He continued by questioning Carney and asking “You just decide you’re going to break with decades of precedent?” Carney tries to respond that he’s “going to ensure that 49 people in these seats-” before Tapper interrupts and says “Okay, then take a question about bestiality, go for it. No, America wants to know about your position on bestiality.” This is a reference to the December 5th press briefing when Carney took a question from Lester Kinsolving from WorldNetDaily. On that day, Carney skipped Tapper and Kinsolving asked a question about a defense bill that repealed a ban on sodomy and sex with animals.

It should be noted that yesterday, George Condon went on to ask about the President’s response to the Wyden-Ryan compromise on the privatization of Medicare. Not bestiality. Is Tapper that into the so-called traditional ways of White House briefings? That anyone not on the front row is a clown? In all fairness, Jake’s not having the best week ever after being passed over for “This Week” for a second time.

Tapper tells FishbowlDC “First of all, let me say this is a stupid issue to be writing about, and if I’d known it would be covered because I said Jay’s new policy was ‘annoying,’ I would never have said anything. There are actually important issues out there, and who gets called on when is not one of them. I’m all in favor of Jay mixing it up and asking questions from reporters throughout the room. They often have better and smarter questions than I do. What I think a lot of TV reporters are surprised by is Jay’s decision to break with decades of precedent and to create a new policy of avoiding first going to the TV reporters who have been assigned those front row seats by the White House Correspondents Association. That said, this is silliness to be talking about, much less writing about.”

We reached out to Condon to see if he was annoyed by Tapper’s outburst. He tells FishbowlDC that Tapper came up to him to make sure he knew that he wasn’t talking about him specifically. Condon says “Jake is a good guy and a great reporter. I took no offense.”


Separated at Birth: Lester Kinsolving and…

This resemblance is so uncanny, we had to triple-check to make sure both pictures weren’t of the same person.

Try this on for size: we’ve matched legendary WorldNetDaily White House correspondent Lester Kinsolving with former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Other suggestions? Is it even possible to have another suggestion? Email them to or leave a comment.

FishPoolDC: Our Insider’s Notes from Today’s Press Briefing

While most of today’s class was your typical August snoozer – Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (somewhat liberally) estimated this morning that 90 percent of the WH is on vacay — a few items worth scribbling about amid the summer school doldrums:

Around the World: RG largely stuck to his previous comments on Lockerbie and Afghanistan, first affirming that the newly released 1988 Pan Am bomber should be treated as the “convicted mass murderer” he is and that the Libyans purportedly receiving him from Scotland’s so-called compassionate release should institute house arrest. He clarified POTUS’s afternoon remarks on WH contacts with the victims’ families, noting that the National Security Council was sure to inform them of the admin’s efforts to thwart the release. On Afghanistan, Gibbs said POTUS is “enormously proud” of the millions of Afghanis who overcame voter intimidation to cast ballots in today’s election, and that the WH is looking forward to the Sept. 3 preliminary announcement of election results.

“Oh Lester!”: While radio host Lester Kinsolving‘s questions are usually met with widespread groans or mocking chuckles (partly due to his consistently toting an outdated, Fisher Price-sized tape recorder and microphone), his reference today to an article in NYT‘s recent series on women in the military elicited an interesting dodge from the podium. Lester asked whether POTUS was supportive of having women in the military, and added a follow-up addressing their overseas quarters. Both queries were met with the same evasion: that the topic is “left appropriately to the Pentagon.” Lester’s pleas that POTUS is, in fact, the Commander in Chief did nothing to change the response. Sensitivity on the issue might be understandable, considering the WH’s similar stickiness with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell…

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Maybe Our Favorite White House Press Briefing Exchange Ever

Helen siding with Tony, Tony laying the smack down on Kinsolving…it’s all priceless.

From today’s WH Press briefing:

    Lester Kinsolving, [of course]: Okay. Second: Last night, CNN featured the President of the White House Correspondents Association saying of Helen Thomas, “We love her and will take care of her.” But CNN also reported that in order to accommodate one more network on row one, Helen, our senior-to-all colleague, is to be relegated to row two when we move back into the White House press room. And my question: Assuming that CNN is accurate, how can you allow this dean of our corps, senior veteran and undeniably colorful character — (laughter) — to be back-seated, as has been done to her at presidential press conferences? And what does this say about Bush-Snow treatment of senior citizens who wonder how you and the President would allow networks such ageist favoritism over a veteran?

    MS. THOMAS: I swear I didn’t put him up to –

    MR. SNOW: Okay, well let me — this is about a –

    MS. THOMAS: I never could think of his question in a million years.

    MR. SNOW: This is about a thousand-part question, so let me parse it, Les. Number one, of course, we love Helen. Number two, the White House does not make decisions about where people sit, so you can address that to the Correspondents Association. And number three, regardless of the seating arrangement, you’ll still be looking at the back of her head. (Laughter.)

    Q That’s an evasion, Tony. Why do you allow this? Why do you and the President allow this discrimination against a senior citizen who is our senior reporter?

    MS. THOMAS: I don’t need to be defended, thank you very much.

    MR. SNOW: I’m afraid you need to confront Steve Scully in the hallway.

    Q — last Friday, Tony did a great job here at the podium. And also, you were great at the National Press Club.

    MR. SNOW: Well, thank you. Let’s — okay, let’s — yes.