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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Swid’

Power Lunching with Eliot Spitzer, Star Jones and Joanna Coles

1003_mockup.gifIt’s the last Wednesday power lunch of the year (or the last one ever if you believe those wacky Mayans), and the usual suspects at Michael’s came bearing gifts to be traded over Cobb salads today. Some regulars (Linda Fairstein) were hosting year-end catch-ups with pals, while others (Steven Stolman) broke bread with their bosses. Of course, even if Christmas is less than a week away, there are those who mean business with lunch.

I caught up with Eliot Spitzer while he was waiting for his guest to arrive and asked him how he’s faring over at Current TV. “Nobody’s watching, but I’m having a great time,” he told me. “I don’t mean to be facetious, but I am really enjoying myself. It’s like having a cocktail party with friends every night.” Pausing for a moment he added, “Somebody needs to buy the network.” And perhaps they will, he mused, if for no other reason than to snap up Current’s distribution system.  Either way, New York’s former governor isn’t quitting his day job, so to speak. “I’m glad all my investments are in real estate, not media companies, but if someone can make money at it, great.” Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Best-selling author Linda Fairstein, hosting her annual holiday lunch for her former colleagues from her days as head of the city’s sex crimes unit. “I love doing this for these women who are all tops in their field. We’ve been having this lunch every year for over a decade, and for one afternoon they are treated like queens of the world,” Linda told me as she placed artfully decorated gift bags at each place setting embellished with the words ‘Boss Lady.’ The incredible women who were taking a break from their usual daily grind of solving and prosecuting the city’s most heinous crimes: New York Supreme Court Judge Ann Donnelly, Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, trial division chief; Audrey Moore, chief the Special Victims’ Unit; cold case division head Melissa Mourges, who just this week got a conviction on the ‘Dating Game’ murder; Kerry O’Connell, chief of the trial bureau; and Martha Bashford, head of the Sex Crimes Unit. Ladies, I salute you.

2.  Peter Brown

3. ’Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and David Zinczenko (Happy Belated Birthday!)

4.  PR scion Steve Rubenstein

The holiday scene at Michael's

The holiday scene at Michael’s

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Harvey Weinstein, David Zinczenko and Peggy Siegal Throws Another Party

1003_mockup.gif‘Tis the season for power lunches disguised as holiday celebrations, and this afternoon at Michael’s it was SRO as the moguls (Harvey Weinstein, Tommy Mottola), a perennial party giver (Peggy Siegal and her indefatigable minions) and boldface names (Star Jones, Muffie Potter Aston) poured into the dining room for one head-spinning scene. While Bonnie Fuller and company shoe-horned 14 people comfortably into Table One, Peggy presided over a lunch for 34 in the Garden Room honoring “The Untouchables.” (Although I didn’t see them, I did spot — I think — Malcolm Gladwell and Stu Zakim in the crowd). The rest of the dining room was full of table hoppers and gladhanders — Harvey Weinstein works a room like nobody’s business — and I noticed there was plenty of glasses of red and white wine all around. Cheers!

I was joined today by Anne Fulenwider who has plenty to celebrate these days having  “come home” to Marie Claire in September. She was tapped for the top job after Joanna Coles departed for Cosmo when Kate White left to write her best sellers full-time. I know, you need a score card for all this, but do try to keep up. Anne’s extraordinary rise to the top of the masthead is a master class on how to succeed in publishing by being very smart, working hard and staying grounded amid all the glitz and glamour (yes, to civilians and the uninitiated this is a glamorous business). The Harvard graduate came to New York in the mid-nineties and landed her first job in magazines working for David Lauren at Swing. An internship at The Paris Review turned into a gig as research assistant to George Plimpton when he was working on his book on Truman Capote. Anne got quite an education diving into boxes of fascinating transcripts, fact checking scores of Plimpton’s interviews and, occasionally ”chopping carrots” at his home and pitching in whenever needed. All in a day’s work.

Diane Clehane and Anne Fulenwider

When the book was done, she went on to become senior editor, moved to Vanity Fair where she was editor of the magazine’s popular “Fanfare” section, and wound up editing the work of Leslie Bennetts, Buzz Bissinger and Dominick Dunne. Except for a brief sojourn to San Francisco, she spent a decade at the magazine where, she said, she “grew up” and was “inspired” by Vanity Fair’s great reporting and writing and learned that “maintaining quality” and upholding the highest journalistic standards (“There were armies of fact checkers and researchers!”) were critical to the vitality and relevance of a successful magazine.

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Anderson Cooper, Harold Ford, Jr and Bob Guccione, Jr

1003_mockup.gifAfter a long holiday weekend left the usual Wednesday lunch crowd without their weekly power lunch fix, the town car set who could tear themselves away from their Hampton cottages returned to Michael’s today. I say we outlaw any more midweek July 4th holidays. Too confusing!

I was joined today by Bob Guccione, Jr. who I met last year when we weighed in on the ever expanding culture of celebrity for a journalism panel for Names Not Numbers. After crossing paths in this dining room several times over the past year, we decided it was time for a proper Michael’s lunch once and for all.

I wasn’t disappointed. Bob ventured in for our lunch and some other important business in town from his home in rural Pennsylvania (“I’m one postage stamp away from being the unabomber!’). A few years ago, having grown “sick of New York” he decamped to Mississippi to teach journalism and has decided country life beats living in Manhattan hands down. ”It’s so peaceful,” he says.

Bob tells a terrific tale of his fascinating career in media that started at the age of 18 in the UK when he became Britain’s youngest ever publisher. A year later, he launched Rock Superstars making him the youngest publisher in America. As the son of one of publishing’s most colorful figures, it seems his career path was predetermined but, says Bob, “I knew I loved it. I wanted to be a writer but I had no life experience.”

That changed pretty quickly. In 1985, he launched SPIN, sold it in 1997 t0 Vibe Ventures, and launched Gear in 1998. Then, in 2005 he bought Discover from Disney. He remembers the moment well. “The staff regarded  me with some trepidation. When I told them  ‘We’re in the entertainment business,’ there was an audible gasp in the room.” By the time he stepped down as chairman two years later, the magazine had returned to profitability.

Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione
Diane Clehane and Bob Guccione

Our conversation revolved around passion for the business and the elusive quest for profitability and Bob had plenty to say on both fronts. Besides being incredibly funny (sorry, but his best remarks are off the record), the tireless entrepreneur proved to be a fascinating lunch date as he shared his extremely well-reasoned take on why he believes writers will one day be able to make a living online and why magazines are far from over. ”Everything about digital media happened too fast, and people back the wrong model too quickly,” he told me. Exhibit A: The Huffington Post, which Bob says is “doomed to fail” and called it “a white elephant — it’s the default model.”

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Donald Trump, Star Jones, Wendy Williams, Plus Dish on the New Dark Shadows Movie

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Who knew there was a pre-Easter rush? Michael’s dining room was jam packed today with moguls (Donald Trump!), fashion mavens (Rachel Roy, Fern Mallis) and talking heads (Star Jones, Wendy Williams and Joe Kernen) before the town car set jets off to Florida and other more exotic ports of call for the holiday. We arrived early so as not to miss a minute of the mixing and mingling of the power lunch scene and were glad we did. Trump made quite an entrance with his bodyguard in tow. The last time we spotted anyone with protection stationed inside the restaurant was when Elton John met with some bigwigs at Table One several years back. Life can be so complicated when you have money.

I was joined today by Kathryn Leigh Scott, who starred in one of my favorite television shows of all time, Dark Shadows. If you grew up in the 60′s, then you — or someone you knew – probably ran home after school in time to catch the iconic gothic soap opera which aired on WABC at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Kathryn played Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres who was the ill-fated lady love of Barnabas Collins, one of television’s most famous vampires memorably depicted by Jonathan Frid. She also starred opposite Jonathan in the hit MGM film House of Dark Shadows (soon to be re-released on DVD and BlueRay).

Well, everything old is new again and next month Tim Burton‘s big screen homage to the show, Dark Shadows, starring super fan Johnny Depp hits theaters May 11. Kathryn, Jonathan as well as her former castmates Lara Parker (the original Angelique) and David Selby (Quentin Collins) have cameos in the film. “Lara and I plan to walk the red carpet together at the Los Angeles premiere wearing age-appropriate gowns and have a glass of champagne. This is really something to celebrate,” said Kathryn who has high hopes for the film. “It has all the elements the show had (fantasy, horror, romance and comedy), but it’s their playground with their own spin on things.”

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Diane Clehane
Kathryn Leigh Scott and Diane Clehane

The timing of the film couldn’t be better for Kathryn’s new book, Dark Shadows Return to Collinwood which has just come out to rave reviews. Designed by Cheryl Carrington, the book contains hundreds of rare photos from the show, as well as stunning images from the new film.

Kathryn told me she is “so grateful to Warner Brothers and to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp” for their “huge trust in me.”  The movie studio released the images from the film to her before they’d finished their own trailer or movie poster and did not ask for approval over their usage. The photos of Depp in full Barnabas regalia standing alongside the original cast members is really something to see, and Kathryn’s behind the scenes account of the experience of being in Burton’s film make the book a must-have for fans both old and new.

Over 200 fans turned out last night at Barnes & Noble on 86th Street to meet Kathryn, get their books signed, and talk about the show and the upcoming film.  They also got a surprise gift of posters from the new movie provided by Warner Brothers. “It was wonderful because it was a real mix of people,” she told me. “There were young fans who were excited to learn more about the show, and there were some of the longtime fans who were children when they stood outside the stage door of the show here in New York in the 60s. The legacy of Dark Shadows lives on!”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

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Harvey Weinstein Leads the Movie Mogul Charge

1003_mockup.gif Any Michael’s regular worth his or her weight in Cobb salad knows that on any given Wednesday you can find the who’s who of media in the dining room. Today we spotted a talking head (Andrew Ross Sorkin) and bestselling authors (Linda Fairstein, Karin Slaughter) but were really struck by the Hollywood on the Hudson feel of today’s lunch. Everywhere you looked there were movie moguls (Who’s hotter than Harvey Weinstein at this moment?) and studio suits breaking bread with money men (read: possible investors), we’re sure, in hopes of cooking up some big deal. We’ve noticed that there is an increasing number of movie moguls (both real and the wannabe variety) making the scene on Wednesday lately, which may account for the marked uptick in glad handing and air kissing.

I was just about to sit down with my lunch date, producer Thierry Daher to talk about his new film, God Save My Shoes and the film’s publicist Miriam Driot when producer Beverly Camhe came over to introduce me to Shawn Bercuson who, she noted, “was the talk of Sundance.” It turns out that Shawn, one of the original members of the team that started Groupon, launched a new site last year  perfect for the new ways we watch movies. Prescreen.com is a curated video on demand platform designed to promote and showcase premium content. Shawn tells me the site is the first to provide long form premium content through Facebook Open Graph intergration in the U.S. When he was at Sundance, he discovered there was no platform for aggregating the festival’s trailers and viola! Now there is. When I introduced him to Thierry, they had plenty to talk about, and by the time the group adjourned to our respective tables everyone had each other’s business cards. Who needs Los Angeles?

I was eager to hear the story behind Thierry’s latest documentary which explores the fascinating relationship between women and their shoes. His previous release, Just for Kicks, explored the sneaker phenomena and the origins of Nike Air Force One and Air Jordans. “It’s not the athletes that make these shoes so popular,” Thierry told me of his discovery. “It’s the hip hop and rap stars.” To wit: Just For Kicks featured Reverend Run, Missy Elliot and Grandmaster Caz. In light of the fact that this was his second documentary on footwear, I just had to ask him  if he had some kind of a foot fetish. Nope, he said. “I’m very curious about other people’s obsessions.” As a recovering Manolo Blahnik addict, I was more than intrigued. Its turns out the idea for God Save My Shoes came to Thierry while he was making Just For Kicks. When he learned that Damon Dash owned hundreds of pairs of sneakers, the thought occurred to him: If this is what the guys have in their closets, God only knows what their wives own. Clearly, he was on to something.

Diane Clehane, Thierry Daher and Miriam DroIt
Diane Clehane, Thierry Daher and Miriam Driot

Thierry told me he spent a year writing the film’s treatment during which time he unearthed just about anything ever written on the subject and sought out women to bare their soles. The film features interviews with Kelly Rowland, Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas and Dita Von Teese who bare all about their devotion to shoes. Celebrated poker player Beth Shak, who owns over 1,000 pairs, opened up her extraordinary closet.  He also features another ‘star’ who was literally born to wear high heels: Barbie. (I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ve just got to watch). Designers Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik weigh in on their cult following and the curious bond between women and shoes.

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Cathie Black Resurfaces, Jann Wenner at Table One, and Dish from The Millionaire Matchmaker

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Despite the worst case of Gotham gridlock in months (Thanks, Mr. President), there were plenty of media heavy hitters (Jann Wenner, John Huey),  high-profile editors (Martha Nelson, Kate White) and a spin sister (Peggy Siegal) at Michael’s today. While the power lunch set was chewing over their next big deal between bites, I had a dishy lunch with Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger and my good friend, the network’s SVP of communications, Jennifer Geisser. If you’ve seen any part of Matchmaker, you know that Patti tells it like she sees it no matter what. “I’m a truth-teller; that’s it,” she told me after sharing some particularly searing commentary on some boldface names we all know. Sorry, but it’s off the record.

Fortunately, Patti did let loose over lunch and share her thoughts on her ‘overnight success’ — “Total bullshit. I worked my ass off for years,” she said. It certainly sounds that way. Before starting Millionaire’s Club International in 2000, she toiled in a number of positions ranging from garment center executive to astrologer before finally landing at Great Expectations, the country’s largest matchmaking service, running their Florida division and then as their director of marketing. Quickly realizing she had a knack for finding dates for just about everyone she met, she started her own firm and, she tells me, grossed $1 million the first year.

In 2001, she had a fateful meeting with Telepictures and pitched an idea for a reality show where one man would find love by ‘dating’ a group of women. Sounds familiar? Thanks to an inept agent at ICM (“He was terrible,” says Patti),  The Bachelor premiered without Patti’s involvement and went on to become TV ratings gold. Undeterred, Patti “cried for a night,” got a new agent and moved on. After a few other stops and starts involving, among others, Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest, Patti found a television home with Bravo in 2008 with The Millionaire Matchmaker and is currently in her fifth season of the show. Her dating pet peeves? Rude guys:  ”I want to teach young men some manners. They’ve got to learn to be gentlemen.” Scantily clad girls: “I always tell them ‘leave the Fredrick’s at home.’” And mothers who think their sons walk on water: “Jewish and Italian mothers are the worst. They think their sons are messiahs and expect everyone to treat them like one. It makes dating them impossible.”

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Melania Trump, Charles Grodin and Princess Di’s Wedding Designer

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— DIANE CLEHANE

The oppressive heat didn’t keep the faithful away from Michael’s today. The joint was jumping with media mavens of every stripe, including one editor who is clearly having a moment (David Zinczenko), high-profile publishers (Connie Ann Phillips, Donna Lagani) and, of course, a boldfaced name (Melania Trump) thrown in the mix.

It seemed as if all anyone wanted to talk about on (and off) the record was the imploding scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch. Said one source close to the action, “This could be bigger than anyone yet knows. Just wait if this thing hits New York. That would be major.” Uber agent and Londoner Ed Victor weighed in with this: “I made a $100 bet with Alfred Taubman that by this time next year [Murdoch] won’t be CEO.” And why? The corporation has no choice but to “throw him under the bus,” he said, adding that the televised hearings that have everyone riveted are “a complete wash.” Stay tuned.

I was joined today by Morgan Stanley’s Patrick Murphy and his sister, author and documentarian Mary Murphy. While I’ve had my share of Michael’s chats with Patrick, who spent four years with the Bloomberg administration and was one of the folks responsible for bringing Fashion Week to Lincoln Center, we’d never had our own lunch. These days, he’s hard at work at Morgan Stanley’s Reiser Group where he manages the finances of families, foundations and pension funds. “It’s so rewarding,” he tells me. “So many people are in need of good financial advice.” Indeed.

I was also glad I got the chance to finally sit down with Mary, having been so impressed by the success of her multimedia project, Hey, Boo: Harper  Lee & To Kill A Mockingbird. The paperback version of the book is out this week, and the DVD, which features interviews with a host of A-listers including Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey reading their favorite passages and reflecting on the novel’s legendary influence, is out and available on Netflix and iTunes today. Mary also just learned that PBS’ American Masters just bought the television rights. “That’s pretty much the biggest thing that can happen to you as a documentarian. I’m thrilled.”

She and I learned we were both inspired to become writers because of our love of the children’s classic, Harriet the Spy written in 1964 by Louise Fitzhugh. “When I think about it, there were definitely some similarities between Harriet and [Mockingbird heroine] Scout,” says Mary. The moral of the story: Parents, turn off the television and read to your children.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Producer Freddie Gershorn

2. Ed Victor and author Will Schwalbe, former Hyperion VP turned author whose new book, SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How To Do It Better, has people talking – and texting.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, O Magazine’s Sara Nelson and two other gals we didn’t get to meet.

4. Stephen Swid

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Rick Fox, Arianna Huffington and a Real Housewife of New York City

1003_mockup.gif— DIANE CLEHANE

It was SRO at Michael’s today with movers and shakers jammed into every corner. I was so glad I got there early and was able to chat with Rick Fox and his girlfriend Eliza Dushku (who we loved on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) when they arrived at the stroke of noon. Having watched the former LA Laker morph into a serious ballroom dancer during his stint on Dancing With the Stars, I just had to ask him if he’d kept up with his smooth moves. “No I haven’t,” he told me with a laugh. “I guess I need to call [professional partner Cheryl Burke] if I ever need to do that again.”

Rick said he was in town for Internet Week to promote Off Season, a podcast production he is working on with Michael Eisner as producer. “It’s great and that’s where the future seems to be. I’m having a lot of fun with it.” As for Eliza, who is truly stunning in person, she’s in town to film an episode of  White Collar. When asked if she is playing a good girl or femme fatale on the USA Network series, she demurred. “A little of both, I think.” With that, the dazzling couple sailed off to take their place at their table in the center of the room.

I was lunching today with Myrna Blyth, editor-in-chief of thirdage.com, the longest-running site devoted to female baby boomers. Ever since Web entrepreneur Josh Speyer bought the site in 2010 and brought Myrna, who was once the guiding force of Ladies Home Journal and More, on board, over two million visitors have been flocking to the site for everything from boomer celebrity news to the latest health breakthroughs. While magazines seem to shun the 50-plus crowd, which Myrna thinks is a “big mistake,” thirdage is welcoming ‘women of a certain age’ who have have real buying power and who want talk  — and talk — about what matters to them online. “I think it’s wonderful to give such a powerful group the voice they deserve,” says Myrna. “Thirdage is for the woman who wasn’t born yesterday and wants to make the most of today.”

Here’s the rundown on todays’ crowd:

1.  Fidelis Global’s Gerry Byrne and Hollywoodlife.com‘s Bonnie Fuller, presiding over their second monthly “Influencers” lunch. The table was so jam packed that we could barely make out all the attendees, but we were able to spot Cosmo editrix Kate White; Neil Vogel, co-founder of the Webby Awards; Cablevision’s Tad Smith; Real Housewife LuAnn de Lesseps (that’s Countess de Lesseps to you!); Veronika Ward of MediaCom Interaction; Estee Lauder’s Marisa Thalberg; MMC’s chief revenue officer Aly Racer; and WNBC-TV’s Jane Hanson.

2. Michael Holtzman

3. Alan Grubman and NBC’s Richard Engel

4. Michael Fuchs and producer Jean Doumanian

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Tom Brokaw, Trudie Styler, Joan Rivers & Happy Birthday, Jon Meacham!

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— DIANE CLEHANE

If you were wondering why the streets of midtown seemed a bit quiet today it was because everyone — well, almost everyone — was at Michael’s today. I could barely keep up as the A-listers filed in one after another (Tom Brokaw! Jon Meacham!) and random celebs (Trudie Styler, Joan Rivers) drifted by.

And to think I was worried I missed all the action when Gabriel Byrne and Chelsea Clinton made appearances last Thursday. If it’s Wednesday, you can pretty much always count on a head-spinning lunchtime scene at 55th and Fifth.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Joan Rivers, presiding over a table full of folks including John Miller and some execs from WEtv. We’re guessing the group was feting Joan over the ratings success of the first season of her reality show, Mother Knows Best. (Glasses of white wine were being raised.) The compulsively watchable series starring Joan and Melissa Rivers chronicled the roller coaster ride of their mother-daughter relationship. When it wasn’t making me laugh out loud, it had me in tears. I should have expected as much since Joan put it all out there in A Piece of Work, the documentary which chronicled her fascinating life on and off stage.

Before she made her way to her table, I grabbed her for a chat and asked if she’d attended the royal wedding, since she’s been a guest of Prince Charles at many a dinner party at Highgrove. “I didn’t go,” she told me. “I’m a friend of Camilla‘s and none of her friends were invited.” Even so, she gave the wedding party high marks in the fashion department. (Much to their relief, I’m sure.) “Everybody looked fabulous!”

2. Stephen Swid with two gents that looked like they stepped right out of the pages of a Judith Krantz novel

3. Trudie Styler and two scholarly looking gents. (One was toting a folder from a school whose name we just couldn’t make out from afar) I’m thinking the fellows were from the Child Mind Institute at Hunter College where Trudie gave a well-received talk yesterday on her own childhood struggles with ADHD and dyslexia. Thanks to my pal blogger Beth Arky for giving me the heads up on this one.

4. Sony Television head Steve Mosko and Jerry Stiller (Yes, Ben‘s dad.)

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Eliot Spitzer on Working for CNN: ‘I’m having a barrel of fun!’

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— DIANE CLEHANE

Although it might not seem like it given the sheer numbers of journalists reporting from England this week, there are plenty of media folk and fashion mavens who aren’t headed out of town to cover that little get-together at Westminster Abbey on Friday. The dining room at Michael’s was packed today with A-listers of every stripe.  I lunched with my good friend Lisa Linden and Eliot Spitzer and we had plenty to talk about. Eliot joined us fresh off this morning’s shuttle from Boston where he’d given a lecture at MIT yesterday. He also taped last night’s broadcast of Inside the Arena from there.

While the rest of CNN is in the grips of royal wedding fever, Spitzer couldn’t be happier to be left out of the lovefest across the pond (“I’m really upset they didn’t send me over there,” he quipped). The subject did come up on last night’s show when he questioned Muslim activist Anjem Choudary about his planned protest at the wedding. While Spitzer pressed him on whether he was planning to “bring violence” to an  event watched by over two billion people, Choudary continually evaded the question. It was fascinating to see a flash of Spitzer’s past as New York’s attorney general come through during the exchange. Perhaps not so coincidentally, it was announced this morning that the group had canceled the planned protest.

When I asked Spitzer if he considered himself a journalist or a commentator, he answered simply, “I don’t know. I don’t mean to be vague. When the issue of objectivity comes up, I don’t think there is any such thing as objectivity. I don’t mean to say you infuse everything with bias and don’t try to be rigorously factual, but how you present every fact depends upon the prism through which you see it.” Read more

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