January 22, 2020

Oprah Winfrey is facing mounting criticism after withdrawing from a documentary about the sexual misconduct allegations against Russell Simmons, a decision activists are slamming as "callous."

Winfrey was originally attached as executive producer of the upcoming documentary focusing on the Simmons allegations, On the Record, but she removed her name from it earlier this month. Although Winfrey said in a statement she "unequivocally believes and supports the women," she says she had concerns about "some inconsistencies in the stories." Simmons has denied the allegations against him.

"This latest turn of events has been extraordinarily disorienting and upsetting," domestic violence activist Sil Lai Abrams, who has accused Simmons of rape, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Equality Now global director Yasmeen Hassan criticized Winfrey, telling the Reporter her decision was "callous" and saying, "There needs to be a lot more explanation given to these women, at the very least. This feels mind-boggling and is very bad for the #MeToo movement."

Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein additionally described the situation as "one of the saddest moments for the #MeToo movement," adding, "Just think how hard it is going to be for women, particularly women of color, to come forward next time when they have been thrown under the bus by none other than Oprah."

The Reporter notes that although Winfrey has cited alleged inconsistencies, especially in the account of the film's central accuser Drew Dixon, the Times' report on Dixon's allegations "was well vetted." Winfrey reportedly had additional issues with the film, including concerns over whether "the two filmmakers, who are white, captured the nuances of hip-hop culture and the struggles of black women," the Times writes. On the Record is still scheduled to have its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25. Brendan Morrow

Editor's note: This story's characterization of Sil Lai Abrams' comments has been updated.

3:33 p.m.

You'd think President Trump was being haunted by Freddy Krueger based on his sleep habits as described by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney while speaking at Friday's Conservative Political Action Conference declared that the president basically "never sleeps," having apparently barely done so before addressing the nation about the coronavirus crisis earlier this week.

"He flew to India, did a day and a half of work, flew back, did not sleep on the flight home, and I know that because he's emailing and texting and taking phone calls," Mulvaney said.

Trump arrived back in the U.S. on an 18-hour return trip from India, during which Mulvaney claims he got no sleep whatsoever, early on Wednesday morning, proceeding to deliver a press conference about 12 hours later running on what Mulvaney described to be at least "a day and a half" without sleep.

Although Mulvaney chalked up Trump's wacky sleep schedule to his desire to get the most out of his time in office, Trump seemingly didn't get a whole lot of sleep even as a private citizen. In his 2004 book Think Like a Billionaire, he wrote that he sleeps "about four hours per night," urging readers not to "sleep any more than you have to." Brendan Morrow

2:35 p.m.

A federal appeals court has blocked President Trump's policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases work their way through the immigration court system.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals came to this decision on Friday, saying that the policy is "invalid in its entirety," The New York Times reports. The Times notes this Migrant Protection Protocols policy, also referred to as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, was a "central pillar" of Trump's immigration agenda.

A federal judge in April 2019 issued an injunction against the Trump administration's policy after it was enacted that January, but a court of appeals later allowed it to go into effect while legal challenges against it continued, NBC News reports. Almost 60,000 people have been sent back to Mexico under the program, Reuters reports.

Additionally, the appeals court on Friday also upheld a ban on a rule preventing those who cross the border between ports of entry from being eligible from asylum, per NBC News.

The Washington Post noted Friday that "the number of people waiting in Mexican border cities for U.S. immigration court dates has dwindled, in part because migrants said they were not making the trek to the United States in the first place given how unlikely it would be that they would gain entry," but it's "unclear what halting the policy might do to that mind-set." Brendan Morrow

2:20 p.m.

Biden's got plenty of fire, it's just a friendly fire.

Former Vice President Joe Biden sought to reassure a voter that he's passionate about the issues and his campaign while speaking at an event for supporters on Friday.

"What is your fire?" asked an attendee. "Because you see [Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)], you see [Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)]. You see that fire. That's what I'm looking for. What is your fire?"

"Decency and honor," Biden began, to cheers and applause. "The fact that I'm not screaming like Bernie and waving my arms like Elizabeth is not a lack of fire," he said.

Critics, including former Obama White House adviser David Axelrod, have panned Biden's "low energy" campaign performance, especially in debates. Sanders himself, who is often criticized for speaking loudly, has said Biden lacks "energy and excitement" both to spark voter turnout and to defeat President Trump. Warren's campaign style has been interpreted by the Los Angeles Times as a way to demonstrate her physical fitness and stamina in comparison to her fellow candidates. She has hit back against comments from Biden calling her "angry," saying "I own it." Summer Meza

1:11 p.m.

Regrets — Gwyneth Paltrow has a few. During a promotion for her Netflix show, Goop Lab, Paltrow admitted that her "least favorite performance" was in Shallow Hal in 2001.

"I'm not sure who told you to do that one, but it wasn't me," teased Paltrow's best friend and assistant, Kevin Keating.

In the movie, Hal (Jack Black) is hypnotized to only see inner beauty, with Paltrow playing the supposed "beautiful" version of an obese woman named Rosemary. When Rosemary is seen through the eyes of others, Paltrow donned a fat suit to emphasize the weight. The movie has since been criticized for its suggestion that "the only way a fat woman can be loved is to be loved in spite of her body," explains Jezebel. "The movie allows no possibility that a fat body could be considered a beautiful body."

"That was before your time!" Paltrow told Keating after he named Shallow Hal, visibly cringing. "See what happened? Disaster." Watch below. Jeva Lange

12:24 p.m.

Donald Trump Jr. on Friday suggested Democrats are hoping the coronavirus kills millions of Americans, prompting one Democratic congressman to essentially threaten to physically fight him.

Trump Jr. spoke to Fox & Friends on Friday and asserted that Democrats are using the coronavirus crisis to try to hurt President Trump, claiming they "seemingly hope that it comes here and kills millions of people so that they can end Donald Trump's streak of winning." He added this is a "new level of sickness."

Not long after, Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) appeared on MSNBC and certainly agreed with that last part, though not in the way Trump Jr. meant. When asked about Trump Jr.'s comment, Garamendi warned, "He should not be near me when he says that. There would be a serious altercation. That is just totally outrageous."

Later, Garamendi again said, "Don Jr. had better not get any place close to me. It would not be a healthy situation." He also clarified that Democrats are not, in fact, wishing for millions of deaths. Brendan Morrow

11:51 a.m.

You win some, you lose some, and you confuse some. Country music megastar Garth Brooks got into some hot water with fans this week after posting a photo of himself wearing a Barry Sanders NFL jersey to Instagram. Brooks, who wore the getup for his concert at Ford Field, had clearly meant to give Motor City's former Detroit Lions running back a nod, but the name "Sanders," plus Barry's number, 20, confused a lot of Brooks' more conservative fans.

"If this is for Bernie Sanders, I'm done with you," wrote one furious commenter. "I thought you were a true American that loves Our Country?"

"Sorry Garth ... don't think so," wrote another. "Just stick to music." Others echoed the sentiment: "Nothing like supporting a communist to lose a few fans!" threw in another.

"Love you, hate the shirt," contributed yet another user. "Trump 2020."

While Brooks hasn't endorsed anyone for 2020, he did notably turn down an invitation to play at Donald Trump's inauguration. Still, there's no doubt about who he meant to celebrate with his choice of clothing: "Can I just tell ya that you guys got the greatest player in NFL history in my opinion," Brooks had raved to the stadium. Jeva Lange

10:50 a.m.

They say money can't buy happiness, but it seems it can buy a pseudo-endorsement.

A Morning Consult survey released Thursday found that 26 percent of Democratic primary voters believe former President Barack Obama has endorsed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. There's just one problem with that notion — he hasn't.

Another 25 percent of those surveyed said Obama has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, a reasonable assumption given their eight years in office together. But Obama hasn't endorsed Biden, either. In fact, Obama has very purposefully stayed away from the Democratic primary, choosing not to endorse any candidate (though he did demand South Carolina TV networks pull an anti-Biden ad that used his words to "mislead" viewers).

So where are voters getting the idea that Bloomberg has Obama's blessing? As Morning Consult notes, Bloomberg's sweeping network of political ads, totaling roughly $410 million, per The New York Times, has sought to tie the former mayor to Obama despite their relatively distant relationship. One ad spot highlights pictures of the two leaders, saying Bloomberg and Obama "worked together" to combat gun violence and improve education. The Washington Post says the Bloomberg-Obama relationship was actually quite "complicated" compared to the ad's portrayal.

"An endorsement from Obama would likely be a game-changer for any of the candidates," writes Morning Consult. Seems Bloomberg's campaign ad omnipresence is helping one candidate change the game for himself.

The Morning Consult poll was conducted Feb. 20-23, surveying 5,969 registered voters online. The survey's margin of error is ±1 percentage point. Summer Meza

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