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Financial Offer Far Less Than Previous Deal

Fox News offered Sarah Palin a new contract before she decided to part ways with the network where she has held forth as a commentator for the last three years.

However, it would be hard to describe it as a generous contract.

Sarah Palin

Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Palin was a hot property when Roger Ailes landed her in 2009, fresh off her colorful run for vice president, and paid her an annual salary of $1 million. Fox even built Palin a studio at her Wasilla home.

Exclusive

Jill Kelley: I Was Blackmailed

The woman dragged into the Petraeus scandal tells Howard Kurtz that her life is now a nightmare. She says she didn’t press charges against Paula Broadwell and never exchanged 30,000 emails with a top general.

Jill Kelley was not the first to see the anonymous email that would rupture her comfortable life as a wealthy Tampa socialite who forged friendships with two top American generals.

She learned of the mysterious message from her husband, Scott, who opened the note on his iPhone, under the Yahoo account they share, as he was about to board a plane.

Jill Kelley and Family

Jill Kelley with her husband, Scott, and their three children. (Jill Kelley)

Kelley says she was “terrified” late last summer when he told her about the email. In that note and the barrage that followed, “there was blackmail, extortion, threats,” Kelley told me in her first interview since the David Petraeus scandal erupted, breaking a silence of nearly three months.

HOODWINKED

How the Media Missed the Te’o Hoax

The tissue of lies in the Notre Dame star’s personal life would have been easy to unravel, but few tried. How the mainstream press fell for the story of an imaginary tragedy.

All it would have taken was a couple of phone calls.

Instead, blue-chip news organizations played along with what turned out to be a colossal hoax about the sad demise of Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend.

Wake Forest Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o walks off the field following an NCAA football game against Wake Forest in South Bend, Ind., Nov. 17, 2012. (Michael Conroy/AP)

It was a colossal forfeiture by the mainstream media and a spike-the-ball touchdown for a pillar of the new media, the snarky sports blog Deadspin, which exposed the fact that the Notre Dame star had marketed a tale that was false in every respect.

The Daily Show host fires back at the economist over a trillion-dollar coin scheme

Maybe Paul Krugman thought the host of the Daily Show was an easy mark.

The pugnacioius New York Times columnist pulled no punches in whacking Jon Stewart over a subject that, if you think about it, is kinda humorous: the minting of a trillion-dollar coin.

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Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Why is the esteemed Nobel Prize winner debating economics with a professional funnyman? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Stewart is a cultural force and people like, oh, Barack Obama have been known to stop by.

Presser

Obama Talks Tough

The president warned Republicans not to balk at raising the debt ceiling and challenged the NRA on gun control. Howard Kurtz on the timing of his news conference.

President Obama, declaring that “we are not a deadbeat nation,” issued a stern warning to Republicans on Monday that they should not “act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis.”

Obama

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the White House, Jan. 14, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Obama used the last news conference of his first term to ratchet up pressure on the GOP to raise the debt ceiling next month, despite the party’s threats to balk at such an increase unless the White House and Democrats agree to substantial spending cuts.

To do otherwise, Obama said, “would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy” and raise the specter of Social Security checks being delayed and American troops not getting paid.

Useful Sideshow

The Gun-Control Circus

Some in the media are turning a dead-serious debate into a spectacle. But Howard Kurtz says the noise is helping the White House press its case on guns.

We are finally lurching toward a serious debate about guns and violence in this country.

Shouting About Gun Control

Clockwise from top left: “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory, Vice President Joe Biden, and talk-radio host Alex Jones. (Clockwise from top left: AP; Nicholas Kamm/AFP, via Getty; CNN)

But not without a whole lot of sideshows and silliness.

On Friday we got the stunning news that David Gregory will not be going to jail. Yes, District of Columbia authorities, exercising their prosecutorial discretion, will not bring charges against the moderator of Meet the Press for waving a high-capacity gun magazine on the air while interviewing the head of the NRA.

‘CRITICALLY IMPORTANT’

Biden Raises Guns Stakes

The veep sent an unmistakable signal as his task force convened that the White House will act. Howard Kurtz on the obstacles facing Obama—and whether he’ll issue an executive order.

If there were any lingering doubts about the administration’s determination to act on gun safety, Vice President Biden dispelled them on Wednesday.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty

With his passionate words before the cameras—and the decision to admit cameras to the start of his first White House meeting on the subject—the veep served notice that the issue won’t be allowed to fade quietly. You don’t stage that kind of show and then bring forth a popgun.

“Every once in a while,” Biden said quietly, “something awakens the conscience of the country.” And lest anyone think he was all talk, Biden said “the president and I are determined to take action,” that “it’s critically important we act,” and that “this is not an exercise in photo opportunities.”

Defense Fight

The Proxy War Against Hagel

Obama’s nomination of the former GOP senator for secretary of defense has drawn flak from Republicans and activist groups. But Hagel’s not really their target, says Howard Kurtz.

The battle over the next secretary of defense isn’t ultimately about Chuck Hagel. It’s about President Obama and his second-term agenda for the military.

President Obama

President Barack Obama announces his nomination for Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, during an event in the East Room of the White House Jan. 7, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Washington loves a good fight. Nomination battles are a kind of bloodsport here. And Hagel presents a prime target of opportunity.

Disliked by most Republicans, disowned by many Democrats, he has no natural base of support for the Pentagon job. He has, instead, a constituency of one, and that is POTUS.

A leak to the New York Times indicates the cycling champ is finally ready to come clean

Lance Armstrong lied to me.

Twice.

I know, I’ve got plenty of company. He lied to other journalists, racing officials, his fans, and anyone else who would listen in denying that he used illegal substances in winning his cycling titles.

Lance Armstrong

A Portrait of Lance Armstrong during a Nike Swift Spin Time Trial Suit feature held in July, 2003 prior to the 2003 Tour de France in France. (Nike via Getty Images)

Survivor

Boehner Hangs On

Between his failure to get a grand bargain on the fiscal cliff and the Sandy aid debacle, 2013 hasn’t gotten off to a great start for the House Speaker—but at least he got to keep his job. Howard Kurtz on why no one stepped up to challenge the man struggling to keep control of his members.

A battered John Boehner gets to hang on to his job for another two years.

The Congress re-elected Speaker Boehner by a tally of 220 to 192 Thursday. Boehner was sworn in following a tear-loaded speech calling for more unity and communication in Congress.

It was hardly a surprise when House Republicans, at the start of the 113th Congress, voted Thursday to keep the Ohio lawmaker as their speaker. Despite some rumblings in the press, his job was never seriously threatened.

Most Republican members like Boehner personally and appreciate his low-key style. There’s also an iron law in politics that you can’t beat something with nothing. With no prominent challenger having emerged, Boehner was always going to skate to a second two-year term.

Good Riddance!

Why This Congress Was the Worst

From the failure to pass bills to the fiscal cliff fiasco, these folks took incompetence to a higher level. Howard Kurtz on why doing nothing on Capitol Hill is the new normal.

Has there ever been a worse Congress than the 112th?

After Speaker Boehner abandoned a bill to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, members of the House voiced their displeasure.

Probably not, and we should all get used to it.

The era of a national legislature boldly tackling major problems is over.

I’m always calling on journalists to admit their mistakes; today it’s my turn.

I want to apologize to Fox’s Greta Van Susteren for adding incorrect information about her to a Daily Beast article.

In Lauren Ashburn’s piece about those who made fun of Hillary Clinton’s illness, I edited in a comment about whether she had suffered an “immaculate concussion” and attributed it to Van Susteren. In fact, it was said by Laura Ingraham.

What’s more, as the piece noted, Van Susteren took to task those who mocked Clinton’s illness, including her own Fox colleagues. For that, she deserves kudos, not an inaccurate account.

Down to the Wire

Obama Wins Cliff Showdown

The president is riding high now that many Republicans have joined in raising taxes on the wealthy. But Howard Kurtz says it could prove a pyrrhic victory that could threaten his second-term agenda.

President Obama clearly won the fiscal cliff skirmish on Tuesday as he faced down the Republicans, forcing them despite years of fervent promises to raise tax rates on the wealthy. But he also made concessions over New Year’s weekend that could weaken his hand in future battles.

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the fiscal cliff negotiations in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House December 31, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Beating back a conservative revolt in his party, Speaker John Boehner brought to the House floor the compromise bill passed in a predawn session in the Senate. The bill passed late Tuesday night, with Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats providing 172 votes, enough to offset substantial Republican defections. Eighty-five Republicans voted for the bill.

The measure will restore the Bush tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 and families under $450,000 a year, while also extending unemployment insurance for a year and reviving an inheritance tax exemption for estates under $5 million.

Senators overwhelmingly approve a bill to avoid most tax hikes after the fiscal cliff deadline passes. Howard Kurtz on why it happened and the measure’s chances in the House.

A mad Washington scramble went into overtime in the predawn hours of New Year's Day as the Senate voted to avoid a tax hike on people making less than $400,000 even after the country had technically slid off the much-feared fiscal cliff.

Fiscal Cliff

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, walks to a closed-door GOP caucus as Congress meets to negotiate a legislative path to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts that could kick in Jan. 1., at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

While no one was breaking out the bubbly and party hats, this was as close to a Beltway triumph as our bitter and polarized politics is able to produce these days. And the bill does little in terms of spending cuts beyond kicking the can a bit down the road.

The 89 to 8 vote, on a deal brokered by Vice President Biden with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, now must be approved by the House in the next two days. Given the margin in the Senate, where only five Republicans opposed the legislation, the pressure on John Boehner's team to push the ball over the finish line will be enormous. Yet substantial defections among conservative lawmakers are likely, which would force Nancy Pelosi to produce enough Democratic votes to pass the measure.

PARTISAN GRIDLOCK

Biden, McConnell Race to Avoid Fiscal Cliff

As a spate of last-minute fiscal-cliff deals fell through, Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell reported they had made 11th-hour progress. Howard Kurtz on whether this is false optimism.

It may be a glimmer of hope, or it may be another false alarm. But there appears to be some movement in the long-stalled fiscal-cliff talks.

Last-Gasp Cliff Deal Fails

(L) Drew Angerer/Getty (R) Win McNamee/Getty

With John Boehner and Harry Reid stepping to the sidelines, the negotiations have come down to two men: Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell. The vice president and Senate minority leader were batting around proposals by phone until midnight Sunday and appear to have closed the gap toward a last-minute agreement—albeit one that does nothing to deal with the deep spending cuts that would automatically take effect on Tuesday.

Word trickled out that Senate Republicans would agree to extend tax cuts for individuals earning less than $450,000 and couples making less than $550,000. This is a significant concession for a party that has staunchly opposed hiking taxes on anyone at any time for any reason.

About the Author

Author headshot

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz is The Daily Beast and Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, and writes the Spin Cycle blog. He also hosts CNN’s weekly media program Reliable Sources on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. The longtime media reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, Kurtz is the author of five books.

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Martha Stewart Vs. The Law

Roughly a decade after the insider trading scandal that landed her in federal prison, the 'domestic diva' is back in court, this time sued by Macy's for breach of contract. Here's the condensed history of Martha Stewart's legal battles.

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