Oct 8, 2019

Axios AM

🎬 Huge news: "Axios on HBO" has been extended for two additional seasons, through the end of 2021 — and will increase to 12 shows each year.

  • Our fall season kicks off Sunday, Oct. 20, at 6 p.m. ET/PT. Details.

📊 New: By 58% to 38%, Americans in a Washington Post-Schar School poll said the House was correct to undertake its impeachment inquiry, and 49% said President Trump should be removed from office. (WashP0st)

1 big thing: China's vise grip on corporate America

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NBA’s swift apology to Chinese fans for a single tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors is part of a troubling trend: The Communist Party in Beijing is setting boundaries for what Americans more than 7,000 miles away are willing to say on sensitive issues, Axios Future co-author Erica Pandey writes.

  • Why it matters: This isn't a covert operation. It's China using its market power to bully American companies and organizations in broad daylight — and muzzle free speech.

The big picture: U.S. companies are increasingly weighing in on social and political issues at home. But when it comes to China — in particular Hong Kong and mass detentions of Muslims in Xinjiang — they’re largely silent.

The latest: An image backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, tweeted and quickly deleted by Houston Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey, kicked off a firestorm in China.

  • Both Morey and the NBA backtracked after offending Chinese fans. But the Chinese government, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and multiple Chinese businesses severed ties with the Rockets, as Axios' Kendall Baker told you yesterday.

The state of play: This isn't the first time Beijing has squeezed an apology out of American business.

  • Marriott apologized to China after Beijing shut down the hotel chain's website because it listed Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Macau as separate countries. "We don’t support separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China," the company said in a statement.
  • All three big U.S. airlines — American, United and Delta — bent to China's will last summer and scrubbed references to Taiwan as its own country.
  • The Gap — under threat of getting cut out of China — apologized for selling T-shirts with a map of China that didn't include Tibet or Taiwan. The company said its map was "incorrect."
  • Beijing, which is Hollywood's biggest international market, has also pushed American studios to alter content in order to get into Chinese theaters.

🏀 Breaking: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on the situation this morning ...

  • "It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences."
  • "However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way."
2. GOP furor over Trump's Syria exit
Expand chart
Data: Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit as of Oct. 7. Map: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The White House insisted on a telephone briefing for reporters last night that President Trump did not offer Turkey a "green light” to slaughter U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Northern Syria, and that the U.S. would not bear responsibility for any ISIS resurgence in the area, Axios World editor Dave Lawler reports.

  • A senior administration official said Trump will withdraw the 50-100 special forces currently operating near the Turkey-Syria border, but is not pulling out of Syria entirely.
  • Why it matters: Confusion followed the sudden announcement that Trump — after a call with Turkey's president — had decided to pull U.S. troops from the "immediate area" into which Turkish troops are expected to advance.

Behind the scenes: Key senators who Trump counts on to have his back on impeachment and make the case for him on TV — chiefly, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio — are horrified by the withdrawal and have attacked the president's move in strategic and moral terms, Axios' Jonathan Swan and Margaret Talev report.

  • Trump did not read them in on his decision, and they're reacting furiously just when he may need them most. 
  • Go deeper.
3. Conservative news goes to war over impeachment

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The impeachment process — and now Syria — have widened the rift between solidly pro-Trump media and some other conservative-leaning news outlets, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: It's been rare since President Trump's inauguration for tensions between conservative outlets to be aired openly. Now they have to choose between backing him at all costs and reporting candidly.

The cracks first showed with impeachment:

  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson, with his Daily Caller co-founder Neil Patel, penned an op-ed criticizing the president's Ukraine call: "Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea." They went on to criticize "a purely partisan impeachment process."

And this week, Trump is testing the loyalty of conservative media with his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, leaving the Kurds vulnerable to attacks from Turkey:

  • Some members of conservative-leaning media, including "Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade, denounced Trump's decision.
  • Even Breitbart didn't flinch: "Kurdish forces who defeated Islamic State call Trump Syria withdrawal 'a stab in the back.'"

The bottom line: Trump's reliable conservative media machine is becoming more narrow and more loyal, while other members of the conservative media create some distance.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Kremlin Press Service/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Along with the mountaintop shot we showed you in Axios PM, the Kremlin released this photo of Vladimir Putin — who turned 67 yesterday — taking a break in a Siberian forest.

5. Shootings drive rise in mental health stigma

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Mental health stigma is back on the rise, thanks to the political response to mass shootings, writes Axios' Sam Baker.

  • Why it matters: President Trump and other politicians have been conflating mental illness with violence — and a new study featured in Health Affairs finds that kind of marginalization only makes it harder to live with a mental illness.

Reality check: People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators of anonymous mass shootings, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

6. Lead of the day
WeWork co-founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey attend a WeWork launch party in London in 2015. Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images

"The more investors learned about WeWork, the less they liked it. The details that were wrong or omitted from its financial disclosures played a part in weakening investor appetite and will pose risks if the company ever tries to go public again," write the Wall Street Journal's Jean Eaglesham and Eliot Brown (subscription).

7. Trump's latest obsession

Photo: Tom Brenner for The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump "is so obsessed with the leaks about him that he has frequently discussed whether to order polygraphs of White House staffers after major disclosures, according to four former White House officials," reports Politico's Daniel Lippman.

  • Why it matters: "The new details of Trump’s repeated interest in polygraphing provide important context on the president’s state of mind as Democrats demand answers about the White House’s handling of records of his interactions with foreign leaders."

Worth noting: "Accounts differ as to just how literally, and seriously, those requests were taken."

8. Globe's climate fever rises
Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

"More than 20 people were arrested by police in New York City’s financial district after Extinction Rebellion climate protesters poured fake blood over the famous Charging Bull statue," writes The Guardian.

  • The demonstrations are "part of a global week of action by the UK-founded activist group, which is seeking to make its first major mark in America."
An Extinction Rebellion banner hangs from a lion in London's Trafalgar Square. Photo: Ollie Millington/Getty Images
9. 📚 Coming attractions
Photos: Jose Luis Magana/AP; Thibault Camus/AP

Michelle Obama plans a reader's companion to "Becoming," which this Sunday marks its 46th week on the N.Y. Times bestseller list.

  • "Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice," designed to help readers tell their own stories, will be published Nov. 19, AP reports.
  • In the introduction, Obama writes that she hopes the journal will encourage people to write down their "experiences, thoughts, and feelings, in all their imperfections, and without judgment."

And a book of Toni Morrison quotations is coming in December, per AP:

  • "The Measure of Our Lives: A Gathering of Wisdom" will draw from her whole body of work, including celebrated novels such as "Beloved" and "Song of Solomon."
10. 1 youth thing
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

I saw this picture while I was poking around in Getty, and passed it by. But then it popped up again and made me smile, so I thought I'd share it to start your day.

  • In line since 5:30 a.m., hoping for the chance to attend arguments on the first Monday in October, Alison Malone (right) and student Marco Ruiz of Sachse, Texas, dance on the plaza outside the Supreme Court.

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