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Kim Yo-jong (top right) sits behind North Korea's Olympic cheering squad. Photo: Jean Catuffe / Getty Images

The first few days of the Olympic games have been marked by overwhelmingly positive media coverage of North Korea — namely of Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong.

Why it matters: North Korea is the least free country in the world, with its authoritarian regime subjecting citizens to brutal and inhumane laws. And Kim Yo-jong heads the "Propaganda and Agitation Department" of that regime.

Meanwhile, an aide for Vice President Mike Pence told Axios' Mike Allen ahead of the Games that Pence would take "every opportunity" to remind the world that "everything the North Koreans do at the Olympics is a charade to cover up the fact that they are the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet," and that he would not allow North Korea's propaganda to "hijack the messaging of the Olympics."

But that's exactly what is happening in the media. The headlines:

  • North Korea is winning the Olympics — and it's not because of sports (CNN)
    • "[Kim Yo-jong's] historic visit to the South — the first of any member of the ruling Kim family — generated significant media attention, gracing news broadcasts and front pages across the world."
  • North Korea judged winner of diplomatic gold at Olympics (Reuters)
    • "North Korea has emerged as the early favorite to grab one of the Winter Olympics’ most important medals: the diplomatic gold."
  • Kim Jong Un's sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics (CNN)
    • "If 'diplomatic dance' were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un's younger sister would be favored to win gold."
  • North Korea's 200-plus cheerleaders command spotlight at 2018 Winter Olympics with synchronized chants (ABC)
    • "The women arrived in South Korea in charter buses on Wednesday. Most of the squad members ignored questions from the press, only saying, 'Nice to meet you.'"

Reality check, via Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer, "North Korea’s cheering squad is an amazing spectacle. But they’re human hostages of a criminal regime. It’s the most heartbreaking thing we’ll see at the Olympics."

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”