Scoops: Greta & MSNBC/Mayor Pete/Chocolate Cake

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Scoop: Greta Van Susteren in Arbitration with NBC News

Three sources familiar with the matter tell me that former MSNBC host Greta Van Susteren approached NBC News with the claim that her program was dropped without sufficient cause and the network is now in arbitration with her. Van Susteren’s claim, in part, is that her show didn’t get sufficient backing from the network and didn’t have a chance to succeed. I’ve been told one of the things she brought up in her claim are examples of other talent getting sufficient promotional support for their programs.

A spokesperson for NBC News declined to comment, and two attempts to reach Van Susteren went unanswered.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve discussed with agents and media lawyers whether Van Susteren has a claim, and they all believe she doesn’t. Here’s why: When networks sign talent (no matter who it is), they don’t guarantee you will have a show on the air. The only thing they promise is that you’ll be paid a certain amount of money for a specific period of time. For example, let’s say Van Susteren was offered $100,000 a year (again, a number I’ve made up) for three years for a total of $300,000 in her contract. NBC News/MSNBC would have an obligation to pay her that money if they cancelled her show but they would have no obligation to keep her on the air.

When Van Susteren joined MSNBC as the host of “For the Record with Greta” in January 2017, many people inside and outside MSNBC were dubious. Van Susteren had left Fox News just four months earlier after Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes was fired. How would she do at the liberal-leaning network? Several MSNBC staffers also expressed reservations about Van Susteren because she is a Scientologist.

(I always like to take the opportunity to remind people that Scientology is a criminal organization and cult masquerading as a religion thanks to its IRS status.)

MSNBC/NBC News poured money into promoting “For the Record” and even built a new set for her. Van Susteren appeared on multiple MSNBC programs prior to her premiere to promote the show and even got an enthusiastic on-air endorsement from Rachel Maddow.

But just a month after her show’s premiere (despite high-profile guests from both sides of the aisle), it was clear “For the Record” wasn’t going to be successful. Ratings on cable networks normally go up throughout the day, but Van Susteren’s show was receiving lower ratings than the show preceding it, “MTP Daily with Chuck Todd.”

MSNBC dropped Van Susteren’s show in June 2017, just six months after the premiere.

Since she left MSNBC, Van Susteren has joined Gray Television — which owns more than 100 television stations in the U.S. — as a political analyst, and she hosts her own program on Voice of America.

In a future newsletter, I’m going to share a story about Van Susteren that I haven’t had the chance to share. This is why I set up a newsletter: All these nuggets I’ve had over the past few years now have a home! Thank you, again, for subscribing.

Scoop: Pete Buttigieg Nabs a Big Donor

Last month, I tweeted that Susie Tompkins Buell, a Democratic megadonor and co-founder of The North Face and Esprit (disclosure, she’s a close friend), had emailed friends that she had chosen to support Sen. Kamala Harris for president. The news got a lot of attention for two reasons: One, Buell is a political king/queenmaker. I’ve seen political candidates trip over themselves because not only will she give and raise a lot of money for a candidate, fellow donors trust her judgment and will often fall in line.

The second reason is Buell is one of Hillary Clinton’s closest friends, and people knew that if she was willing to support another candidate, it meant that Clinton wasn’t going to run for president for the third time. (Disclosure: Clinton is also a friend, and I was a national co-chair of her campaign in 2008.)

Now Buell tells me she’s also going to host a fundraiser for rising star Pete Buttigieg in San Francisco at some point in the next few months.

Grassroots donors are critical for any candidate, and Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has shown that he can raise money quickly, having raised $600,000 in the 24 hours after his CNN town hall. But given that some establishment Democrats are quietly questioning his standing and rising in the field because of what they say is his lack of experience, the endorsement from folks like Buell means a lot.

Buell told me she’s also going to host a fundraiser for Harris.

Scooplet: Pete Buttigieg Confirmed to Appear on the ‘Ellen’ Show

A source familiar with the arrangements tells me that Mayor Pete Buttigieg will make an appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in April. He is set to tape the show April 11, with the episode airing April 12.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know who my source is. (Hint: It’s not Mayor Pete or anyone from his campaign.)

Updated Scoop: More Details on the First 2020 Democratic Primary Debate

This morning, I revealed that the DNC has chosen to host its first debate of the 2020 primary in Miami on June 26. The news was going to be announced on MSNBC at 4 p.m., but I was able to get it out a few hours earlier (not winning fans at the DNC or NBC News).

About forty minutes after I shared the news, NBC News confirmed that it would be hosting two debates (because of so many candidates) on June 26-27 in Miami. The debates will air live on MSNBC, NBC and Telemundo.

Yesterday’s Exclusive: New Book Reveals Stunning Misconduct and Dysfunction at ABC’s ‘The View’

Last Saturday, I obtained Ramin Setoodeh's book, “Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of ‘The View,’” which comes out next week. The book reveals a stunning level of workplace misconduct, unethical behavior and dysfunction behind the scenes of the top-rated show — much of it with the knowledge of top ABC management. A lot has been reported about “The View” in the past, but nothing comes close to this book.

Read my story here:

You can order the book here (I don’t benefit in any way — from Setoodeh or Amazon):

Tasty Scoop: Delicious Italian Chocolate Cake Recipe

A couple of months ago, I tweeted out images of one of my many baking sessions. I was making an Italian chocolate cake that is always a hit with friends. I received hundreds of requests for it, so I’m publishing the recipe here.

This cake does not have flour, but for those of you who get anxious about gluten-free desserts, you should know that it isn’t intentionally gluten-free … it’s just a flourless chocolate cake. And it’s delicious!

I got the recipe from a friend in Italy, who got it from a friend via email. But my friend didn’t know what the origins were. Luckily, I was able to track down the original source. The recipe is featured in the book “Dolci: Italy’s Sweets,” by chef Francine Segan.

You may order a copy here (I benefit in no way):

The Ultimate Moist and Tender Chocolate Cake

Torta Tenerina

Serves 8

Region: Emilia-Romagna

Butter: 7 tablespoons (3½ ounces/100 grams)

Dark chocolate: 7 ounces (200 grams)

Sugar: 1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams)

Eggs: 4 large, separated

Potato starch or cornstarch: 2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a 9-inch (23-centimeter) springform cake pan.

Put the chocolate and butter in a small bowl and melt them, either in a microwave oven or over a saucepan of gently simmering water.

In a large bowl, beat the granulated sugar and egg yolks with an electric mixer until creamy and pale yellow. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until creamy. Add the potato starch and mix until well combined.

In a separate large bowl, using clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff. Slowly, using a clean spatula, fold the egg whites, a little at a time, into the chocolate mixture until combined. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until just set and firm in the center.

Do not overbake: The cake will continue to set as it cools. Cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes (the top will collapse and the crust will crack a bit) before cutting.

Serve warm or at room temperature.