January 23, 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer has been accused of sexual abuse by four more men in a massive new exposé.

The Atlantic published an investigation Wednesday on Singer's history of alleged misconduct that took 12 months to produce and included interviews with more than 50 people. The first of several new accusers is Victor Valdovinos, who says he was 13 when Singer, who was in his 30s, approached him in his school's bathroom while he was there filming the movie Apt Pupil. He says he was asked to be an extra and that on set, Singer molested him.

Another accuser, referred to under the pseudonym Andy, says he and Singer had sex when he was 15 and Singer was 31. Andy says Singer brought actor Brad Renfro into the bedroom. Renfro was 15 at the time, and two sources say Singer sometimes referred to him as his boyfriend. A third man, referred to as Eric, says he had sex with Singer beginning when he was 17 and Singer was 31.

Singer reportedly hosted parties that were frequently attended by underage boys, and one man, referred to as Ben, says that he and Singer had oral sex at one of the parties when Ben was 17 or 18, the latter of which is the age of consent in California. Singer "would stick his hands down your pants without your consent" at these parties, said Ben.

Singer has previously faced misconduct allegations, including a lawsuit from a man accusing him of rape, but he has continuously denied accusations of sex with underage boys and has not been charged with a crime. The Atlantic writes that 20th Century Fox had concerns about hiring him to direct Bohemian Rhapsody, but did so because members of Queen supported the decision. The studio ultimately fired Singer over reported erratic behavior on set, but he's still the credited director on the film, which was just nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Brendan Morrow

Update 12 p.m. EST: Singer responded to The Atlantic's story in a statement, calling it a "homophobic smear piece" based on interviews with "disreputable" sources and "bogus lawsuits" seeking "money or attention." Read the full response here.

10:54 a.m.

Fox News' Chris Wallace came out swinging on Sunday with some tough questions about President Trump's recent attacks on four Democratic congresswomen.

Wallace on Fox News Sunday interviewed White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller following a week of controversy about Trump telling minority congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from, per Mediaite, starting off by showing a video package of the president's "long record" of inflammatory rhetoric and asking Miller flat out, "Why shouldn't someone see all of that as racist?"

The Fox host went on to challenge Miller on Trump's claims that he quickly shut down a "send her back" chant at his rally last week, pointing out that Trump actually "let it go on for 13 seconds" and he "said nothing" immediately after the rally "that indicated any concern about the chant."

Wallace also objected to the idea of Trump telling the congresswomen they should leave the United States if they're going to criticize it so much, proceeding to play a montage of Trump himself repeatedly criticizing the United States before he was president.

"Why is what those congresswomen have said in general any worse than what you just heard Donald Trump say?" Wallace asked. Miller claimed there's a big difference between comments Trump has made and what the congresswomen have said, which Wallace didn't seem to buy. In fact, the Fox News host came with receipts to show that Trump's claims that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) once called the United States "garbage" is based on a completely out-of-context quote.

"There's no question that he is stoking racial divisions," Wallace ultimately concluded of Trump.

At another point in the show, as Mediaite reports, Wallace pressed Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe about whether Trump's "go back" tweets were "wrong," suggesting that those who say the tweets were politically wise — presumably including those on his own network — are missing the point. Brendan Morrow

10:20 a.m.

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller grew tired of the divisive nature of Congress during his 88 trips to Capitol Hill since 1990, The New York Times reports. That makes his fondness for a certain divisive drink all the more surprising.

Mueller, who is set to testify once again before Congress on Wednesday about his office's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference, is considered by many to be a man of principle, putting the law above party and politics. But he has seemingly chosen a side in the pumpkin wars.

As Vox explains, there's long been a "backlash" against Starbucks' autumnal hot beverage, which has — in some circles, at least — even become "something of a strawman for discussions about capitalism." Vox has described it as "an unctuous, pungent, saccharine brown liquid."

It's tough to judge Mueller too harshly, however. Whatever got him through all those hours of testimony deserves some appreciation. Alas, the pumpkin spice latte won't be able to save him on Wednesday, as the seasonal beverage won't be on sale until at least next month. Tim O'Donnell

10:18 a.m.

The next president will not be decided by a push-up contest.

It seems like an obvious statement, but apparently the men of the 2020 race needed to be reminded of that fact. After all, former Vice President Joe Biden challenged President Trump to a push-up contest last week, and when Trump didn't acknowledge Biden's request, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke accepted.

Over the weekend, O'Rourke's campaign staffers got stuck in the Sioux City, Iowa airport when their flight was delayed. So to "make use of this time," as O'Rourke put it to NBC News' Ben Pu, he challenged them to a push-up contest.

None of these presidential campaigners have acknowledged the fact that if 85-year-old Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was in the push-up primary, they'd be toast. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:44 a.m.

A claim by President Trump has never been so demonstrably false.

Trump started his Monday morning with a stream of tweets, including one in which he attacked a Washington Post article from Sunday that reported "advisers wrote new talking points and handed [Trump] reams of opposition research" on the four Democratic congresswomen he attacked last week. Trump's tweet claimed "there were no talking points, except for those stated by me," and that "'reams of paper' were never given to me."

Yet as the Post's Aaron Blake pointed out in a tweet, Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured several photos of Trump holding what can only be described as talking points during a press conference on July 15.

Those bulleted points are easily readable, and detail the disparaging, often untrue, and occasionally misspelled attacks he made on Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) during the conference. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:40 a.m.

Former Democratic Senator Al Franken says he regrets resigning from the Senate in 2018 after facing allegations of sexual misconduct, and some current and former senators regret asking him to do so.

Franken spoke to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer in a new piece published on Monday delving into the allegations against the former senator, who was accused in 2017 of inappropriate touching or kissing by eight women. Asked if he now regrets resigning, Franken responded, "Oh, yeah. Absolutely."

Franken said he wishes he had been able to appear before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, but he tells The New Yorker that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded he resign or else he would organize the whole Democratic caucus to demand his resignation. A spokesperson for Schumer denied this threat was made.

"I'm angry at my colleagues who did this," Franken said, going on to say he "became clinically depressed" after leaving the Senate. He also placed blame on Schumer, saying, "Look, the Leader is called the Leader for a reason."

Mayer in the piece delves into the first accusation against Franken, which came from broadcaster Leeann Tweeden, who accused Franken of forcibly kissing her; she also released a photo of Franken with his hands over her breasts while she was sleeping. Mayer describes some apparent inconsistencies in the account as Tweeden described it, including that the USO skit Tweeden alleged Franken wrote just as an opportunity to kiss her had been performed previously. On Twitter, Mayer wrote that "almost NOTHING his main accuser said checks out."

In the piece, seven former and current U.S. senators said they now regret asking Franken to resign. But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) defended her decision to call for Franken's resignation, saying, "I'd do it again today." Read the full piece at The New Yorker. Brendan Morrow

9:28 a.m.

To be fair to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, meetings can be boring.

Ross doesn't hold a lot of meetings with senior staffers, a person familiar with the department told Politico, and the reason is pretty simple. Ross reportedly "tends to fall asleep" during them, which is not the best look in any work environment, let alone a key government agency. That's doubly true if you're the boss.

When Ross does have to attend meetings, the source told Politico that the department is very careful about scheduling them. "There's a small window where he's able to focus and pay attention and not fall asleep," the source said.

Commerce officials have disputed those statements. Department Press Secretary Kevin Manning called Ross a "tireless worker" who travels often.

Still, some of the agency's top officials are reportedly doing what they can to shield Ross from testifying at congressional oversight hearings, like he did in March about the 2020 U.S. census citizenship question. They probably don't want him dozing off on C-SPAN, though he did stay awake last time.

Those reports were also disputed by the department, however. "He's obviously going to have to testify again," one official said. Read more about the reported disarray in the Commerce Department at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

8:28 a.m.

Masked men attacked anti-government protesters in Hong Kong at a train station late Sunday, hitting them with sticks, The New York Times reports. Elsewhere in the city, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters after some people vandalized the Chinese government's liaison office in the city, marking an overt challenge to China's authority over the financial hub.

The clashes came after a peaceful march earlier in the day calling for an independent investigation into alleged police brutality in earlier protests. Organizers said 430,000 people participated in the sanctioned part of Sunday's demonstration; police put the figure at 138,000. A series of mass protests started last month against a proposal to allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, where the governing Communist Party controls the courts. The bill has been suspended but protesters want it fully withdrawn. Harold Maass

See More Speed Reads