Buzz Aldrin: Famed astronaut, second man on the moon, and puncher of smug faces.
Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the lunar landing — unless, of course, it never happened and the government faked the whole danged thing to make America look super powerful at the height of the Cold War. Is that conspiracy theory likely? Probably not, though there are some who ardently believe in it.
Bart Sibrel is one of those lunar truthers. And back in 2002, he ambushed Aldrin outside a Los Angeles hotel and berated him about his supposed role in the hoax, asking him to swear on a Bible he landed on the moon and calling him a "liar" and a "coward." Offended that someone would question his integrity, and fed up with being pestered for so long, Aldrin finally snapped and socked Sibrel in the face.
Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has "played a lead role in bankrolling" Hulk Hogan's lawsuits against Gawker, the first of which ended with a $140 million judgment against Gawker over its publishing of a sex tape starring the wrestler and his friend's wife, Forbes reported Tuesday night, citing "people familiar with the situation." Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, also held personally liable by the Florida jury, speculated to The New York Times earlier Tuesday that perhaps someone in Silicon Valley was funding the Hogan lawsuits and a group of new ones against Gawker and some of its writers, all brought by Los Angeles lawyer Charles Harder.
"If you're a billionaire and you don't like the coverage of you, and you don't particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it's a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases." Denton said. Unlike the rich and famous in New York and L.A., he reasoned, Silicon Valley's elite isn't used to the glare of tabloid press. And Thiel would seem to have a motive for revenge; Gawker Media's defunct Valleywag site outed him as gay in 2007, and in 2009 he said, "Valleywag is the Silicon Valley equivalent of al Qaeda," with the "psychology of a terrorist." Thiel did not respond to Forbes' request for comment, and Forbes notes that "it is not illegal for an outside entity to help fund another party's lawsuit."
Thiel is maybe the only person in Silicon Valley who supports Donald Trump, but "regardless of his politics, this news should disturb everyone," says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. "People talk a lot about the dominance of the 1 percent or in this case more like a tiny fraction of the 1 percent. But being able to give massive political contributions actually pales in comparison to the impact of being able to destroy a publication you don't like by combining the machinery of the courts with anonymity and unlimited funds to bleed a publication dry. We don't have to go any further than Donald Trump to know that the incredibly rich often use frivolous litigation to intimidate critics and bludgeon enemies." You can learn more in the Forbes report below. Peter Weber
Back in January, when he was having a fight with Fox News, Donald Trump skipped out on a Fox News–sponsored presidential debate and held his own rally and fundraiser for charities dedicated to military veterans. "We just cracked $6 million! Right? $6 million," he said at the Iowa event. And "Donald Trump gave $1 million." That wasn't true until Monday night, David A. Fahrenthold says at The Washington Post, after Fahrenthold had taken to Twitter to try to ascertain how many veterans' charities had received any money from Trump.
On Monday night, Trump called the home of James Kallstrom, chairman of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, and pledged $1 million, according to Kallstrom's wife. When Fahernthold asked Trump over the phone on Tuesday why it took him four months to follow through on his pledge, Trump said, "You have a lot of vetting to do." Fahrenthold suggested that perhaps Trump had only taken action because reporters were asking him about his pledge, and Trump shot back: "You know, you're a nasty guy. You're really a nasty guy. I gave out millions of dollars that I had no obligation to do." Trump also said that the fundraiser had rounded up about $5.5 million total, and that, despite the assertion of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, no major pledgees had dropped out, though "some of them came through very late."
Trump said he would have his staff send The Washington Post a list of groups that received the donations, but hadn't as of Tuesday night. Veterans' groups have been trying to figure out how to apply for some of the remaining millions, since there is no application process. But at least one group has been contacted since Monday, the Boston Wounded Vet Bike Run, founded by Andrew Biggio. Biggio told The Post that a Trump campaign worker had called him out of the blue on Tuesday to ask for the nonprofit's phone number, and that he hadn't applied for any of the money. However, he did suggest how he got on Trump's radar: "I served in Iraq with Donald Trump's bodyguard's son." You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber
Congress has an approval rating of 14 percent, and Seth Meyers has some theories about that. On Tuesday's Late Night, he took a break from the media-consuming presidential campaign to focus on what Congress is not doing. "Obstruction in Congress has been on full display in recent months, with Senate Republicans refusing to even hold hearings on President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland," and House Republicans short-changing anti-Zika funding and playing fast and loose with House rules to thwart an LGBT anti-discrimination bill.
Meyers mocked the Democrats' "lame" recent move to hold mock hearings on Garland, but he spent most of his time focused on the GOP. "So Republicans have basically paralyzed the government, they can't even perform basic constitutional functions or respond to public health emergencies, and maybe the worst is, Republican obstruction has become completely normalized," he said. "No one even questions it anymore." But of course, the presidential race is still the big news, and Meyers found a way to work Donald Trump in at the end. Watch below. Peter Weber
After weeks of speculation, House Speaker Paul Ryan will endorse his party's presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, unidentified senior Trump campaign sources tell ABC News. Ryan is the highest-ranking Republican official, and his endorsement would widely be seen as a sign that the Republican Party is uniting after its divisive primary. The Trump sources did not say when this endorsement would happen, but ABC's Brian McBride noted that Ryan has a press briefing on Wednesday. If Ryan does not endorse Trump then, he will certainly get questions about it. Peter Weber
On Wednesday, the Afghan Taliban confirmed the death of its leader, Mullah Akthar Mansour, killed in a U.S. drone strike, and named his replacement, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. The statement was the Taliban's first confirmation of Mansour's death. Akhundzada, a Mansour deputy believed to be 45 to 50 years old, is the former chief of the Taliban courts and is considered more of a religious scholar than military commander; he is responsible for most of the fatwas, or religious edicts, from the Taliban. "Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as the new leader of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) after a unanimous agreement in the shura," or supreme council, the Taliban said, "and all the members of shura pledged allegiance to him."
Akhundzada was not considered a front-runner to replace Mansour, The New York Times reports, especially since another Mansour deputy, Sarajuddin Haqqani, had been running the day-to-day military operations for the Taliban. But the Taliban leaders meeting in Quetta, Pakistan, apparently wanted a lower-profile consensus candidate, recalling that former Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar's reclusiveness kept him alive for many years. Peter Weber
In Albuquerque on Tuesday, Donald Trump held his first campaign rally in almost two weeks, and he used his speech to criticize Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.), the first Latina governor and current head of the Republican Governors Association. "You've got to get your governor to do a better job," he told the crowd of about 8,000. "She's not doing her job." He added, "Hey, maybe I'll run for governor of New Mexico." Martinez has declined to endorse Trump, and she and other state GOP leaders did not attend the rally.
Trump's rally was interrupted several times by protesters, but the real drama was happening outside the convention center.
Happening NOW: Police in Albuquerque firing pepper spray at protesters after today's Trump rally: pic.twitter.com/dnLamjjNU0
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) May 25, 2016
Protesters outside the venue threw plastic bottles, burning Donald Trump T-shirts, and rocks at the police, and rushed a police barricade, trying to force their way into the Trump rally. The police fired pepper spray and threw smoke grenades into the scrum. Several Albuquerque police officers were injured by flying rocks, the police department said, and at least on person was "arrested from the riot." A glass door was broken, and the police said it appeared to have been hit by a pellet gun.
Appears that most of the @realDonaldTrump protestors have left & remaining contingent is only looking to cause trouble & be destructive
— Albuquerque Police (@ABQPOLICE) May 25, 2016
This was Trump's first visit to New Mexico. It was not the first violent protest outside a Trump rally. Peter Weber
Gwen Sefani is a noted fan of Japanese culture. Her boyfriend, Blake Shelton, had never tried Japan's most famous food. Jimmy Fallon stepped in on Tuesday's Tonight Show, taking Shelton out for his first sushi dinner. At Nobu, the famous New York sushi restaurant.
They started with sake — it tasted like "Easter egg coloring," Shelton said — then the salmon. "That, right there, looks like a human tongue," Shelton said. And then he ate it: "The texture is play dough, but I will say this to you right now, man to man, I like that. I like how that tasted." That was the high-water mark. If you have never tried sushi before and are nervous, you can take comfort in Shelton's bravery — and if all else fails, you can repeat his refrain: "Hey, can we get some more rice wine?" Peter Weber