Jeff Spevak, Writer

Welcome to a Chronicle of Culture.

Tag: Mark Halperin

Doing the wrong thing

The main suspects in the death of truth.

If  you have a documented history of lying to the American public – and even admitted to it when being questioned during a Congressional investigation – the odds of being hired by a reputable news organization would appear to be mighty slim. Am I right?

Welcome to the Fox News family, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

You will be forgiven for forgetting that Sanders defended Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, claiming she had heard from “countless members of the FBI” that they had no confidence in him. Apparently, Sanders can’t count very high. According to the Mueller Report, while testifying under oath that she was telling the truth, Sanders admitted that her claim of “countless members of the FBI” rebelling against Comey “was not founded on anything.”

Months later, and freed from that burdensome formality of testifying under oath, Sanders was asked about the Muller Report’s assessment of her baseless Comey charge. And she lied, said her claim of FBI agents rebelling against their boss had merely been a slip of the tongue. And besides, it was the Democrats who were to blame.

So Sanders joins Fox as a “contributor,” joining a roster of fabrication contributors whose long list of lies rivals that of… well, of Trump.

I heartily endorse second chances. Third chances? I’m not so sure. Especially when the individual in question is being granted access to a powerful public platform.

Giving a bad idea a second chance is endemic to media. “McHale’s Navy” was a really dumb television show. Somehow a respectable actor, Ernest Borgnine, was talked into starring as the commander of a P.T. boat and its crew of fun-loving, scamming lunatics. This was set during World War II, mind you, where a lot of people fought and died. The show ran from 1962 to 1966, plus two feature films, and you’d figure that would be enough. But no, someone did a “McHale’s Navy” movie in 1997, updated with Russian terrorists or something, I don’t know, to my credit I never saw it. Perhaps because it starred Tom Arnold.

Brand familiarity is money in the bank. The original “Godzilla,” the 1954 Japanese film in which a giant lizard destroys Tokyo, was a metaphorical tale warning of the dangers of nuclear technology. Released nine years after the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated, who would know better than the Japanese about the horrors of the atomic bomb? And for better or worse, the Godzilla franchise exploded.

Now that’s entertainment. It’s mythology. And in the mythology that increasingly penetrates our news, Fox News – my parents’ only news source for years – is not the only offender.

“The McLaughlin Group” was a shouty news roundtable that played for 34 years on various public television outlets. Now Maryland Public Broadcasting is re-booting the show. The producers are not willing to spend the money necessary to bring back host Tom McLaughlin – he died in 2016 – but they have resurrected the corpse of Pat Buchanan. Buchanan is a white supremacist, and it’s not just a matter of a slip of the tongue here and there. Buchanan is a reservoir of racism.

Buchanan has called Hitler “an individual of great courage” who did not want war, a statement that might be disputed by the Polish people who awoke one morning in 1939 to find Nazi tanks rumbling down their streets. He is anti-LGBTQ citizens, saying that in a just society, “gay people will be contained, segregated, controlled, and stigmatized.” He said of the Civil War, “in a way, both sides were right.” Words that would be echoed years later by Trump after a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended with a white supremacist driving a car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, resulting in the death of a young woman and injuring 28 others. And immigrants are “a third world invasion,” Buchanan has said, adding that, “Americans have the sovereign right to discriminate in favor of some continents, countries and cultures, and against others.”

Why didn’t this country’s native people think of that in 1492?

Here’s the Buchanan quote of all time:

Exceptional women can and do succeed; and women deserve an equal chance at the starting line. But, for women, there is an honorable and honored exit from the rat race – home, hearth and family. It is an option closed, by social sanction, to the average male. By a ratio of eleven-to-one over men, women exercise this option of voluntary separation from the marketplace, sometimes for years, sometimes for decades. The momma bird builds the nest. So it was, so it ever shall be. Ronald Reagan is not responsible for this; God is.

Or, maybe this is the Buchanan quote of all time:

America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known. … We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?

Yes, the gratitude for their ancestors to have been brought here in chains, to be beaten, raped and lynched.

Pat Buchanan. Fair and balanced reporting gone awry.

Republicans are being rightly skewered for quietly stepping aside as Trump destroys the Constitution, divides the country over race, rolls back environmental protections, enriches himself through the presidency, and on and on and on…

And on. Mark Halperin has a book deal. Thanks to more than 75 top Democratic strategists.

Halperin always struck me as a smarmy jerk when I’d see him on MSNBC, as a pundit who seemed to be wrong a lot. And the smarm proved to be real, when in 2017 a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment. That’s a dozen chances to do the right thing. Halperin didn’t, and MSNBC promptly dumped him.

So now Halperin has a book coming out in November. “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take.” That’s a fine goal, but we don’t need the likes of Halperin. He’s getting real money, while real writers can’t get into print. No one with a conscience should be a part of his career-reclamation project. I can’t imagine what those 75 Democratic strategists – familiar names such as Donna Brazile, David Axelrod, Kathleen Sebelius – were thinking when they heard on the other end of the phone, “Hi, this is Mark Halperin…”

They should have hung up right there.

BE THE FIRST in your neighborhood to know when a new Critical Mass has been turned loose. Go to the “Subscribe” button on the web site jeffspevak.com for an email alert. You can contact me at jeffspevakwriter@gmail.com.

The Critical Mass

TV pundits are dicks

The TV was on this morning, and in an intellectually unguarded moment was tuned to the MSNBC coffee-klatsch nonsense called Morning Joe. I’ve changed the oil in my lawnmower engine more times than I’ve watched Morning Joe. So as luck would have it, this morning I saw the pundit Mark Halperin call the President of the United States, Barack Obama, a dick.

 As we all know, anyone can be a pundit, especially on TV. No-longer relevant rocker Ted Nugent is a pundit. The ill-informed Sarah Palin is a Fox News pundit. The thoroughly racist Pat Buchanan is a pundit. Even the deadpan actor Ben Stein – whose famous defense of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with raping a hotel maid was, “Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?” – is a pundit. So pundits can be consistently wrong, illogical, ideology-driven and rude.  

Now, calling Obama a dick wasn’t a simple slip of the tongue.  Right before he did it, the Morning Joe staff was giggling like a junior high gym class over the fact that Halperin asked permission to use a nasty world to describe what he thought of Obama’s press conference the previous day.  Sure, said hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the show was on a seven-second delay.

The problem wasn’t that the show’s producer didn’t know how to work the seven-second delay button, as they all chortled after Morning Joe ‘s audience heard Halperin call the President of the United States a dick. Even if they had successfully bleeped out the comment, it would have been properly reported, to similar outrage. No, the real problem was how everyone reacted to it. They yukked it up. Made jokes of it. They even included a camera shot of the show’s producer, laughing and shrugging his shoulders and explaining how he’d hit the wrong button. The only one of the five people sitting around on the comfy couches during the segment who seemed uncomfortable with what had just happened – and even she seemed to be laughing a little – was Brzezinski.

When the group returned from a commercial break, slightly saner heads among the show’s executives appeared to have been heard. Halperin issued an apology that seemed genuine. The rest of the panel, particularly Scarborough, were still chuckling, displaying the same lack of judgment. Except Halperin. The smirk was gone. He looked as though he’d seen a ghost. He knew what was coming. Quite rightly, he was quickly suspended by the network.

So now we know: Pundits are dicks.

But why did Halperin think calling the president a name was OK? Why did most of the Morning Joe staff seem to agree? It’s not like Obama was suddenly Mel Gibson. Halperin was disagreeing with the president criticizing Congress for its lack of action on the debt issue. Here’s one of the points Obama made at Wednesday’s press conference:

We’ve got to get this done.  And if by the end of this week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done.  They’re in one week, they’re out one week.  And then they’re saying, Obama has got to step in.  You need to be here.  I’ve been here.  I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis.  You stay here.  Let’s get it done.

Millions of Americans cheered Obama’s comments. Perhaps Halperin thinks we’re all dicks, as well.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén