Bernie’s Q&A: Stewart, Lemon, Watters, and more! (5/3) — Premium Interactive ($4 members)
Welcome to this week’s Premium Q&A session for Premium Interactive members. I appreciate you all signing up and joining me. Thank you.
Let’s get to your questions (and my answers):
As a journalist, are you ever embarrassed for the profession when networks like CNN and “hosts” (like Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo) act as though they are truly unbiased, truth seekers and acting as watchdogs for government overreach? For example, if Trump people were given immunity the way Hillary people were, do you think that CNN would totally ignore that as they did with Hillary’s group? Though as I write that, I realize that is a dumb question as the answer is obvious. — James G.
Not a dumb question, James, but they’re the ones who should be embarrassed for what they’ve done to journalism. IF they don’t know how biased they are, then they’re delusional. If they do, then they’re corrupt. Either way, there’s a great big problem. I’ve never seen the media as bad as it is in the age of Trump. He brings a lot on himself. But just because they loathe him, doesn’t give them carte blanche to beat up on him. Even liberals notice the bias. And the credibility of the profession sinks.
Hi Bernie. Really love your takes on bias in Media as a freelancer in sport. I work in a western European country we have a mainstream media that is generally liberal and left like the rest of the West with few truly neutral or conservative voices. I don’t mind sports reporters having political/social/moral beliefs or opinions. I just don’t like them making expressing those beliefs more important than their actual work covering sport. As someone working in Sports Reporting it bothers me that those in a freelance capacity like myself can’t bring the issue up with those who avail of my services for fear of losing work. How would you suggest bringing this up in a professional way? — A Sports Writer
You’re right. If as a freelancer you challenge the biases, you could lose work. Vent right here with me, but don’t do anything foolish. At some point in your career you may have the money and the clout to speak your mind. But I suspect that time hasn’t yet arrived. Consider me a friend you can chat with.
Mr. Goldberg, I enjoyed your book “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America”. As I recall, you went on the Daily Show to discuss the book and Jon Stewart smugly dismissed the book because it included many perceived unimportant people rather than (presumably conservative) lawmakers. Did he not read the book like the hosts of another show you were on or do you think he just missed (or ignored) the point that many of these so-called unimportant people were actually symptoms of larger problems in our culture? Also did you hear back directly from any of the people on the list of 100? — Brian
In fairness to Mr. Stewart, his position was that what government did was more important than what those who influence the culture did. It’s not a crazy position. My book was about the culture — and those who were, in my opinion, screwing things up. Reasonable people can disagree on which takes a greater toll on the nation — government or a crummy culture.
I heard from the head of the ACLU who was very polite and wanted to meet me so he could explain the ACLU to me. The ball was in my court and I never followed through. But again, he was quite civil about the whole thing.
Howard Stern said something about it on his radio show … and Jerry Springer did too. Neither was especially upset. They may have even been flattered.
Hello, mr. Goldberg! I have followed your work since I found one of your books in the Stanford campus bookstore during a visit from Sweden (my country of origin and where I am currently). I am interested in your take on which president has eroded the least amount of liberty from the American people and why? — Carl-Simon P.
Glad to hear that one of my books made it into the Stanford University bookstore. I spoke to a class at Stanford a few years ago. The students seemed interested. The professor — and a few others who came in to listen — weren’t impressed. They all worked for major newspapers before arriving at Stanford — and didn’t believe what I was saying about bias. Let’s just say I wasn’t shocked.
Now to your question: Not sure what you mean by “eroded the least amount of liberty.” Does that mean … which president took away less liberty? In any case, I’m not a historian so I’m not equipped to answer your question.
Even though you’re not asking this, let me say that in a country of more than 300 million people, I’m constantly amazed that the choice for president so often comes down to the kind of people who get the nominations. Hillary an Donald are two good examples. Better people, I guess, are smart enough not to enter politics in the first place.
Over the years, I’ve heard people like Juan Williams and the late Alan Colmes referred to as Fox News’s “token liberals.” The implication being that they’re not skilled or particularly effective liberal commentators, but rather dupes (or foils) for network’s Republican/pro-Trump hosts to take a partisan hatchet to.
While there’s certainly truth to the idea that they’re often placed into “fall guy” positions (outnumbered and beat-up on for the pleasure of FNC’s right leaning audience), I don’t feel like they’re intellectually inferior to, or any less effective than, the liberal commentators found on the liberal networks. In fact, I think people like Williams (while overtly partisan at times) put a better, more reasonable face on liberalism than the others.
What are your thoughts on this topic, and can you share some personal views on Williams and the late Alan Colmes. — Jen R.
I agree with you, Jen, that they’re not intellectually inferior or any less effective than liberal pundits on other channels. But on those other channels it’s the conservative who’s a token.
I think they’re all referred to as “tokens” not because of anything to do with brainpower, but as my dictionary defines “token”: “a member of a group (such as a minority) that is included within a larger group … a token employee.” That’s how they use the word.
I have spoken to Juan on several occasions. I like him personally and think he’s quite bright — smarter than several conservatives at Fox, whose names I won’t bother to mention. Alan was a good guy too, but when he was teamed up with Hannity, he had a role to play. He believed in what he said, I have no doubt about that … but he always had to take the liberal position to conform with the show’s format. I once made a point on that show and Alan said something that kinda, sorta annoyed me. I looked at him and said something like, “Have you heard a single word I just said?” He had. But, as I say, he had a role to play.
Bernie- There’s been an emergence of young, knowledgeable, articulate conservative voices, such as Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, Dave Rubin, as well as the folks at Campus Reform, the College Fix, & the Daily Wire. My observation is that these folks are making headway with thoughtful young voters through social media to a degree greater than the publicity around these groups would appear to demonstrate. Meanwhile, I am pretty sure that Brad Parscale is aware of this group of voters, and influencers. I also think this group I refer to could affect the 2020 election while not necessarily influencing the polling leading to the election. Do you have any opinion about this subject? — Joseph R.
Here’s my opinion, Joseph: I hope you’re right.
I hope they are making headway as you suggest. I hope they are swaying young voters. Not sure why you think they might not influence the polling. Because they only have cell phones and some polling calls mainly landlines? Also not sure there are enough of those young people moving to the conservative side to have a great affect on the 2020 election. But as I say, I hope you’re right.
Hey Bernie, What did you think of the 1999 film, “The Insider,” about the 60 Minutes / big tobacco story? You were still at CBS News when this was going on. — Thomas K.
Here’s what Jeff Fager, then the executive producer of the CBS Evening News and who later took over at 60 Minutes said about what was going on at the network:
“It was a low point in our history and it wasn’t, I think, anybody’s fault at the broadcast,” Fager says. “60 Minutes was under incredible pressure from the corporation.”
He’s right. CBS was in the process of being sold and CBS management was worried about a multi-billion dollar lawsuit that might screw up the deal. The legal department ordered 60 Minutes not to run the story — and as I recall the top management of the news division went along with the order. That’s what really annoyed a lot of CBS News people. The Wall Street Journal scooped 60 Minutes with a front page story. Nine days later 60 Minutes ran its story.
The story was of huge importance. Fager said, “This was a watershed moment in understanding what cigarette smoke does and the company’s complicity in trying to get people addicted.”
But here’s the most “important” part: I’m in the movie. Or more accurate, my name is. The character playing Dan Rather is on a TV set in the background and says something like “Tonight on Bernard Goldberg’s America …” and a nanosecond later the Mike Wallace character blows up upon hearing news CBS won’t run his story. The blowup stole the scene. But I was in the movie, for a brief moment.
Editor’s note: Here’s that brief moment (graphic language warning):
Hello Bernie. Longtime fan of your columns and really enjoyed watching your segments on O’Reilly, even moreso when you were allowed to finish your point without interruption. Regarding the Talking Heads seen on the cable news channels… I’ve often wondered if some of them really believe in what they’re saying and the positions they take, or if it was just an act for when they were on-air. Have you ever talked to someone in a Green Room, etc.. who appeared to be a mild-mannered centrist but then turned into a raging left/right wing pundit when in front of the camera? And a second, baseball related question if you have room and time: What are your thoughts about the “Designated Hitter” possibly coming to the National League? As somewhat a baseball purist who prefers the National League (and specifically the Atlanta Braves) I would hate it to see it happen. But I also realize MLB is trying to broaden interest in their product and another hitter in the line-up could mean more action, scoring, etc… — Barry R.
The only person who was really different off the air than on the air was … wait for it … Bill O’Reilly. Off the air he’s really low key. I pointed this out to him once, in a car heading to dinner, and he said, he could never keep up the on air Bill off the air because it would be too exhausting. I never told that story publicly before, Barry.
As for the baseball question: Isn’t there an old saying about how baseball is a perfect game except for … the designated hitter? As a purist, I can understand why you’re against it. I’ve accepted it, but the reason it’s there at all is because of what you say: MLB was trying to get another big hitter in the lineup to please the customer. Purists weep. But baseball is a business, after all.
A lot of Fox News hosts have turned into Trump advocates in recent years. However it’s still weird to watch someone like Jesse Watters righteously scold Trump’s critics, then when called out for a double standard (like when Trump has done the same thing as his critics), smirk and jokingly say something like “I’m not going to talk about that,” or “It’s not the same, and we’ll leave it at that.” His other hosts on the Five laugh, because he’s basically admitting that he’s just playing a character role and has no principled/sincere argument. And he seems quite proud of it.
My question: If a commentator on a news network basically admits on the air that he’s full of crap, and is just saying whatever he is saying to fire up the audience, why do producers allow it? I understand the difference between reporting and analysis, but doesn’t “fake” or “admittedly unfair” analysis make a mockery of the network? — Edward D.
I like this question, Edward. Re Jesse Watters: He’s an embarrassment. And I blame Bill O’Reilly for his climb up the Fox ladder– Bill having featured him on the Factor. He cannot and should not be taken seriously. Nor should anyone else who employs the double standard you correctly mention. But it’s not the producers who allow it. They’re part of the problem. Fox, like CNN and MSNBC, makes money by reinforcing the biases of the audience. The producers would howl if Jesse or anyone else said, I criticized Obama for such and such and now I’m going to bash Trump for doing the same thing.
And yes, it makes a mockery of the network. But the people in charge not only don’t care — they want it that way. Partisans like Jesse Watters are what Fox wants on its air. Pathetic!
Hi Bernie – In your book, “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America”, George Soros was #19. I thought for sure his money and influence would keep Trump from becoming President. If he thought Bush was a Nazi, what is Trump? Would he move up on your list if you were to write the book with today’s top 100? I know you swore off writing any more books, but how about a quick top five list for 2019? Enjoying my membership. — Evelyn
Here are a few more than 5 … in no particular order:
Jeff Zucker — for screwing up CNN
Joe Scarborough — for losing his mind and not realizing it
Dean Baquet, exec editor NY Times — for letting so much bias creep into his news coverage
Jim Acosta — for corrupting the role of White House Correspondent
Adam Schiff — because his passive-aggressive manner annoys the hell out of me
Rob Reiner/Robert De Niro — as representatives of liberal Hollywood hate and intolerance
Elite University Presidents — who not only cave to liberal snowflakes, but actually condone and agree with their authoritarian anti-liberal behavior
Jussie Smollett — because race isn’t something you fool around with in America
(Note to my liberal friends: Donald Trump is not on this list for two reasons. 1. he’s done a lot of good, the economy for example. 2. He’s in a class all by himself)
Given the benign perception of socialism provided by the mainstream media, will its Totalitarian Dictatorship take hold again if the people give Bernie Sanders their full support. Enemies of the State etal? — Joseph V.
If Bernie Sanders is elected president … and if both Houses of Congress wind up in Democratic hands … We are all in trouble. They will run the country into the ground and (as I’ve said before) may even pass laws banning certain speech. The news media are supposed to be the watchdog, the entity that holds powerful politicians accountable. Tell me when you stop laughing.
I always enjoy your commentary; so to speculate, do you know if the citizens and government people currently in Vietnam have warmer feelings toward the United States than say, roughly fifty years ago? Thanks again –The Emperor
Do the Vietnamese like us more today than in 1969? Is that your question? Yeah, i’m pretty sure they do since in 1969 we were bombing the hell out of them.
What you wrote in this week’s column (“Free Stuff Can Be Very Expensive”) is all very true, but there must be a way to approach the student debt crisis. Reform of bankruptcy code? Suggestions? — Ronald M.
Way over my pay grade. No idea. If a college has a very big endowment, the trustees might want to think about forgiving the debt or at least reducing it. But how are students whose debt wasn’t forgiven or reduced going to feel about that? It’s a mess, Ronald.
Greetings Mr. Goldberg: In an effort to help you kill some time between now and mid-December (wink wink), I wish to hear your opinion. I understand that Walter Duranty was very sympathetic to Soviet Communism, and he won a Pulitzer Prize for his articles. Eventually I believe the NY Times acknowledged how blatantly biased he was by downplaying the horrors of life in Soviet Russia. I’m wondering, if many others saw how awful it was in Russia, why did the NY Times in those days give any credence to what this man wrote? And why did so many people who came from Russia to the U.S. want to bring that lifestyle TO the U.S.? What was the appeal to the “Useful Idiots” in the U.S. who actually were living a decent lifestyle? Until mid-December –Best Regards from The Emperor
Durante was there, on the ground in Russia. His editors were thousands of miles away in Manhattan. They figured he knew what he was writing about. And who knows how many of them were also sympathetic to the idea of communism.
Communism for some Americans was an appealing idea — especially during the Great Depression, The Communist Party USA promised jobs to desperate people. A lot of them didn’t like the authoritarian part of communism; that’s not what they were buying into. It was the promise of not just a better life, but simply a job.
It’s possible, Emperor, to have a decent lifestyle and still be wooed by a philosophy that says everyone should have that decent life, not just the fat cats or people with connections. The problem with all of this is simply that communism doesn’t work; it’s a disaster; it goes against human nature.
Bernie, many of us come up with costs for programs proposed by the Democrat presidential contestants, but we likely are not dealing with accurate information. Can you give us a list of those proposals and what they will cost? This will help us create powerful rebuttals. — Hugo S.
I included a short list of what Democrats are offering for “free” or at least heavily subsidized in my column about how Free Stuff Can Be VeryExpensive. As for the costs, they’re all over the place. I suggest you see what each candidate is offering and what each claims their giveaways would cost and how they all plan to raise the money to pay for this free stuff. There’s just too much for me to dig out, Hugo. Hope you understand.
Thank you for the “Free Stuff” article. I’ve often thought how easy it is to run as a liberal. Just stand up and announce what you are going to give away and listen to the cheers. Surprised no one has thought of free lobster dinners for everyone! The reality of your point that Republicans have to explain why this doesn’t work is frightening. It’s not obvious by now? It is an embarrassment that even members of Congress need this explained to them, let alone voters. On another subject, do you have any information as to the Statute of Limitations for the officials involved with possible corruption regarding FISA abuse, obstruction of justice, leaks, perjury, and other crimes currently under investigation at Justice? Having been in business, I am always puzzled as to why it takes months and even years for the government to get to the bottom of a story and hold people accountable, when it would take a few hours to do the same in a business. — Michael E.
What the GOP needs to explain — very specifically — is that the very people getting the “free” stuff at some point will be asked to pay for it too. They already know there’s no such thing as “free” stuff. What they don’t know is that their taxes might go up along with the tax increase on wealthier people. That’s what the GOP needs to explain. People who like “free” stuff don’t understand this. And it’s not entirely their fault. The progressives tell them the “super rich” will pay for everything.
I don’t think the statue of limitations is the issue so much as congressional bureaucracy is the issue. Like you, I follow congressional investigations and can’t quite grasp why they go on and on — with no resolution. Maybe the GOP is afraid to bring charges against Democrats because they know Democrats will repay the “favor” when they get the chance.
I was never a Washington correspondent so I don’t know enough to answer your question any better.
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