From Oprah to Trump’s tough talk, media attack the president; and other journalistic disasters of the week
It was a week that blew through controversies faster than our winter bomb cyclone. Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech and speculation that she will run for president, the Michael Wolff book even journalists dispute, DACA and, finally, the storm following President Donald Trump’s purported use of the word “s—hole” to describe Africa, Haiti and El Salvador during a discussion on immigration with a bipartisan group of senators.
The president tweeted Friday morning saying the reports about his meeting with the senators were inaccurate. His tweet stated: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Trump has said the program, which allows about 700,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were children to remain in the U.S. temporarily, will end in March unless Congress passes new legislation that he signs into law. The program was created by an executive order signed by President Obama.
Two Republican senators at the meeting where Trump supposedly used the offensive language – David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas – issued a statement Friday saying that “we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically.” However, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the president referred to some nations as “s—hole” countries at the meeting and said the president made some comments that were “hate-filled, vile and racist.”
It was the kind of week where the media overreacted to almost everything. So much so that their Public Enemy No. 2 – Steve Bannon – was barely an afterthought as he left his job heading up Breitbart News following a falling out with President Trump.
Journalists don’t seem to grasp that if everything is an apocalypse then nothing is. That includes everything from the new tax cuts for 80 percent of taxpayers to the latest Trump tweet to the president getting two scoops of ice cream.
Many journalists had taken time off during the holidays and were clearly trying to make up for lost time – especially at CNN. It was hard to tell which topic they embraced with more zeal, but the “s—hole” comment was the perfect capstone to a biased week.
CNN anchors battled to see who could use the offensive word the most aggressively the night the story broke. Chris Cuomo outdid other anchors on his network. CNN used it in a chyron on his new show and elsewhere. He even wrote it on a whiteboard beneath the words: “THIS IS WHO HE IS.” It was like he was channeling a potty-mouth liberal version of Glenn Beck.
Cuomo moved into full lecture mode, telling the resistance: “It’s not OK. It is who he is.” Somewhere he lost the difference between words said in private versus ones broadcast repeatedly on TV.
NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell tweeted her unsubtle view: “It’s been a tough day for intelligence experts, foreign policy advocates, and basic human beings.”
The New York Times published a story devoted to the media coverage, under the headline: “After Donald Trump Said It, How News Outlets Handled It.” The paper led with NBC’s Lester Holt, acting like journalists had never heard rough words before. “Holt opened the ‘NBC Nightly News’ on Thursday with a parental warning: ‘This may not be appropriate for some of our younger viewers.’”
The Washington Post led its website with: “Trump attacks protections for immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries.”
The story was omnipresent. The only issue was how many of the eight letters of the vulgar word news organizations actually used. NPR White House Correspondent Scott Horsley tweeted the deadpan NPR position: “We are using s***hole online. Note the third asterisk in keeping with NPR style. – NPR editors.”
The whole episode was a reminder how much journalists edit when they want. During President Obama’s exit interview with Vanity Fair, he admitted: “I curse more than I should, and I find myself cursing more in this office than I had in my previous life.” Then added: “And fortunately both my chief of staff and my national-security adviser have even bigger potty mouths than me, so it’s O.K.” Other than Biden’s famous F-bomb, this is a side to the Team Obama we never saw.
2. Let’s Elect Oprah: When journalists weren’t freaking out about President Trump doing almost anything, they were celebrating a potential opponent. The Sunday night Golden Globes featured longtime TV and movie star Oprah Winfrey winning the Cecil B. DeMille award. Her speech celebrated the press, so journalists loved it. She noted journalists’ “insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth.” Her speech turned to the #MeToo campaign and told about the “ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.”
The speech was almost universally seen as a pre-announcement announcement of her campaign to become the next president of the United States. Oprah is a self-made billionaire (who I watched making her name on the Baltimore show “People Are Talking”) and left-wing journalists and activists acted like they had found their populist counterpoint to Trump.
The race was on to see which outlet would celebrate Oprah more. NBC even tweeted out backing for her presidency. “Nothing but respect for OUR future president,” the official account stated, above a gif of a smiling Oprah. It was later taken down and blamed on “a third party.”
CNN was all in. Political Analyst April Ryan described Oprah as an “outstanding” candidate who could “definitely win.” Political Commentator Van Jones envisioned her as “probably the most beloved human being on Earth” and the “queen of the universe.” Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter said “her hopeful message – ‘A new day is on the horizon’ – could have doubled as a campaign rallying cry.”
CBS was nearly as bad, leading its nightly newscast with Oprahmania. Chief Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes described it as “vintage Winfrey.” “But fans thought they heard something more, the crescendo of a campaign address,” she added. One wonders how many of those fans were outside the nation’s newsrooms.
Entertainment media piled on. Ellen DeGeneres called the speech “a barn burner.” Actress Meryl Streep was awed: “Wow! … where do I send that check, you know?” “The View” Co-host Joy Behar called Oprah “Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.”
3. The Wolff in The White House: By week’s end, it was almost impossible to recall that journalists had spent hours promoting the Michael Wolff book that even they didn’t believe. (Two hours to be exact on ABC, CBS and NBC.)
CNN Host Jake Tapper had a telling Twitter exchange with Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi going over what they considered flawed about the book. Tapper asked: “Do you believe Wolff’s assertion that 100% of the president’s senior advisers and family members questions his intelligence and fitness for office? That’s the main argument of the book.” Farhi’s response showed the problem of the book: “100 percent? No.”
Tapper responded: “He asserts that it’s 100%. So how one then is supposed to regard his credibility?”
Despite that skepticism, Wolff was everywhere. He declared his book “will finally end … this presidency,” but claimed to “have no political agenda.” MSNBC Host Chris Matthews celebrated the book’s facts. He said he “love[s] the facts in your book because it is a non-fiction book with a lot of facts.”
Those “facts” were certainly … something. MSNBC hyped the “speculation” that Trump is “dyslexic.” Even lefty provocateur Stephen Colbert was skeptical, asking Wolff: “So how much of it should I believe?” CNBC’s Sara Fagen told ABC perpetual lefty Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the total was only “50 percent.”
Luckily for Wolff, the media didn’t let those “facts” get in the way of them promoting his book off the shelves.
4. Trump Is _____: The rest of the week was filled with invective – journalists and celebrities bashing President Trump any way they could.
- New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof accused Trump of “authoritarian tendencies.”
- CNN Host Anderson Cooper compared Trump to “Wile E. Coyote and Kelly from ‘The Office’” because all pretended to be smart.
- “Morning Joe” Host Joe Scarborough claimed Trump proved he “wasn’t” “in complete control of his mental facilities.” (Yes, Joe said “facilities,” not faculties.) He also pretended Trump listens to the “voices in his head.”
- Actor Robert De Niro complained: “the world is suffering from the real Donald Trump.”
- And TBS’s “Full Frontal” Host Samantha Bee, D-Only Theoretically Funny, announced plans for “The Apology Race,” where her “correspondents will travel the globe to apologize for every garbage thing Donald Trump does.” Reminiscent of the last apology tour we saw that was done by President Barack Obama.