Bernie’s Q&A: Michael Avenatti, A.B. Stoddard, Bill Bennett, and more! (5/24) — 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):
What are your thoughts on A.B. Stoddard, who sometimes appears on Special Report and other Fox News programs? She strikes me as smart and fair, and her political leanings are hard to determine (which I think is refreshing). -- Jen R.
I totally and completely agree with you, Jen. I wish there were more like her. Too many other analysts don't really analyze; they just support their team. She's all the things you say.
I was with my daughter, who’s an executive with an international company and a Democrat. I’m a moderate Republican who’s views are very similar to yours. She says illegal immigration is declining from previous years. She doesn’t believe FOX News’s coverage on this issue. She feels they’re exaggerating the numbers to get voters to support Trump. I say illegal immigration is a crisis for our country. What do you think? -- Chris K.
I think, as you do, that illegal immigration is a genuine crisis. Just look at what's going on at the border. Just listen to Mr. Obama's Homeland Security Chief, Jeh Johnson who says it's a crisis. Ask your daughter if it's possible that her views on immigration are tainted by her feelings about President Trump and Fox News. In other words, if Mr. Trump or a Fox News commentator says there's a crisis, that must be proof that there is no crisis? Tell her you think that may be what's going on.
Frank Luntz wrote today that Michael Avenatti received $175 million in free media air-time when he was wailing away on Trump (as Stormy Daniels's lawyer, who he was just indicted for defrauding). CNN alone had Avenatti on 74 separate times in just 2 1/2 months. Also, a Vanity Fair piece says Avenatti bullied a lot of television-media employees during that time - and was tolerated anyway.
While anti-Trump bias was certainly at play here (no-brainer), part of me thinks Avenatti is sort of a product of the Trump culture. I don't blame Trump, of course, for Avenatti's sleaziness & crimes. But the guy seems to have followed the same media path as Trump did when he was running for president (saying one over-the-top thing after another). Am I wrong? And taking that into account, was it really that out of bounds for people to say at the time, as they were, that Avenatti could have been a legit presidential candidate? -- Jack
You're right, Jack, about how Avenatti took a similar path to the one Donald Trump traveled when he ran for president -- "saying one over-the-top thing after another." And you're right that anti-Trump bias played a big role in CNN and MSNBC's love affair with Avenatti. As for taking Avenatti seriously as a legitimate presidential candidate: Serious news analysts should have known better, but with about 400 Democrats running, most of whom couldn't be picked out of a lineup, Avenatti at least would have stood out -- as the sleazy lawyer he so clearly is.
In a previous Q & A, you answered that O'Reilly is much lower-key in person than he is on television. I have a similar question. Can you name a few media people who are very dry and serious in front of the camera, but surprisingly funny or obnoxious behind the scenes? -- Jen R.
The problem, Jen, is that if you're "very dry and serious in front of the camera" you won't be in front of the camera for long. But, I'll give you two who might fit the description.
The great Mike Wallace was pretty serious on camera but "allegedly" did things (just for laughs of course) in the office that might have gotten him in very big trouble today. I'd give more details but I liked Mike and he's not around to defend himself.
Except for his Texas goofball expressions on Election Night -- "the race is tighter than a wet bathing suit on a ride home from the beach" -- Dan Rather was also pretty serious in front of the camera, very buttoned down, very much under control -- but off camera he was pretty funny, he had a good ole boy sense of humor.
As for obnoxious off camera, the list is too long for this space.
A good thing about Youtube is that you can look at cable news segments from 4 yrs (or older) ago, and watch political commentators voicing the opposite positions of what they are saying these days on TV. This has been true in reference to both policies and what kind of behavior should be acceptable from political or media figures...or even just regular people.
The cause of this shift is clear: Donald Trump.
In order for a lot of pundits to either defend or attack Trump, they've had to deviate sharply from the standards and opinions they used back when Barack Obama was our prez. I'd say MOST people in this field have been guilty of big time hypocrisy when it comes to Trump.
You are one of the few who's saying the same things now that you said back then (which I think is why FOX let you go), so here is my question. Which commentator on the right and which commentator on the left has most disappointed you in the past 4 years? In other words, who did you really respect as truthful/real in their analysis before Trump, but then watched them sell out for ratings or relevance or whatever? Thanks -- Jasper
Good question, Jasper. I'm rarely disappointed with commentators on the left or the right because I expect so little of them. And they rarely disappoint. Most of them lack principles. They'll bash Barack Obama for doing something they don't like, but defend (even praise) Donald Trump when he does the same thing. On the left, it's the same sad story. This is why they don't disappoint me -- because I didn't respect them in the first place.
That said, let me start with two conservative commentators I did respect: Bill Bennett and Newt Gingrich. I liked their intelligence, their wit, and their decency. Now they'll defend Donald Trump pretty much no matter what.
Then there's the list of sell-outs, who have abandoned their conservative principles in order to be Donald Trump toadies. That list includes:
Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Eric Bolling, (to some extent) Mollie Hemingway, Greg Gutfeld, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lou Dobbs, Mike Gallagher, Michelle Malkin, Jeanine Pirro, and Tucker Carlson.
Again, I never respected most of them and so I'm not disappointed that they've become Trump sycophants.
And there are at least two former conservatives, who detest Donald Trump so much, that they've become liberal commentators. They are Jen Rubin and Max Boot. I don't fault them for not liking the president. That's fine with me. But I'm not sure what they stand for now. They no longer sound like conservatives; more like liberal Democrats. That's what Trump Derangement Syndrome can do to some people.
I've been around a long time and I think I can detect when someone's blowing smoke up my nose. I remember Juan Williams when he was a frequent guest on The O'Reilly Factor. He never seemed to be a far-left liberal loon. But now on The Five, he emphatically takes that role. I think his shtick is half- an-act. With four conservatives on the show, somebody's got to play the foil. I feel that Juan Williams is a sensible middle-of-the-road Democrat playing the role of a far-left liberal in order to make the show more interesting. His extreme facial mannerisms, when he's trying to make a point he hardly believes in, is a dead give-away. What's your take on this? -- Joe B.
Juan is either playing a role, as you say, or he's genuinely moved further to the left. I don't know which it is, but I agree with you, Joe, that he used to be more of a middle-of-the road Democrat. Juan is smart and a good guy. So, I wouldn't be shocked if his producer told him that he needs to play deep left field on The Five, for show biz reasons. Remember, they call it show BUSINESS. If it weren't about ratings and money and feeding The Five audience what it wants -- in this case, Juan Williams playing the role of Foil -- they'd call it show SHOW.
Bernie, I’ve been frustrated with one-sided news reporting for years. I keep hoping that Americans will finally become fed up with salacious and biased news. However, as you have unpacked this issue for us many times, it appears that is what most consumers want - or at least drawn towards. I decided to put some work into this problem and see if it’s possible to change the news paradigm and I’d like to get your input. I developed a mobile iPhone/ipad app called TrustRate News that allows news consumers to rate how much they trust prominent tv, print, radio & online news journalists. Essentially it’s an ongoing rating system that perhaps one day will have an impact on how journalists approach their job. Here’s a link to the app page with a description: It’s a work in progress and I’m not quitting my day job. What do you think? -- Mike S.
I think in the real world, Mike, you're going to find that conservatives say they trust conservative journalists and liberals will say they trust liberal journalists. As for someday having an impact on how journalists do their job: Good luck, but I don't think so. The name of my second book about journalists was Arrogance. That wasn't an accident. They don't take criticism well. Nor, I suspect, will they take the opinions of non journalists very well, either. But give it a try!
Greetings Mr. Goldberg---I have some questions about an an exchange I'd seen on a You Tube snippet of an interview between Mike Wallace and Morgan Freeman where they are discussing Black History Month. You may be familiar with this interview. Morgan Freeman gives his disdain for the concept, and he asks Mike Wallace when is White History Month. Mike Wallace stammers a bit and then says "I'm Jewish" to which Morgan Freeman asks "Okay When is Jewish History Month?"
First question: Mike Wallace's response made no sense to me, so why would Mike Wallace immediately respond to this question by saying that he is Jewish? He may have been Jewish but he was still a white man. How did Mike Wallace's Jewish ethnicity have any significance or bearing to what they were talking about? Then Mike Wallace asks "How do we end racism?" and Morgan Freeman says to "Stop talking about it." Just curious, do you agree with Morgan Freeman's solution? Why or why not? While I don't doubt Mike Wallace's good intentions here, I have to agree with Morgan Freeman that things like Black History Month don't end racism.
And how DO we end racism? (Just kidding on that last question---I know that falls into the category of complex questions---wink wink) Seriously, thanks for all that you do! Best Regards --The Emperor
I don't recall that interview, Your Highness, but if you're relaying it accurately, I don't understand the response either. As for how we end racism ... NOT talking about it won't do it and apparently talking about it just causes more tension. Racism has been with us forever and the best we can hope for is to continue weeding out the bigots, isolate them, try to educate them, and hope that someday there are so few of them that they're nothing more than a cultural asterisk.
Bernie--For an old guy (like me) you look pretty thin and trim. Do you follow any specific diet or exercise plan? -- William W.
I'm on a seafood diet. If I see food, I eat it. But I do exercise: I look at the treadmills in the gym every chance I get ... and every now and then I actually hop onto one of them. I'll be here all week and don't forget to tip your waiters and waitresses.
(Seriously: I think it's my DNA. Really. Never had any weight problems. I used to play basketball at least once a week. That'll keep you in shape. Now, I do WHAT I can WHEN I can.
I'm pretty sure that I remember you writing or saying a while back that singer Paul McCartney once referred to you as "the voice of reason," or something along those lines. Can you explain what that remark was in reference to, and how it came about? -- John D.
It was Rod Stewart. We were on a flight from Miami to New York and I told him I was a big fan of his American songbook albums. He thanked me and said, "And you're the voice of reason" referring, I suspect, to my appearances on the O'Reilly Factor (since that was the only political TV I was doing at the time). Paul McCartney once called me "Dave." Ask me about that story sometime.
Did Pelosi and Schumer purposely sabotage the infrastructure talks to cause a distraction before the pending IG report and possible investigations so it would give the appearance that Trump is retaliating? -- Clay Doyle
You may be over-thinking the reasons for the failed talks. The president is the one who walked out. Maybe for good reason, but Schumer and Pelosi aren't the ones who got up and left the president standing there. Pelosi didn't help matters, either, by saying the president was involved in a "cover up" right before the meeting. As I say, Mr. Trump may have had a good reason to walk out. But saying the Dems sabotaged the talks and did it to distract from the pending IG report is too conspiratorial for me.
Hi Bernie, Enjoying my membership. Can you tell us who/what were the biggest influences in your life that lead you to your career, political views and belief system? -- Evelyn
I have given a lot of thought to why I not only went into journalism, but knew at a very young age that that's what I wanted to do. No one in my family is even vaguely associated with journalism. Except ...
My father, a blue collar worker, read the paper all men like him read: The New York Daily News, a tabloid. After work, he'd bring it home and toss it my way. I think that may have enticed me to enter the world of journalism.
And one more possible reason: I grew up in the Bronx at a time when the Yankees won the World Series -- a lot. The Yankee announcer was a man named Mel Allen. I thought he was great. I hung on his every word coming over the radio. I have often wondered if I thought -- as a young kid at the time -- that Mel Allen was a journalist. And even though I didn't want to be a sports reporter I may have found his play-by-play so exciting and that it drew me into that world.
As for my political views: I grew up in a blue collar Democratic family. Everyone in the neighborhood was a Democrat. I "evolved" when I noticed that liberal Democrats were no longer speaking for me. They abandoned me, not the other way around.
My belief system? Who knows. All of our belief systems are made up of a million elements that influence us over many years. I had no single moment that made me whatever it is I am.
That's the best I can come up with, Evelyn.
Over the years that mainstream press has shown a particular disrespect for individuals who live in the South and flyover country. In fact, once, the New York Times editorial board celebrated that they were glad they were from the northeast and that they were comfortable in their prejudices. I met many southerners and many other from flyover and the stereotype that the press portrays them as is 100% wrong. Do you see it as well and if so, what can be done? -- Alex P.
I agree with you. There's a snobby attitude that too many elite journalists hold. They think that people who don't live in New York or Washington or Los Angeles, are hayseeds. As for what can be done about it: News organizations can hire more people from the South and other parts of flyover country -- and not only the ones that went to Harvard, Yale and Princeton -- and maybe they can influence the snobs in the newsroom. But be assured that your observations are pretty much on the money, Alex.
Thanks, everyone! You can send me questions for next week using the form below! You can also read previous Q&A sessions by clicking here.