Bernie’s Q&A: Bush & Bias, Cuomo & Fredo, Ambush Interviews, Epstein, and more! (8/16) — 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. Quick note: Due to personal time constraints (including work travel) and a growing member list, I'd like to start limiting question submissions to one per member, per week. Most of you already do this, but I would appreciate the rest of you doing the same. Thanks for understanding. Let’s get to your questions (and my answers):
I'm no fan of Lawrence O'Donnell (of MSNBC), but he once said what I thought may have been the most honest thing I've heard from a reporter. For those who don't know, before becoming a pundit, he was a writer and later an aid for Daniel Patrick Moynihan. In the interview, Lawrence said that he "had met an awful lot of politicians over the years and, in his opinion, only about 10% of them had a human being behind the eyeballs". Do you believe he's right (or maybe even being generous in his assessment)? -- Keith M. First, Lawrence O'Donnell is no reporter. He's a hyper-partisan commentator. And when he says politicians are rarely human beings, perhaps he's talking about himself. He's gone off the rails, on the air, more than once. There are a lot of decent human beings in the world of politics. What there aren't, however, are profiles in courage. Thanks so much for posting that c-span program from the past. I watched the entire thing and am amazed that it is just as pertinent today as it was back then. I am in the early stages of tuning out all major network news programs and websites, just to see if I feel better about politics, politicians and newscasters at the end of a month. I am so sick of the bias in news and the absurd political positions that I see in America these days. I haven’t tuned you out because I see your views to be a refreshing break from the day to day BS that we are force fed from both sides of the aisle. By the way, “the aisle” has become more like a Wall than anything you will find on the southern border, -- Thanks again, Dave A million thanks, Dave. I appreciate your compliment very much. I have heard from more than a few friends who tell me what you did -- about tuning out. They say something along the lines of ... that there's too much arguing; that so-called experts aren't experts at all, but view almost everything through a political prism. They're just exhausted and have bailed on TV news, especially cable TV news. I totally understand. I've cut way back on my consumption of cable news. Ben Shapiro is often described by his detractors as an alt right or far right extremist. At what point does a person of the left or right become "alt" or "far" for either side. And will we ever have anyone get on television and actually explain what their inflammatory terms really mean and why they apply to their target. -- Michael F. Here's a handy rule of thumb: If the hard left doesn't like what a conservative has to say, they'll tar him or her as "alt-right." But I'm going to leave a more nuanced description to the editor of this page, the great John Daly. Here's his description:
"Alt-right was a term that became pretty popular during the 2016 election, and was initially used by some to describe right-leaning people who had shifted away from conservative views, and over to Donald Trump's more populist/nationalist ideas for America. But that definition wasn't quite accurate. The real "alt-right" does embrace a nationalist view of America, but is driven in large part by white identity and racist/anti-Semitic views. Ben Shapiro is by no means part of the alt-right, and has actually been a target of that group for a long time. There's a pretty good piece on Shapiro's website that goes into much more detail on what exactly the alt-right is."
Regarding a recent question about when the media moved from news to narrative, I have a different opinion. It wasn't due to an individual. When corporations started buying news organizations (GE and NBC, Disney and ABC, etc.), priorities changed from journalism to profits. It didn't take long for the corporations to understand that narratives attracted eyeballs and most did not revere honest journalism over profit. As a result, ratings has supplanted journalistic integrity. Your thoughts? -- Keith M. Good points, Keith, but ... For opinion journalists (and a lot of supposed news reporters), slanting the news to their worldview is paramount. CNN is doing badly in the ratings, but the people there continue to show their biases in their news coverage. Yes, their audience agrees with their bias, but there just aren't enough true believers out there to keep the ratings afloat. They have to split the left wing audience with MSNBC. In other words, they play to their base (much like the president does). They don't even try to expand their base because that would mean watering down their point of view. Corporations care very much about the bottom line, as you point out. The producers and on-air people care more about bashing those they dislike and building up those they do like. Many years ago I helped a company with procedures to address the boycott laws from Arab nations against Israel. Many don't recall but the Arab nations put demands on American companies that in order to do business in their nations you could not have Jews on your board, business with Israel, etc. The US put in Anti-Boycott laws to protect US companies. The left is aggressively attacking supporters of Trump with boycott threats. As well as some commentators like O'Reilly, Carlson, and Hannity. Do you believe it's time to advocate for those same laws to protect free speech? -- Tim H. I don't think we need laws to ban boycotts of the people you mention. We need to point out how illiberal these liberals have become. It might not matter to the boycott crowd, but to reasonable Americans they'll be exposed for the authoritarian, anti-liberal thugs that they are. I held my nose and voted for Donald Trump. He has fought hard for supreme court and federal judge appointments, tax cuts, and to reduce government regulations, secure the border etc, etc. But his quick and bombastic sarcasm of anyone who might criticize him and phony praise of literally anyone who praises him (Kim Jung Un etc) is difficult to stomach. You often mention his lies and dishonesty. Could you point out some of the whoppers he has said since he became a candidate and president? -- Bill E. There are too many for this space. He is dishonest on a daily basis. And there are plenty of places on the web where you can find long lists of his whoppers. But here are a few recent examples: For the better part of a year the president has been saying that China is paying the U.S. Treasury for the tariffs he has imposed on them. China hasn't paid a cent. The tariffs are paid by American importers (aka a tax on Americans); that's how tariffs work. Trump has repeatedly said that the Mueller report concluded that there was no obstruction of justice on his part. The report made no such conclusion, and specifically left that question open. In April, he suggested that windmills cause cancer, though to the best of my knowledge there is no data that backs that up. And of course, there are the epic classics, like Trump watching thousands of New Jersey Muslims celebrating the Twin Towers falling on 9/11. What are your thoughts on ambush interviews, where a journalist approaches an unsuspecting controversial figure (usually one who first rejected a sit-down interview) as he/she is outside among the public? Mike Wallace was kind of known for this, and O'Reilly used to send errand-boy Jesse Watters out to do them. -- Mike R. I don't like ambush interviews, as a rule. But sometimes they're necessary, when the issue is truly important and there's no other way to get to the person you're after. If that person is an office holder I'm more likely to approve of an ambush than if he or she is a private citizen. Now let's move on to one of the shallowest people on TV, Jesse Watters.. His ambush interviews were both dumb and disgraceful, just like Watters himself. He once ambushed a subject at the guy's house, put his foot in the door and wouldn't take it out despite the man asking him to. I contacted Watters and said if he ever tried that at my house he'd leave missing a foot. He was not happy. He's not a journalist; he knows nothing about journalism. I blame Bill O'Reilly for Jesse Watters. As I have no doubt that you know, Jeffery Epstein has died under questionable circumstances. I have a hard time believing the official story that it was a suicide. Personally, I think somebody got to him. What do you think about his death, what transpired and the coverage afterwards? -- Carl-Simon P. As a general rule, I don't buy into conspiracies. So for now, I think it was suicide. But I don't blame you or others for being skeptical. There are a lot of unanswered questions. One thing is for certain: The system broke down. Somebody (or more than one person) screwed up royally. What do you think of the continual characterization of Joe Biden's misspeaking as "gaffes"? He relates the story of meeting the Parkland High School kids as Vice-President like it is fresh in his memory. When do we actually call this what it is??? A lie that makes him look good until people check out the actual facts. Needless to say, President Trump never has gaffes, does he??? I am so sick of all the phonies in politics, top to bottom. And all the toadies in the media who suck up to them and just spin, spin, spin. Thanks for being one of the few straight shooters, Bernie. -- John F. Thanks, John. I'm not sure Biden actually is lying. He may not know what he's talking about. That may be worse than lying if you want to be president. As for the media, you got that right. They tend to go easier on liberals. I know, that's an understatment! I like the economic growth and judges under Trump, but I'm the first to acknowledge he's one of the most dishonest politicians in American history (he's continually making stuff up. It's second nature to him). So its mindboggling to me when Trump's fans (including some people in your Q&As and comment section) act surprised and request examples whenever you or someone else points out his dishonesty. To tweak a metaphor you've used before, that's like being appalled and demanding proof when someone points out that a fish is wet. How much more proof do we need than the guy saying false things every day since at least the moment he started running for president? What do you make of this denial? -- Ryan G. Trump's most loyal fans very often just don't see the obvious. Sometimes they don't care if he makes stuff up. Other times, they don't think he's lying. You know the old saying, about how love is blind. For Trump's hard core base, it is. I read your article on the Beach Boys and completely agreed with your assessment. Based on that, my first question is why "the talent" on ESPN is not satisfied with just letting us have an escape for a few hours when listening to sports/sports radio or watching their shows? If I wanted to hear their political opinions (almost all of which is to the left and hypocritical), I could just listen to MSNBC. Even with the new management, people like Dan Le Batard and Tony Reali (and actually just about all the rest) literally cannot help themselves. They salivate when politics and sports cross each other (like the Pan Am games) so they can discuss their political vies. Therefore, my second (compound) question is do you personally know any of these individuals and/or can you explain why this keeps happening? -- Respectfully, Mozik Sports used to be the place we went to escape the daily barrage of politics. No more. That's not to say sports and politics should never cross paths. But it should be rare, not a regular occurrence. As to why this keeps happening: Journalists, as we all know, by and large play left field. That's true of hard news journalists, movie review journalists, journalists who write about art and even food ... and yes, sports journalists. It's up to the higher-ups to set the ground rules. I still go to sports to escape politics and I know I'm not alone. If politics intrudes, we can always change the channel. Ratings is something they understand. Mr. G, You know how they say “Things will get a lot worse before they get better”? Do you see any near term scenario where this political divide, more like canyon, closes back in aided by a National media that swings back towards the middle pre-cable news? -- Scotty G No. I used to think a national disaster would bring us together. Something like 9/11. We were united back then -- for about 10 minutes. As for the national media: As long as Donald Trump is president, they will remain the Resistance with no intention of moving to the middle. I hope I'm wrong. Apparently a conservative activist named Scott Presler tweeted out that he was going to help clean up Baltimore, and that tweet got several other people to voluntarily join him to help the community! Citizens of all backgrounds working together! Unity for a good cause! Why can’t both Trump and Cummings (and their partisan apologists) do the same thing!? For that matter, do Trump’s relatives own dilapidated buildings in Baltimore in Cummings district? Trump should get on his relatives about that if it’s true, don’t ya think? -- Best Regards from The Emperor First, Donald Trump and Elijah Cummings -- and their partisan apologists -- could unite for a common cause. But they won't. Such is the state of things these days. You don't really think I'd know if Donald Trump's relatives own buildings in Baltimore ... do you? Hey Bernie, I know you never claimed to be a foreign policy expert, but in your opinion, what the hell are we doing in Syria? Why are we helping the Saudis in Yemen? If we are now the number 1 producer of oil, which we have been screaming about energy independence forever, why are we still messing around over there and arming nefarious people? Is it just the normal to have our troops in harms way in what seems to be a perpetual state of war? -- Respectfully, “Right Wing Ralphy.” Viscerally, I'm with you Ralphy. Intellectually, however, I don't know enough to intelligently answer your question. Hi Bernie—while I cannot justify the boob troll who set the trap for Chris Cuomo recently, Cuomo’s response made me want your opinion on a couple of things. Since “Fredo” has never been used as an ethnic slur for Italians, why do you think that the knee jerk reaction of so many “respectable” people on the left is to immediately label anything they disapprove of as racist, and I include other terms like “empty barrels, infestation, and even colored people “ but for “people of color” is acceptable. Had someone called Hannity a “Harp” I just can’t see him accusing the other person of using racist rhetoric. For that matter, had the Hannity scenario actually occurred, and responded as Cuomo did, what do you think FOX News And CNN would have said about it? Best Regards—The Emperor You're right, Fredo is not an ethnic slur ... that's not really why Cuomo went off the rails. Fredo in the movie was the stupid one. Cuomo knows that and that's what got him so angry. Liberals call a lot of things racist that aren't. I'm not breaking any news with that. If Hannity went nuts like that, I'm guessing, CNN would have made a big deal out of it and Fox would not have. I'm not telling you anything you didn't know. When President George W. Bush was shown on television with your book Bias, do you know if he was actually reading it at the time, or was just having some fun at the media's expense? Also, could you tell if there was another surge in sales due to the free publicity? -- Jack S. Editor's note: Here's a photo from that incident:
I'm pretty sure he was reading the book because when you blow up the picture you can see papers inserted on various pages. And it was no accident that he held the book with the cover out -- facing the White House press corps. Not sure if sales went up as a result ... but the book did hit #1 on the NYT list and others. What's the scariest country you ever reported from? Did you ever do any war assignments when you were with CBS? -- Donald (Not Trump) I was in Haiti during the time of Papa Doc and his special paramilitary force, the Tonton Macoute. But had no trouble with either. More recently I was in Putin's Russia reporting on journalists who got beat up and jailed -- and worse -- for reporting the kinds of things the government didn't want reported. I was a writer in NY for the AP during the Vietnam War ... but had no actual war assignments. Bernie – like you, I lived in South Florida for much of my life, including when you were getting started on the air. Am I wrong or has an unusually high amount of national on-air broadcast talent launched their careers in Miami? I remember when your colleague on Real Sports, John Frankel started. I also remember, as young reporters and anchors, Katie Couric, Jose Diaz-Balart, Chris Meyers, Roy Firestone, Rick Sanchez, Steve Croft, and Shepard Smith. I also remember both John Roberts and Jon Scott of Fox News, and even Bill O'Reilly interned at Miami's ABC affiliate before starting his career. Speaking of O'Reilly, when he started on Fox in 1996, Miami-alum Mike Schneider also was a prime time FNC anchor. There are many, many more. South Florida radio gave us Larry King, Sally Jessy Raphael and Leslie Marshall. In addition, you can barely turn on ESPN without seeing someone who started in Miami, many of them on radio as well. Am I onto something? -- Joseph R. You got it right, Joseph. WTVJ and WPLG were farm teams for the networks. I think more network news people, and that includes producers, emerged from Miami than any other city in America. The Obama admin did everything they could to prop up Aung San Suu Kyi (Nobel Prize winning human-rights icon) in hopes of helping her bring a true democracy to the desperate and oppressed people of Myanmar. Things haven't worked out well. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim citizens have been displaced with wide reports of human rights abuses, including rape and murder...and Kyi is incapable/unwilling to do much of anything about it. What your thoughts are on this tragedy and Aung Suu Kyi? Was Obama too eager in pushing for democracy there? Any thoughts on Trump's silence on the situation, or any advice you'd give him? This is complicated because whatever help we don't give, they'll go to China for. -- Joseph B. I'm aware of the situation in Myanmar but I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment. Sorry. If you want to see first-hand how the policies of our current crop of Socialist Democratic candidates will work out in real life, come to Greece. The Greeks have been playing with overt communism for decades. Until recently their prime minister was from a communist background. For decades they pushed big government and borrowed heavily from the EU to support their giveaways. Most of this borrowed money was siphoned off by government bureaucrats. To this day all University expenses are fully paid for by the government Sanders-style, yet the country remains deeply in debt and their economy is in the toilet. Whatever money pops up is immediately grabbed by government leeches. Public services are a joke. To withdraw money from a Greek bank, you need to take a number and wait a few hours. Greece has a huge immigration problem and has virtually no control over its borders, so many once idyllic Greek islands are now awash with immigrant tent cities with no access to clean water or a sewage system. These tent cities are now even common in Athens. The weather and beaches here are still marvelous, the food is great and their historical sites are outstanding, but if you want to see how America will look in 10-20 years if we keep heading leftward, come to Greece today! -- William W. Nothing I can add to that, William. You nailed it!
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