The casual bigotry was breathtaking.
There on “The O’Reilly Factor” was Fox News feature reporter Jesse Watters visiting New York City’s Chinatown for what the King of Cable introduced as Watters’ foray to sample Asian-American political opinion after the Clinton-Trump debate’s frequent mention of China.
Yes, there were questions about Clinton and Trump. He also asked one woman, “Am I supposed to bow to say hello?” He made fun of another person for not understanding English. He asked somebody, “Is it the year of the dragon? Rabbit?”
He asked somebody else, “Is everything made in China now? Tell me what’s not made in China.” Another person and this query: “Do they call Chinese food in China just ‘food?'” He asked one vendor, “Do you have any traditional Chinese herbs for performance?”
The Asian American Journalists Association responded via its president, Paul Cheung, director of interactive and digital news production at The Associated Press. He emailed this:
“It’s 2016. We should be far beyond tired, racist stereotypes and targeting an ethnic group for humiliation and objectification on the basis of their race. Sadly, Fox News proves it has a long way to go in reporting on communities of color in a respectful and fair manner.”
When the segment ended, there was Watters in the studio with O’Reilly. First, O’Reilly seemed impressed by how “everybody knew what was going on” about the campaign. Not true. Not even close. “You thought everybody knew what was going on?” said Watters.
Then came O’Reilly’s pre-emptive defense, laced with a certain eye-rolling at his own audience. It was all “gentle fun…I know we’re going to get letters.” Reporter Watters reassured, “It was all in good fun.”
If Watters was trying to channel his inner Stephen Colbert or Samantha Bee, he failed. So did the show’s editors. Is O’Reilly now so removed from the streets of New York that he couldn’t see this went way beyond “gentle fun?”
Harvey Young, a dramatist and a theater and African-American studies scholar at Northwestern University, says, “The magic of satire is that it is done with a wink — so that the intentions behind the act are disguised. Was it done in jest? Or sincerely meant? In the Watters’ bit, the underlying premise rests on a presenting Chinese Americans as somehow un-American because of their facility with the English language or grasp of the current political climate.”
Says Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones, who knows satire and comedy: “So the issue here for me is that legitimate satire punches up, not down, and this punches down, not up. And it conflates lack of language skill with national identity. The cutaways are obnoxious because they frame it in stereotype.”
“I think it is bigotry and uncomfortable to watch because you sense that the people interviewed have no control over the narrative.”
Seeking more Trump art
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold is at it again in his steely pursuit of scoops about Donald Trump’s foundation. He’s revealed Trump expenditures of $30,000 for at least two portraits of himself. Now he’s crowdsourcing information on another painting. (@Fahrenthold)
“Yes!” he told me. “There’s another one, an abstract painting by a guy named Martin Kammler that Trump bought in 2011. It is ugly. But apparently it was worth $1K to Trump.”
When the campaign ends, the Smithsonian should hire this guy as a new investigator of lost, stolen and improbably purchased art.
The morning babble
There was unavoidable storm coverage that was actually meteorological, not Trumpean. “Florida braces for direct hit from Hurricane Matthew” was the CNN chyron. “Matthew could slam the East Coast twice” was its counterpart on “Fox & Friends.” The images of roads jammed with evacuees were sobering.
“Morning Joe” focused on its bread and butter, with lots and lots of polls. A poll showing Clinton ahead nationally by a good margin. A poll showing a narrow Clinton lead in Ohio. A poll showing Marco Rubio just ahead in his Florida senate race. It noted, too, The Atlantic joining the endorsements bandwagon and backing Clinton.
Its Donny Deutsch made an underwhelming argument about Hurricane Matthew somehow helping Trump, if the candidate went to Florida and evinced sympathy. But then it was a chat about Trump’s distinct problem with female voters, as they showed that damning Clinton ad juxtaposing his sexist comments with images of young girls and the final on-screen query, “Is this the president we want for our daughters?”
Said Joe Scarborough: “All of us that have daughters look at that ad and flinch.” From Mika Brzezinski: “Women look at that ad and see themselves as little girls.”
Not bidding for Twitter
“Sources: Google will not make a Twitter bid and Apple is also an unlikely suitor — Amid speculation, the tech giants have other aims.” (Recode)
Still, others will come forward from the media, telecom and private equity worlds. “And why not take a gander, given the huge trove of data that Twitter sits atop globally and its unique worldwide digital distribution system? While company execs have been unable to grow the business, many think a link with a larger entity would spur Twitter’s potential.”
Vice prepares to launch its nightly newscast
The half-hour “Vice News Tonight” debuts on HBO Monday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. It aims to break a mold of broadcast newscasts. No anchor desk and, actually, no anchor at all. No commercial breaks, meaning the possibility of longer stories. And greater point of view.
Josh Tyrangiel, a serial innovator who made his mark at Time Inc. and Bloomberg, is in charge. He concedes perhaps the biggest challenge will be breaking the reflexive, human tendency to do what others are talking about and doing on a given day. Like Trump saying something stupefying. Charting a totally different path won’t be easy.
Here’s a Poynter interview with him about the new venture. Meanwhile, don’t forget the broadcast networks. Their nightly audiences still dwarf anything cable news summons in prime time. They don’t get much attention from media observers. But they’re living, kicking and doing some good work even if captive to formats and an older audience.
Fox spitball fight
Megyn Kelly merely underscored the obvious: Trump is opting for sympathetic venues and interviewers. In and of itself, this is not piercing insight into the behavioral instincts of American politicians. But she noted that such soothing venues include that presented by her colleague Sean Hannity.
Ouch. He fired back a tweet, suggesting she’s in the tank for Hillary Clinton. (CNN Money) The irony is rich, given the criticism Kelly’s received (present company included) for a marshmallow soft interview with Trump that constituted a rapprochement after their vivid spat during a Republican primary debate that she co-moderated.
This falls shorts of famous celebrity feuds — Bette Davis v. Joan Crawford, Reggie Jackson v. Billy Martin, Debbie Reynolds v. Elizabeth Taylor or Courtney Love v. Madonna. But we can at minimum hope that Fox doesn’t send Hannity to Chinatown to ask the locals who’s right and who’s wrong.
The subhead of Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter’s “DONALD TRUMP: THE UGLY AMERICAN” is “(With apologies to William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick.)” It thus cites the late Eugene Burdick, co-author of 1958’s hugely successful political novel, “The Ugly American.”
Burdick was a fascinating fellow: Stanford graduate, truck driver, ditch digger, file clerk and Rhodes Scholar who died playing tennis at age 46. (The New York Times)
It was a world in which the media, including high-end magazines, routinely ran booze and cigarette ads. I vaguely remembered Burdick in one. Yes, it was a 1963 ad for Ballantine Ale in which Burdick, also a scuba diver, was shown in his gear and tagged “a man with a thirst for a manlier brew.” (Brookston Beer Bulletin) Imagine, say, Joyce Carol Oates today for Miller Lite. Ah, no.
Wanting it both ways
NBC Trump reporter Katy Tur tweets, “Trump just complained we never show crowd. Maybe he doesn’t know his campaign asked pool cam for tight shot of him to cut out the prompters.” (@KatyTurNBC)
A journalist chagrined by journalism
There’s been quite the literary hubbub with an Italian investigative reporter seemingly solving the mystery of the identity of the best-selling Italian author Elena Ferrante. A piece in The New York Review of Books prompted responses that suggested it had “informed the world’s children by megaphone that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.” (Slate)
Coffee, dishwasher detergent, Vogue and more
“Amazon on Wednesday said it was adding a new feature to its Prime membership program in the United States: Subscribers to the $99-per-year plan now get access to more than 1,000 books, comics, magazines, and more on Kindle devices and apps for no added cost. (NiemanLab)
Danny Ecker of Crain’s Chicago Business explains why Wilson Sporting Goods made a list of innovative Chicago companies: Its research and development team figured out a way to help the average player create the same sort of spin as Roger Federer or Serena Williams. (Crain’s)
“It studied the dynamics of the moment a racket comes in contact with a ball. That entire interaction occurs over the course of only three to four milliseconds — a time frame the researchers studied for two months. They pored over video of 38 string patterns, shot at 500 frames per second and slowed down to the six or seven frames that best capture the moment of contact. Their ultimate discovery was shockingly simple: The action of the main strings coming back into place put more rotation on the ball.”
The tabloid wrath
There was quick online work by The New York Daily News last night after the Mets lost the Wild Card game to the Giants as Jeurys Familia, its star relief pitcher, gave up a three-run homer. He thus sadly reprised his performance in last year’s World Series. “That old Familia Feeling” was the headline.
A full-page confessional
Catholic Cemeteries, a branch of the Archdiocese of Chicago, took out a full-page ad in the Chicago Times informing that “Historic Calvary Cemetery in Evanston has niches available in the New Holy Cross Columbarium.”
“Be part of this unique opportunity to select cremation niches in this beautiful cemetery.”
I knew the diocese was having problems getting people into church. I didn’t know there was any challenge in getting them six feet under.