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The Bill O’Reilly sexual harassment debacle now calls to mind the history-making declaration from Boston attorney Joseph Welch, who in 1954 asked red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last?”
That query can apply to President Trump’s intrusion into L’Affaire O’Reilly during an interview Wednesday with The New York Times.
Some background: Last week, The New York Times reported that O’Reilly had been involved in five settlements with women who said he had harassed him. The total payout for all those cases was about $13 million, and dozens of advertisers have boycotted O’Reilly’s show since the story was published.
“’Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office with Times reporters. ‘Because you should have taken it all the way; I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.’”
“’I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,’ Mr. Trump said.”
Your ideology should not matter. This is over the top. You need not strain to imagine the O’Reilly response if then-President Obama had said same concerning some set of seven-figure sex harassment settlements involving a prominent liberal cable news host.
But to get to the basics of it all:
Says Deborah Tuerkheimer of the Northwestern University-Pritzker School of Law, “Regardless of one’s opinion of the president in terms of his policies or politics, it ought to disturb everyone that he’s commenting on cases he can’t possibly understand, on decisions to settle in an area that is incredibly sensitive — and gives rise to very strong feelings, particularly among victims of sexual harassment.”
“This is not something we should expect from our president,” she says. “We ought to expect more restraint given the sensitivity of the issues. And that he not weigh in on matters he can’t possibly know anything about.”
Mary Anne Case, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, was rather more direct in ways that folks at Fox might want to mull.
“Trump’s saying ‘I don’t think Bill did anything wrong’ suggests he doesn’t think sexual harassment should be actionable, and the fact that he has that view ought to terrify, but not surprise, the women of America.”
It fits perfectly with Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” remarks captured during an “Access Hollywood” tape that was leaked to the press, Case said.
She concludes, “It suggests a worldview the prohibition of sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sought to make extinct — the view that the workplace should be structured to suit the sexual whims of powerful men regardless of the effect this might have on the employment opportunities of women.”
Trump’s mainstream craving
There’s been much liberal harrumphing over the Trump White House giving special access to conservative media arrivistes. Well, the story may wind up being his more prevalent desire to play to the Old Media that is inherently suspicious of him.
Trump has now given 21 interviews, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News. Of those, three have gone to the Times and one to The Washington Post, or nearly 20 percent of his interviews.
Very big media thoughts
“The Listening Post” is an eclectic weekly show on the media found on Al Jazeera. It’s London-based and way more international in scope than any media reporting you tend to find (present company included). It just did a provocative and interactive hybrid project called “Media Theorised” to examine the contemporary relevance of some very big media thinkers.
They include: French philosopher Roland Barthes, American linguist-political activist Noam Chomsky, Jamaican-British cultural historian Stuart Hall, Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan and Palestinian-American literary historian Edward Said.
It’s high-brow and superior. Why care?
Marcela Pizarro, who produced it, says, “I’d say that the reason your audiences should care about these five thinkers is because they help us unlearn everything we are taught from the word go about news, truth/fiction, the myth unmediated reality and the politics of language.”
Yup. Some things don’t change. It’s excellent, and you should look at the related articles they commissioned. They seek to bridge the divide between theory and journalistic practice — in the process saying what is dangerous, says Pizarro, precisely “because they test journalism’s very fundamental premise the purveyor of truth.”
Note to White House press corps
Start a regular Vegas-like over-under on how many times Trump says “I’ll tell you” or “I can tell you.” I counted nine yesterday during his joint appearance with King Abdullah of Jordan.
It’s as banal as your teenager who continually uses “like,” be it as adverb, conjunction, adjective, preposition, whatever. “It’s like…”
Explosion in sports data
If you doubted that coverage of baseball has dramatically and beneficially changed, check out this video from Major League Baseball’s “Statcast.”
It shows a giant home run hit by Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers and runs data on its exit velocity (115 mph), launch angle (37 degrees), maximum height (145 feet) and projected distance (443 feet). If you love baseball, you should consider Statcast.
Critiquing a Post op-ed
Techdirt annotates a Washington Post op-ed jointly written by FCC boss Ajit Pai and FTC boss Maureen Ohlhausen, entitled “No, Republicans didn’t just strip away your internet privacy rights.”
Really? “Of course they did, and there’s not any real debate that this is what happened, but this being the post-truth era, countless individuals labor under the illusion that facts are somehow negotiable. Amusingly, the editorial can’t even make it a full sentence without being misleading (read: lying).”
The “pirates” of YouTube
Writes Ad Age: “YouTube’s longstanding nuisance pirates, who upload video in defiance of copyright law, have used live video capabilities to escalate into stealing whole channels.”
So what’s this about?
It notes how you can turn on YouTube most morning and “find a livestream of CNN, or watch ESPN’s most popular shows in real-time.” Or perhaps an endless stream of Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants.” But neither the money nor the viewers are going to ESPN, CNN or Nickelodeon.
The morning babble
“Fox & Friends” continued to push the Susan Rice “unmasking” story as an incipient Watergate. “Did she commit a crime?” asked co-host Steve Doocy, in what now’s a rhetorical question during much of any Fox News day. It was interspersed with Abby Huntsman, who’s crafted journalism’s only coverage beat of ingratiating oneself to Trump supporters over breakfast at rural diners, hanging at a North Carolina diner in a county that, surprise, switched to Trump from Obama.
CNN offered the sharpest news dichotomy by framing its “New Day” with this as a “defining day” in Trump’s presidency, as reporter Joe Johns asserted with a certain theatrical gravity, alluding to Trump heading to Florida to meet China’s leader, a man and nation he pilloried during the campaign.
It also offered actual reporters who are doing actual reporting, notably The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, who was part of the duo that interviewed Trump Wednesday. She underscored how he seemed unprepared to answer what he’d do in Syria post-gas attack, a reality underscored in his later press conference with King Abdullah where, as her colleague David Sanger noted, there was no “description of his ultimate objective”: topple the regime, help people, keep an alliance together?
But, back on “Fox & Friends,” the world was less complex. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt was both bashing The Washington Post for a six-day-old story that caused a screechy kerfuffle among the Christian right and previewing an interview with a plaintive Ivanka Trump in which Trump said she’s not “complicit” — the word used in a “Saturday Night Live” faux perfume ad skit where she was played by Scarlett Johansson.
A headline of the day
“U.S. Jewish Groups Hail Steve Bannon’s Ouster From National Security Council” (Haaretz)
Yes, you can go home again
Ron Fournier arrived with the Clintons in 1993 after covering them in Arkansas for The Associated Press. He became a very respected chronicler of the administration, became AP bureau chief and then began a new career as an editor and provocative columnist for Atlantic Media.
But Fournier, 53, yearned to return home to Detroit and is back as editor-publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business. He’s pretty content, not missing Washington much at all. And, he tells me:
“If I play my cards right, I can make a difference. Nobody makes a real and significant difference in D.C. these days.” (Poynter)
Runner-up, headline of the day
“Jared Kushner hires horror-film publicist to run PR for his new White House office” (New York)
The money factor
The initial exodus of advertisers from O’Reilly’s show also underscores the complexities of branding these days, all the more so with the unplanned consequences of social media, as explained by Tim Calkins, a marketing expert at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. (U.S. News & World Report)
What Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Amherst can’t offer
“The University of Utah will become the first big-time sports school to offer scholarships for competitive video gaming, so far the most high-profile entry into collegiate esports.” (Bloomberg)
“Backed by the Salt Lake City school’s video game development program, Utah’s first varsity esports team will play Riot Games’ popular League of Legends and compete in Riot’s collegiate league. More teams in other games will be announced this year.”
Remember Megyn Kelly?
Interesting how quickly we can forget the media stars whose staggering incomes are based on employers’ assumptions about their competitive indispensability. What is up with Megyn Kelly?
Wasn’t she supposed to be hosting some new NBC daytime show, anchoring “Today,” on the ski slopes for the Olympics, subbing for Rachel Maddow, whispering to us from the 18th hole for PGA Golf, conducting penalty box interviews for NHL coverage and bringing “60 Minutes” to heel, all the while serving as general counsel at Comcast and doing emergency cable installations for top shareholders?
The answer: “Megyn Kelly’s exit from Fox News is no longer in dispute — The two sides had differing views on her employment status; now are in agreement.” (The Wall Street Journal)
Bill O’Reilly, be forewarned: we quickly forget.