By:
March 16, 2021

“The Talk” is being muted. For a short while.

The show is shutting down, at least for a couple of days this week, as CBS looks further into the testy exchange last week between co-hosts Sharon Osbourne and Sheryl Underwood as they talked about racism and the accusations made by Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

In a statement, CBS said, “We are committed to a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace. All matters related to the Wednesday episode of ‘The Talk’ are currently under internal review.” There are reports “The Talk” will return with live shows on Wednesday.

The conversation between Osbourne and Underwood started to spiral out of control as Osbourne defended her friend, Piers Morgan, who has been highly critical of Meghan. Morgan recently left his “Good Morning Britain” show after controversial comments about Meghan, including that he didn’t believe much of what she said.

Osbourne, who previously showed support for Morgan in a tweet, said on the show, “Did I like everything he said? Did I agree with what he said? No. Because it’s his opinion. It’s not my opinion. … I support him for his freedom of speech, and he’s my friend.”

Underwood said, “What would you say to people who may feel that, while you’re standing by your friend, it appears that you give validation or safe haven to something that he has uttered that is racist, even if you don’t agree?”

Osbourne also said on the show, “I feel even like I’m about to be put in the electric chair because I have a friend who many people think is a racist so that makes me a racist.”

The two continued talking as the show went to break. They were in mid-conversation when the show returned. At one point, Osbourne said, “I will ask you again, Sheryl. I’ve been asking you during the break. I’m asking you again. And don’t try and cry because if anyone should be crying, it should be me. This is the situation. You tell me where you have heard him say … educate me, tell me when you have heard me say racist things! Educate me, tell me!”

Underwood seemed to be trying to calm things down, saying, “To not want to address that because she is a Black woman, and to try to dismiss it or to make it seem less than what it is, that’s what makes it racist. But right now, I’m talking to a woman who I believe is my friend and I don’t want anybody here to watch this and think we are attacking you for being racist.”

Osbourne put out a statement last Friday, saying in part, “I have always been embraced with so much love and support from the Black community and I have deep respect and love for the Black community. To anyone of color that I offended and/or to anyone that feels confused or let down by what I said, I am truly sorry.”

She went on to write, “I panicked, felt blindsided, got defensive and allowed my fear and horror of being accused of being racist take over. There are very few things that hurt my heart more than racism so to feel associated with that spun me fast! I am not perfect, I am still learning like the rest of us and will continue to learn, listen and do better.”

According to The Washington Post’s Lateshia Beachum, Underwood addressed the controversy on her podcast over the weekend, saying she thought it was over.

“I thought I was talking with colleagues,” Underwood said. “I thought we were having a great conversation that didn’t go so great. … It was already forgiven as soon as it was said.”

John Oliver crushes Tucker Carlson

HBO’s John Oliver (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

I wrote about the dangerous rhetoric of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in my newsletter on Monday, echoing the opening segment about Carlson on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN.

But nothing skewered and exposed Carlson quite like a 25-minute segment from HBO’s John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight.” Oliver absolutely obliterated Carlson for being “the most prominent vessel in America for white supremacist talking points.”

Oliver was surgical in his takedown, showing clips of Carlson and using Carlson’s own words to make his points. For example, he showed a clip of Carlson asking a guest, “Maybe I don’t want to live in a country that looks nothing like the one I grew up in. Is that bigoted?”

Oliver said, “Uh, yeah. Yeah, it is. That’s like saying I’ve got 10 fingers and toes, a pointy face with a little pink rosebud mouth, a cat-sized body, a long, weird tail and I eat garbage. Does that make me a possum? Yes. Yes, it does. That’s the literal definition of the thing you just described.”

Oliver added, “He is scared of a country that ‘looks nothing like the one he grew up in’ because diversity ‘isn’t our strength,’ immigrants make our country ‘poorer, dirtier and more divided,’ and any attempt to change that culture is an attack on Western civilization. All of which is really just a long way of saying that when Tucker asks, ‘What is white supremacy?’ the answer is: basically that. It’s a belief that in a country where white people are dominant, that’s all down to their natural and innate abilities, and any effort to change that is an affront to the natural order of things.”

These are just a few of the comments Oliver made in a segment that was pure genius. And absolutely pointed out what makes Carlson so incredibly dangerous.

It’s a must-see clip.

Oh, one more thing about Carlson. The latest column from The Washington Post’s Max Boot: “Tucker Carlson should stop pretending he cares about the women and men in uniform.”

The latest with Alden and Tribune Publishing

On Sunday night, New York Times media reporter Marc Tracy reported that the impending takeover of Tribune Publishing by Alden Global Capital might be averted if Stewart Bainum Jr., who has agreed to buy The Baltimore Sun, puts together a bid to buy all 10 of Tribune’s papers.

That would be welcome news for many who have witnessed hedge fund Alden’s deep cost-cutting at the news outlets they’ve acquired. But let’s not get too far ahead.

As far as Bainum buying all of Tribune’s publications, Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds writes, “That’s possible, but not all that likely in my view.”

For starters, Edmonds points out, Bainum would have to come up with 10 times that amount seeing as how Alden’s bid is valued at $630 million.

There’s more to why this could be a long shot, so check out Edmonds’ piece.

A well-deserved award

Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins with her father, Dan, in 2009. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins has been named the 2021 winner of the Red Smith Award — awarded by the Associated Press Sports Editors and considered one of the most prestigious awards in sportswriting. It annually recognizes a sportswriter or editor who has “major contributions to sports journalism.” It’s named for iconic sports columnist Red Smith.

Past winners include legendary sportswriters Jim Murray, Edwin Pope, Dave Kindred, Dave Anderson, Christine Brennan and Jenkins’ father Dan.

For my money, Jenkins is the best sports columnist in the country and this honor is well-deserved if not long overdue.

“Wow,” Jenkins told the APSE. “I’m really honored. You never figure on stuff like this.”

Sadly, her father, Dan, passed away in 2019.

Jenkins, who presented her father with the award in 2013, told the APSE, “I wish he’d been around to see this.”

The Times nominated for two Oscars

Academy Award nominations came out Monday and The New York Times scored not one, but two nominations.

The film “Time” was nominated in the Documentary Feature category and the op-doc “A Concerto Is a Conversation” was nominated in the Documentary Short Subject category.

“Time,” from the Times and Amazon, told the story of Fox Rich, the matriarch who strives to keep her family together while fighting for the release of her incarcerated husband. “A Concerto Is a Conversation” actually appeared on The Times’ website. It follows Kris Bowers, a young Black composer who worked on projects including “Green Book” and “Bridgerton,” as he tracked his family’s lineage from Jim Crow Florida to Hollywood.

The Oscars will be held April 25.

A Post correction

The Washington Post has added a correction to its story from January that claimed then-President Donald Trump told the chief investigator of the Georgia secretary of state’s office to “find the fraud” in the state’s election and she would become a “national hero.” (This is not the same story as the Post’s blockbuster story of Trump’s phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.)

Last week, The Wall Street Journal obtained the recording of the phone call from Trump to the investigator. In it, Trump did ask the investigator to search for voter fraud and said she would be “praised,” but he didn’t say some of the words verbatim as the Post reported.

That led to the Post adding this correction to the top of that story:

Correction: Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator. The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source. Trump did not tell the investigator to “find the fraud” or say she would be “a national hero” if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find “dishonesty” there. He also told her that she had “the most important job in the country right now.” A story about the recording can be found here. The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.

As corrections go, this is a chunky one. Yes, Trump’s call still was improper. However, quotes attributed to the president of the United States — and pretty charged quotes at that — were, in fact, not said at all. It’s true that sometimes news outlets are given bad information by a source, but that’s when it is critical for a news outlet to be absolutely sure the source’s information is correct. In this case, the Post story was picked up by other news organizations, which relied on the Post for providing accurate information.

This doesn’t destroy the Post’s reputation or credibility, as some would have you believe. Nor does it erode the “mainstream media.”

But, it was not good either.

Media tidbits

  • Lester Holt will interview Delta CEO Ed Bastian on tonight’s “NBC Nightly News.” Bastian will talk about how the airline plans to get passengers flying again, the health of the air travel industry and how airline employees are dealing with passengers who refuse to wear masks. The interview is part of NBC News’ weeklong coverage of the future of travel.
  • As expected and as I wrote Sunday, NFL star Drew Brees, who announced his retirement over the weekend, told the “Today” show on Monday that he is joining NBC Sports as a football analyst. He’s expected to be a game commentator for NBC’s Notre Dame coverage, as well as work in the studio as an analyst for the “Football Night in America” pregame show. Someday, he could move to the game analyst for “Sunday Night Football.”
  • Cool video of the day: Tiffany Haddish finds out she won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album while filming with children for “Kids Say the Darndest Things with Tiffany Haddish.”
  • Speaking of The Grammys, the show on CBS Sunday night drew 8.8 million viewers, an all-time low for the show and a 53% drop from a year ago. Before Sunday, the lowest year ever was 2006 when the show drew 17 million viewers. However, this year’s Grammys did outdraw the Golden Globes, which drew 6.9 million viewers on NBC two weeks ago.
  • The latest news from Facebook and Australia as The Verge’s Nick Statt writes, “Facebook strikes News Corp deal to license news from Australian media outlets.”

Hot type

CNN’s Arwa Damon reports from Syria. (Courtesy: CNN)

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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