Tag Archives: MSNBC

Time of My Life, Part 42: I met him before he was famous

Chris Matthews is celebrating 20 years as host of an MSNBC news/commentary talk show, “Hardball.” He has been getting salutes from fellow media stars, politicians and entertainers.

I don’t qualify as any of those categories of individuals, but I want to offer a salute of my own.

You see, I met Chris Matthews once before he was, well, “Chris Matthews.”

It was the summer of 1992 in sweltering Houston, Texas. Matthews and I worked for the same media corporate employer, the Hearst Corporation. I was attending the Republican National Convention at the Houston Astrodome while working as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise; Matthews was there as a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner. He hadn’t yet made his big splash on cable news TV, although Matthews was a frequent guest — as I remember it — on the PBS program “The McLaughlin Group.”

The Hearst Newspapers had a work station deep in the bowels of the Astrodome. We all had our areas where we could organize our notes and send stories back to our newspapers through the primitive computer systems we used at the time.

One morning, I went to the small coffee bar we had set up in our work stations. Who do you think joined me there? Chris Matthews, that’s who. We chatted for a few minutes. I told him I enjoyed publishing his column in the Beaumont Enterprise; he thanked me for the exposure was getting in Southeast Texas. We had a laugh or two about what we had seen the previous day. Then our encounter ended.

My recollection of this guy, whose media personality is loud, brash, borderline rude is that he was much quieter when he was chatting with a fellow Hearst-oid. Yes, he is a gentleman.

OK, I admit to being a bit star struck as I recall that brief meeting. I doubt Chris Matthews would remember it, given the journeys our respective lives took after that encounter in the Houston Astrodome.

If he would remember, I would be flattered to the max. If he doesn’t, that’s all right. I do.

Trump throws out prospect of violence?

Did I understand the president of the United States correctly?

I think I heard that he made some remark to Breitbart News about how “tough” his supporters are, or can get, if criticism of him doesn’t let up.

Here is a quote from the Breitbart interview as posted by USA Today: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC had a lengthy commentary on Donald Trump’s interview, suggesting that the 45th president of the United States is suggesting there might be a coup if events don’t go according to the way Trump wants them to go.

Wow, man!

I am wondering what Trump means by “a certain point.” I am left to believe that he presumes his “tough” supporters might be inclined to rise up and strike at those who are critical of the president. Does anyone else share that presumption.

O’Donnell also sought to make the point that not all bikers are for Trump; nor are all police officers; or nor are all military personnel.

Then came the president’s spinmeister in chief, Kellyanne Conway, to tell CNN’s Chris Cuomo that the president actually was describing how “gentle” his supporters are and that there is no explicit or implied threat of violence in the Breitbart News interview.

Oyyy!

Well, I understand today that Trump took down a Twitter message he posted about the Breitbart interview. Great! That’s nice, Mr. President . . . except that the damage is done.

I’m just sayin’, this guy is frightening in the extreme.

Trump keeps making media the ‘story’

I long have considered it a terrible journalistic sin for the media to become part of the story they are covering.

I worked in the media for nearly four decades and I managed over that span of time to steer clear of any discussion of an issue I was covering. Occasionally an organization that employed me would get entangled in the story; they would manage to wriggle themselves free.

The Age of Trump has produced an entirely different dynamic.

He labels the media the “enemy of the people.” His followers buy into it. They demonstrate in front of cable, broadcast and print reporters seeking only to do their job.

It’s getting weird to watch the news these days and hear all these references to cable networks involved so deeply in the covering of current events. For instance:

  • Fox News Channel has been banned from Democratic primary presidential debates because it has become a virtual arm of the Trump administration. Its commentators are known to be in constant communication with Donald Trump, reportedly offering policy advice to the president.
  • CNN, MSNBC are on the other end of the spectrum. Their commentators take great delight in chastising their colleagues at Fox. Meanwhile, Fox fires back at their competitors/colleagues. Oh, and the president hangs “fake news” labels on all media that report news that he finds disagreeable.

It all reminds of an athletic event where the attention turns to the referee. You want to concentrate on the athletes, not the individuals who discern whether they’re breaking the rules.

We’re concentrating increasingly on the media reporting of the issues at hand, and less so on the actual issues that are being discussed.

It’s a distressing trend that appears — to my way of thinking — to have no possible exit for the media.

‘Fair and balanced’? Sure thing

They call themselves the “Fox ‘News’ Channel.” It’s a conservative-leaning cable network that has purported to present the “news” in a “fair and balanced” manner.

Well, check out the caption under the TV image that flashed on the Fox “News” Channel. It parrots the epithet that Donald J. Trump has used to disparage U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who has just announced the formation of an exploratory committee to help her decide to run for president in 2020.

The “Pocahontas” label, of course, is Trump’s way of ridiculing Warren’s contention that she has some Native American blood in her background. The president has decided Warren’s claim is without merit, so he has hung that label on her.

Fox has glommed onto it as well.

Is that how one might define a mainstream “news” network’s “fair and balanced” coverage of a still-developing presidential campaign?

Imagine what political conservatives might think — and say — if CNN or MSNBC broadcast an image of Donald Trump with the caption that read “Cadet Bone Spur,” or “Liar in Chief,” or, well . . . you get the idea.

The Fox “News” Channel simply demonstrates yet again that it is neither “fair” or “balanced.” It serves instead as a de facto presidential mouthpiece.

Disgraceful.

Language might give away author’s ID

MSNBC commentator Lawrence O’Donnell has posited an “educated guess” on who he thinks wrote the anonymously published op-ed column that talks about White House efforts to protect the nation against the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

O’Donnell thinks it’s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who’s in his 70s and is occupying the final public service job in his career.

The more I think about it the more plausible O’Donnell’s guess appears to be.

Then I went back to the essay and found this passage: … United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior.

I zeroed in on a pair of terms: malign behavior.

I have heard that phrase used exactly once in my life. It was stated recently to discuss the Russian involvement in attacking our electoral system.

It came from, yep, DNI Dan Coats.

Coincidence that it appeared in this NY Times commentary? I think not. Read the essay here.

MSM now gets pounded … from the left!

The so-called “mainstream media” can’t get a break.

They’ve long been the punching bag for conservative media and fellow right-wing adherents, suggesting that the mainstream media were tools of the liberal/progressive left.

But, hey, get a load of this: Now the mainstream media are under attack from a noted liberal/progressive activist who blames the MSM for allowing Donald J. Trump to be elected president of the United States in 2016.

Welcome back to the fray, actor/comedian Rosie O’Donnell, an occasional target of Trump’s insults and barbs.

According to The Hollywood Reporter: Though speaking to MSNBC, the comedian did not shy away from critiquing the network for being one of the outlets that refused to be sufficiently critical of Trump. “It took you guys a long time to call him a liar, and the man’s been lying every single day since he’s been in office,” she argued.

Though the president and O’Donnell have notoriously feuded in the past, with Trump once referring to her as a “fat pig,” the comedian says she’s actually “never spoken” to Trump. “He was on my show once. …. But I never spoke to him in my life.”

So, there you have it. The mainstream media have been targeted from those on both ends of the political spectrum.

If I were still working for an MSM outlet, I would consider it a compliment.

Trump defends a killer? Weird, man

Donald J. Trump’s infatuation with men who run their nations under heavy boots, heavy hands and sheer fright is shining more brightly than ever.

The president is defending his newest best friend, Kim Jong Un, by suggesting that his ruthlessness in governing North Korea is done out of necessity.

Here is how Politico reported some of what Trump has said about Kim: “He’s a tough guy,” the president said during a Fox News interview that aired Wednesday. “When you take over a country, a tough country, tough people and you take it over from your father — I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have — if you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.”

So, Kim’s father — Kim Jong Il — died in 2011, giving the young man a chance to lead his desperately poor nation. How does Kim Jong Un respond? By furthering the starvation, intimidation, abuses, crimes against humanity that his father and grandfather made infamous during their respective regimes.

Politico continued: Trump made his comments Tuesday aboard Air Force One on his return from Singapore, where he’d met with Kim and hailed the North Korean leader as a “smart” and “funny guy” who “loves his people.”

Smart? Funny guy? Someone who “loves” his people?

He is cagey, cunning and supremely frightening to his subjects, the citizens of North Korea.

I laughed out loud last night when MSNBC commentator Lawrence O’Donnell made this curious observation: He said Kim Jong Un is the only “overweight” North Korean because he — unlike his subjects — is able to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants and in whatever quantities he chooses. North Korea’s citizens, meanwhile, are starving — many of them to death.

This is the guy Donald Trump calls “honorable”?

Disgraceful.

More armchair diagnosis is coming

John Harwood is an educated man. He’s smart. He is well-spoken. He can string sentences together.

He lacks, however, a certain credential that is important in his assessing the president’s state of mind and, I’ll presume, his medical competence: Harwood lacks a medical degree.

He writes for the New York Times, he once wrote for the Wall Street Journal and he is a contributor to CNBC, the cable news network that specializes in business news. He graduated from Duke University with a degree in history and economics.

But here he goes, popping off about Donald Trump’s mental state. He said the president’s press conference before departing the G-7 summit was a stumbling, bumbling performance.

Then he said this on MSNBC: I got to say that the upshot about this press conference was about tariffs. I’ll be honest as a citizen: I’m concerned about the president’s state of mind. He did not look well to me in that press conference. He was not speaking logically or rationally. It sounded as if he was making stuff up, saying China told me nobody’s ever talked to us, saying, ‘Oh, I talked to Justin Trudeau and can’t believe he was getting away with so much trade stuff.’

I don’t think those things are true. And he — there was something about his affect which was oddly kind of languid for him. I don’t know what it means but he did not look well to me.

C’mon, Mr. Harwood. Leave the diagnoses to the pros, the individuals who have training in observing people’s behavior.

This kind of cheap-seat evaluation is getting tiresome. A journalist’s national forum does not give him license to discuss issues of which he knows nothing.

Suck it up, Michael Wolff, and take the heat

I am well into Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” and am finding it an interesting and entertaining piece of work. Much of it rings true as well.

But when the author goes on these national TV talk shows to discuss some of the more, um, salacious elements of the book, he needs to prepare for the grilling he should expect to get.

He got grilled hard this week on MSNBC by “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, who wondered why he would suggest that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley would be engaging in an affair with Donald John Trump.

Wolff took offense at the question. Brzezinski persisted, noting that he implies an alleged Haley-Trump “relationship” near the end of his book.

The back-and-forth continued for a few moments before Brzezinski shut the interview down.

Wolff defamed Haley, according to Brzezinski. Wolff decided to go after the MSBNC co-host in a series of tweets after his appearance on “Morning Joe.”

I won’t comment yet on “Fire and Fury,” as I have a good bit of it yet to read. I do object, though, to assertions he is making about our nation’s U.N. ambassador and the president. This is a serious head-scratcher, given the ubiquitous presence of cameras, recording devices and other gadgets that can detect any kind of, um, “suspicious” behavior.

As for the author’s inability or unwillingness to endure tough questioning from journalists, well, he needs to toughen up.

This former GOP rep has, um, ‘evolved’

Joe Scarborough has gone through an interesting evolution since when he was a young member of Congress from Florida.

He was a conservative Republican who once voted to impeach President Clinton. Then he left public office in 2001 and has pursued a career as a cable news host and commentator.

Now he is one of Donald J. Trump’s most reviled critics. He has left the Republican Party; he’s engaged to be married to his MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host, Mika Brzezinski.

He is now speaking more, um, candidly about the president and, to my mind, is speaking more truthfully about many of the nonsensical things that fly out of the president’s mouth.

He said this week that had Democratic presidents, such as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, “slandered” the FBI the way Trump has done, conservatives would mount a virtual all-out rebellion against either of them. They would give Obama or Clinton “holy hell” for saying the things Trump has said.

He now accuses the GOP of being “accomplices with their silence” about the president’s harsh criticism of the FBI.

Indeed, there once was a time when Americans hardly ever heard Republicans say things out loud that one could construe as critical of law enforcement. Indeed, the GOP was often considered to be the “law and order” party.

Those days are gone. The roles seem reversed, with Democrats now standing solidly behind the FBI as it seeks to do its job.

So, too, is Joe Scarborough, the one-time Republican who’s had enough of his former political party and its leader, the president of the United States.

Welcome to the club, Joe.