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The Anheuser-Busch commercial for the Superbowl this year, scheduled to air on February 5, has kicked up a storm and is viewed by a number of Americans as pro-immigration advertising.

It comes a week after President Donald Trump initiated a 90-day immigration ban on seven countries which have majority Muslim populations. These selected countries lack the means for sufficient background checks on their own citizens. (More about this in a future post.)

See if you think this is political commentary:

I have two problems with it. First, by the time Adolphus Busch arrived in the United States in 1857, Germans had been emigrating there for a century, at least. They were well established in society. Secondly, it was unclear to me that the final scene was the famous ‘when Anheuser met Busch’ moment. I thought he was a random guy in a bar until I saw a YouTube from Mark Dice explaining it in the first minute or so:

Budweiser, owned by InBev — a Belgian corporation — denies it is commenting on Trump policy or an anti-immigration climate.

However, I cannot help but wonder if Adolphus Busch would have wanted to be portrayed in that way. Most immigrants wanted to assimilate straightaway. They were not going to dwell on the voyage over, their processing time at Ellis Island or their early years getting established. Everything was about becoming an American.

If you doubt this, then, please be aware that his Wikipedia entry states (emphases mine):

His wealthy family ran a wholesale business of winery and brewery supplies. Busch and his brothers all received quality educations, and he graduated from the notable Collegiate Institute of Belgium in Brussels.[2]

Another German immigrant came to America in the 19th century. His name was Friedrich Trump, pictured at left (courtesy of Wikipedia). He was a Lutheran and came from Kallstadt in Bavaria. He managed to make a fortune within three years. He went everywhere, from New York to the Yukon. Nary a complaint. Even the most recent Channel 4 documentary by anti-Trump Matt Frei on his grandson — shown in late January 2017 — painted Friedrich as a clever, enterprising businessman. That makes me think Adolphus Busch was of the same entrepreneurial mindset.

You didn’t go to the US as a victim then, that’s for sure.

Incidentally, Friedrich returned to Kallstadt after three years only to go through a series of legal hurdles regarding his German nationality! He found out it had been revoked, possibly because he went to the US around the time he was to do his military service. So, back to America he went and the rest is history. According to Matt Frei’s documentary, Friedrich quietly enjoyed his life a lot but died in the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. His widow, Elizabeth — also from Kallstadt — set up a real estate company for her middle son Fred, the president’s father. It was called Elizabeth Trump & Son. Fred was still a minor at the time, even though he was precocious enough to follow in his father’s footsteps and get small houses built.

I recommend that we need to watch these adverts with a gimlet eye and research the immigrant mindset of the 19th and early 20th centuries, very much oriented to assimilating into American society — as future Americans.

Sean Hannity is well known to Americans, even those who do not watch Fox News.

On Thursday, January 26, 2017, President Donald Trump granted him an interview which is well worth watching, especially for people overseas who are fearful of him.

Trump talks about the dishonest media (starting at 11:00), including the fake news about the inauguration crowds, his address to the CIA and the Martin Luther King Jr bust controversy.

He talks about terrorists (around 23:00) and says that opponents to his policies do not understand how violent and hateful radical Islamists are.

On the walk to the Oval Office (starting at 30:00), Trump tells Hannity that Inauguration Day was a ‘surreal’ experience. Unfortunately, he has not had time to take it all in. He has been too busy working. However, he enjoys working. Holidays bore him. He also said that Barron, his ten-year-old son, is finding it challenging adjusting to the glare of publicity. However, given time, he is confident that the boy will learn to take it in his stride. Trump strongly condemned Saturday Night Live‘s potshot at the first son on the January 21 show. Barron is aware of the egregious comedy they made at his expense. Here is another SNL comment, one which even Bernie fans and Green Party supporters found abhorrent. These are hurtful, especially to a child.

Once in the Oval Office, the discussion revolved around some of the furnishings which Trump has changed. The paintings are all of past presidents from the first century of the United States. Andrew Jackson has just been added. I’ll go into his story soon, as I see several similarities between Trump and Old Hickory. We also saw the bust of Martin Luther King Jr, which is unmoved and still on a table near the fireplace.

This is a thoughtful interview, more of a conversation between two men who know each other well. I highly recommend it.

Sorry to be late to the party with this item, but it was in our two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Britain’s foremost television (and radio) guide.

In the 17-30 December 2016 issue, the back page interview was with Prime Minister Theresa May, also the MP for Maidenhead. She answered a variety of questions from reporter Michael Hodges. Excerpts and a summary follow.

On Christmas Day, she and her husband Philip go to church. Afterwards, they meet up with friends for a drink, then it’s off to an ecumenical lunch for the elderly, where May takes time to talk with her constituents.

The Mays return home where the Prime Minister roasts a goose for Christmas dinner. They haven’t had turkey for several years. Although others consider goose to be extremely fatty, May points out:

if you keep the fat, it makes wonderful roast potatoes for quite a long time thereafter.

Absolutely. We also have goose at Christmas, partly for that reason, and for the unctuous stock from the wings.

May, a practising Anglican, lent the Radio Times a photo of herself as a girl with her late father, the Revd Hubert Brasier. She told Michael Hodges what Christmas past was like:

Throughout my life I have been going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day morning. As a child I had to wait until my father had finished his services before I could open my presents.

It felt like a very long wait. Others I knew would be able to open their presents first thing in the morning.

I’m an only child and my mother played the organ. So I would sit alongside her while my father was taking the service.

The interview did not mention that May’s parents died within a year of each other. Her father died just as she completed her studies at Oxford and her mother several months later. It can’t have been easy for her, especially with no siblings for support:

When you first lose your parents, Christmas is hugely, hugely important. Now I enjoy Christmas with my husband Philip and we keep up the tradition of going to church. But, of course, it does remind me of my parents.

During her childhood, she watched only the BBC, until:

one day, my mother managed to jiggle the aerial and we got ITV and I saw Robin Hood. That music and Richard Greene as Robin Hood really grabbed me.

This is the iconic theme to which May refers:

May’s other television favourites included early series of The Avengers with Diana Rigg, then Joanna Lumley, although:

I have never had a female role model — I’ve always just got on with doing what I am doing.

As an adult, she watched the ‘very evocative’ Das Boot. These days, she enjoys Scandinavian dramas Borgen and The Bridge. Christmas Day favourites include Doctor Who and David Suchet as Poirot.

She doesn’t take recommendations for television viewing:

My advisers don’t tell me what to watch on the television — I watch what I want to watch.

May ended the interview by saying she had no idea a year ago that she would be Prime Minister today.

What follows is her four-minute New Year’s message. If her father was as eloquent a speaker as his daughter is, he must have been a splendid vicar. May speaks of the change that Brexit will bring this year but also of the unity of the four nations of the United Kingdom and the shared values and experiences that make us one people:

This is very similar to the first speech she gave as Prime Minister outside No. 10.

She and Donald Trump will get on well. Of that, I have no doubt.

This year, two old and significant predictions about Donald Trump as president surfaced.

The older one dates from 1990. Scott Adams foresaw this in Dilbert 26 years ago:

 

In 2000, the Simpsons’ creators predicted a Trump presidency. Lisa succeeds him as the first female president and sets out to fix ‘Trump’s’ budget deficit.

As the narrator of this fascinating selection of clips from The Simpsons explains, there was no animation of Trump in the 2000 episode, just a mention of his name.

The animation of Trump came later in a 2015 short made after he declared his candidacy at Trump Tower. In it, Homer gets lost in the vortex of the billionaire’s hair.

The video above has more odd predictions from The Simpsons. Some are more accurate than others. Of particular interest is the 1997 clip showing iPhone-type mobile devices and another one from that year about Ebola. Fascinating!

2 Minutes into Tuck and Chill and he gives you this lookTucker Carlson might not yet be a household name, but it could be soon.

His Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight began just a little over a month ago on November 14, 2016.

(Photo credit: The_Donald)

Seasoned viewers of American cable news channels will have seen him on CNN between 2000 and 2005 in the days when he sported a bow tie. He was CNN’s youngest anchor when they hired him. He co-hosted The Spin Room and later Crossfire. He also hosted a current affairs show on PBS during this time, Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered.

In 2004, Carlson and The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart got into an intense discussion on Crossfire, which some viewers might remember. Stewart stayed on the air afterwards to talk about the issues raised. In January 2005, CNN decided not to renew Carlson’s contract, although he maintains he had already resigned:

I resigned from Crossfire in April, many months before Jon Stewart came on our show, because I didn’t like the partisanship, and I thought in some ways it was kind of a pointless conversation … each side coming out, you know, ‘Here’s my argument’, and no one listening to anyone else. [CNN] was a frustrating place to work.”[10]

In June 2005, Carlson moved to MSNBC where he hosted Tucker in the evenings. He also did other broadcasts and investigative reports. However, the channel’s shows became more oriented to the left-wing and, in 2008, Carlson found his programme cancelled because of low ratings. He explained:

they didn’t have a role for me.

Carlson began working for Fox News in 2009 as a contributor, guest panellist and substitute presenter on several shows. He joined the Fox & Friends team in 2013 then left when he got his own show.

In January 2010, with the help of a longtime friend Neil Patel, Carlson co-founded The Daily Caller, a reputable and popular news site. He resigned as editor-in chief in November, although he will retain his ownership stake of the site. He said:

It was really hard. Not because I’m a great manager, I’m a terrible manager. But I loved it and I loved the guys.

Tucker Carlson Tonight airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET. All the segments can be found on YouTube.

Carlson is quickly developing a welcome reputation for destroying left-wing arguments coherently. He is firm but polite. When the guests’ arguments are particularly off-the-wall, he pulls a face. In fact, you can even buy a tee shirt and enjoy his facial expression whenever you like.

The_Donald‘s contributors, not the world’s biggest television viewers, have this to say:

You see in his eyes that’s he trying to go through the mental gymnastics his guest is and realizing just how it doesn’t compute.

I’m getting addicted to his nightly thrashings of idiots. Never raises his voices, uses their own words and idiocy against them. Has become true must-see tv in our house.

His show comes on right around the time I’m cooking and eating dinner. I have never recorded a news show before because it seems silly, but I record Tucker every night now!

I just really enjoy the way he encourages them to go full moron on national tv.

Oh man… I literally sit down to start watching and the first guest is just getting blown out the water to the point where I don’t even know if I can watch without cringing. Tucker does more in 2 minutes than whole news outlets do all day. Every show is bananas and so direct! Love it

There is more love from The_Donald here and here. There is also a Reddit page devoted to him. This is great because most of the contributors to both subReddits are twenty-somethings and political independents who supported Donald Trump.

In this video of December 8, California Congressman Adam Schiff (D) accuses Tucker of ‘carrying water for the Kremlin’:

On December 1, he had a go at Newsweek:

And, the following day, the New York Times:

From observing his interviewing style and reading his Wikipedia entry, until recently, I have been working on the assumption that he is High WASP.

After all, he went to a top Episcopal school in New England, St George’s, just outside of swank Newport, Rhode Island. The school is one of five collectively referred to as St Grottlesex (emphases in the original):

St. Mark’s, St. Paul’s, and St. George’s, then part of Groton, an extra t, and then ended with Middlesex.

Carlson went on to study history at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. It was founded by an Episcopal bishop in 1824 and was originally called Washington College. It was renamed Trinity in 1845.

I once worked for a High WASP who attended Groton and Trinity. (Groton rhymes with ‘rotten’, by the way. It’s important to know how to pronounce it if you ever find yourself in this milieu.) I give him top marks overall. So, I was impressed to see that Carlson went to St George’s and Trinity, which gives me further insight as to what sort of man he must be. It is not unusual for Trinity men to wear bow ties. It’s a High WASP look.

Then I looked up his father’s Wikipedia entry and discovered that the Carlson family aren’t High WASP at all. His dad’s life story is even more interesting.

Richard Warner “Dick” Carlson might be best known for heading Voice of America, which broadcasts overseas, during the last six years of the Cold War. During that time, he was also the head of Radio Marti which broadcast to Cuba and was also involved with other government-funded information entities designed to build goodwill between the United States and foreign countries.

Dick’s origins are fascinating. He was born in Boston in 1941 and his name was Richard Boynton. His mother was a high school student and his father, Richard Boynton, was in college at the time. Boynton committed suicide in Dick’s infancy. His mother, Dorothy Anderson, gave him to the Home for Little Wanderers, an orphanage in Boston.

In 1943, Mr and Mrs W E Carlson of nearby Norwood adopted the child. They had no children of their own. Mr Carlson managed North America’s largest and oldest tannery, Winslow Brothers & Smith in Norwood. Mr Carlson died in 1953 and 12-year-old Dick went to work to help provide for his mother.

Dick never graduated from high school. He joined the military when he was 17 and served as a medic with the third Battalion, Sixth Marine regiment at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and with the USMC Escape & Evasion School at Camp Geiger, N.C. He later graduated from the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Bainbridge, Maryland. Afterwards, he earned a NROTC scholarship to the University of Mississippi.

After being honourably discharged from the Naval Reserves, he worked for one summer as a patrol officer in the family resort town of Ocean City, Maryland. He returned to Mississippi that autumn to continue his studies but left in October 1962 when a series of violent riots occurred. This was the time of Civil Rights unrest and desegregation. Ole Miss, as the university is known, was attempting to admit its first black student, and segregationists went mad.

Carlson went to California to break into journalism. Although he started as a copy boy at the Los Angeles Times, he managed to get odd jobs which would propel his career: working for top entertainment columnist Louella Parsons and for United Press International’s Foreign Film Bureau.

UPI hired him as a full-time general assignment reporter in 1963, working from their bureau in San Francisco. He was promoted to night bureau chief by the end of the year.

He went on to write for Time and Look magazines and joined ABC News as a correspondent, on assignment in San Francisco and Los Angeles. By then, the late 1960s, riots were breaking out around the nation. Dick covered the main ones in California and was even injured at the San Francisco State College Riots.

Dick married an Omaha girl, Patricia Caroline Swanson. In 1969, she gave birth to Tucker McNear Carlson in San Francisco. (The couple have two other children.)

Dick won many awards for his journalism between 1967 and 1997. In the early 1990s, he worked for George Herbert Walker Bush’s administration. He was the Ambassador to the Seychelles, the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (parent company of PBS and NPR). He has also worked in counter-terrorism.

Today, he and his wife live in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Dick writes a weekly newspaper column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Charleston Mercury.

By now, some will be wondering more about Tucker’s Episcopalianism. He did bring up an analogy involving a hypothetical Episcopal priest in a recent show. His Wikipedia page also states that he is still an Episcopalian.

In 2015, he took exception to Obama’s claim that religion causes wars:

“So we’re responsible for the Crusades a thousand years ago?” Carlson complained. “Who’s ‘us’ anyway? And by the way, who ended slavery and Jim Crow? Christians. The Rev. Martin Luther King. Christians.”

“Christianity is the reason we don’t have slavery in the world today,” he added. “I mean, talk about ahistorical.”

“What’s so striking though is his mention of the Crusades as a way to make the point, ‘Before you judge ISIS, keep in mind that that Christians did it too,'” Carlson asserted. “The Crusades is a fixation among jihadis. There’s not a press release from ISIS or from al Qaeda that doesn’t call us Crusaders.”

Democrat-aligned Media Matters took Carlson to task for suggesting that ‘mainstream religious faith’ refers to Christianity when most of the world’s population is, apparently, Buddhist. The exchange below concerns Tiger Woods, who converted to Buddhism in 2010 during a rough patch:

Jacksonville, FL: When did Brit Hume go crazy? Tiger Woods should embrace Christianity and we will forgive him?

You say this on the air?

Tucker Carlson: Crazy? No. John Wayne Gacy was crazy. Judy Garland and Ezra Pound were crazy. Recommending that someone in distress adopt a mainstream religious faith is pretty conventional advice.

Carlson was probably thinking of Westerners, Americans in particular, not people worldwide.

In any event, it’s great that he is willing to defend and speak out on behalf of the Church.

I nearly forgot to mention that Carlson is married and a father of four. Follow him on Twitter.

Canisius College, named after Counter-Reformation leader St Peter Canisius, is located in Buffalo, New York. It is a Jesuit institution of higher learning, founded in 1870.

One of their professors is Dr René De la Pedraja, who has been teaching there since 1989. His speciality is Latin America. He lived in the region for 20 years, mostly in Colombia and Cuba.

On Monday, November 28, 2016, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson interviewed De la Pedraja for his views on Fidel Castro’s death. This is a must-see interview in which, among other things, the professor claims that Cuba under Fidel symbolised freedom.

He says that Castro cracked down on dissidents because they were doctors educated for free who wanted to move overseas to earn more money. Other than that, there was no political oppression. When Carlson pressed him about refugees fleeing any way they could manage, the professor said those people were bored with their wives and families, nothing more. What he says is so absurd, it has to be heard to be believed.

Carlson is a great interviewer, far from the usual Big Media type. He is not afraid to disagree with crackpots. According to people who watch his show regularly, he seeks out leftists and asks them all the questions sensible people would ask. He gives no quarter, but does it conversationally.

At the end of the interview about Castro, he had this exchange with the professor:

Carlson: Well, Cuba is a hellhole. That’s why nobody moves there.

Professor: I’d have to disagree with you.

Carlson: Well, you’re still here, so I doubt that.

On a similar note, here’s a great graphic:

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20120605/extremely_funny_graphs_and_charts_08.jpg

 

The World Series, which the Chicago Cubs won last week, seemed like a great opportunity to escape media bias.

(Image credits: Chicago Cubs)

My English better half and I could not have been more mistaken.

From the start, the two main Fox commentators spoke mostly about the Cleveland Indians.

Only twice — Games 1 and 7 — did they mention that the last time the Cubs won the World Series was in 1908.

On the other hand, they told us every game that the last time Cleveland won the World Series was in 1948.

It got worse. If I had a £1 coin for every time they mentioned Cleveland’s manager Terry Francona, we’d be living in Monaco right now.

We figured the commentators had roots in the American League or ties to Cleveland. After Game 5, I decided to look up John Smoltz and Joe Buck.

Smoltz played for the St Louis Cardinals and Buck’s dad Jack used to be the radio announcer for their games.

The pieces fell into place. The Cubs’ nemesis are the St Louis Cardinals.

No wonder our Cubbies — so deserving of the World Series after 108 years — weren’t getting fair and balanced coverage.

No sooner were they presented with the trophy after a nail-biting win in Game 7 — in Cleveland, no less — than Buck and Smoltz said, ‘Let’s talk to Terry Francona now’. Whaaat?

The in-game coverage was frightful. It was Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland 90% of the time. Time and time again, these guys intimated that the Cubs couldn’t win.

The Indians were certainly formidable, especially in pitching, but the Chicago team should have received equal coverage, particularly as they had the best stats in both leagues for most of the season. Unheard of, especially for them.

Cubs fans will never see another season like this one. Smoltz and Buck should have celebrated it. Too bad they were so small minded to do so.

The icing on the cake was FiveThirtyEight‘s oracle Nate Silver who said he thought the Cubbies had less chance of winning of the World Series than Trump did of winning the presidency. Ha ha!

Nate, this one’s for you:

In closing, MANY thanks to the Cubs, their manager Joe Maddon, team president Theo Epstein (who also transformed the Boston Red Sox into World Series champs), MLB.com and, yes, Fox.

CONGRATULATIONS, CUBS! AFTER 108 YEARS, YOU DID IT!

ENJOY BEING THE 2016 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS!

On September 12, Business Insider recapped Bernie Marcus’s views on the upcoming presidential election.

Marcus founded Home Depot in 1978, served as its first CEO for many years then as chairman until he retired in 2002.

He gives an entrepreneur’s perspective, of which we could use more.

This is what Marcus told Neil Cavuto on FOX Business (emphases mine):

Every indication is that America will go down the drain if in fact she is elected.

“When I listen to Hillary Clinton and I listen to the [economists] who never in their life ever hired a human being or trained a human being, I say, I don’t know the world that they belong in. I know that when you have high taxes that you kill off jobs. Killing off jobs means hurting America. It means hurting the economic wealth of America — and that’s not good for anybody.

All of the Republicans out there, I say the same thing … [If you’re] going to stay neutral, you might as well vote for [Hillary Clinton] because your lack of vote for Donald means she’s going to get elected anyway,” he said. “You may not like him, but you [have to] vote for him because he’s going to save this country.”

Marcus is correct.

In a similar vein — for conscience voters or third-party adherents — this is what a Bernie supporter wrote recently, using Jill Stein (Green) as an example:

By voting for Trump, you add 1 vote to him, and 0 vote to Hillary, and so that’s a real action in the real world of electoral politics: it puts Trump up 1. By voting for Hillary, you add 1 vote to her, and 0 vote to Trump, and so that too is a real action in the real world of electoral politics: it puts Hillary up 1. Either vote is a real vote.

The real world of electoral politics is the foundation of democracy, without which it can’t function at all. Fantasy votes are not votes that can even possibly participate in democracy. For example: by voting instead for Jill Stein, you add 0 vote to each of the two real-world contestants, just the same as you would be doing by staying home on Election Day.

This is not the time to be holier-than-thou about voting. This year, Americans are voting to save or destroy what remains of the Great Republic.

Last Thursday, I saw shocking scenes of East Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, in a documentary on ITV1 called Trump’s America – Will It Happen?

East Cleveland is becoming the next Detroit. The mayor told the interviewer that he desperately wants to get the community incorporated into Cleveland so its residents have a chance of survival.

Currently, so many homes in East Cleveland have been razed that the land is becoming wild again, as it is in much of Detroit. The film crew were even able to get footage of a deer ambling down a street.

The programme opened with a profile of Youngstown. When I saw it, I nearly wept. What was filmed looked like a judgement.

When I was growing up, Youngstown was a model American city with hard working people. Of course, they had the steel industry then — long gone — and to hear former steel workers say that no one in Washington DC cares was heartbreaking, even though it is very true.

Generally speaking, this is the fault of the Democrats. Generations of voters have elected them to power time and time again. Each generation has lived in a more precarious environment socially and economically than the one before. Nowadays, even an eye-wateringly expensive college degree can’t guarantee economic security.

Donald Trump — with no establishment ties — is America’s last chance.

As the aforementioned Bernie supporter, a historian, wrote, not voting for Trump means:

throwing away the only such opportunity that the U.S. oligarchy (slipped-up and) allowed us to have.

Much like Brexit.

There is one chance, however accidental it might be, and one only.

Some churchgoers find other Christians blogging on politics distasteful.

I can assure everyone that if Hillary Clinton wins, I will do my best to refrain from writing posts on American politics in future.

Because — at that point — America will soon be finished.

In The Conservative Treehouse thread on Donald Trump’s visit to Detroit, which I covered on Sunday, one of the site’s readers shared a bit of television history.

She works in captioning and is in her 30s. She did not know the following about televised news, which is in Episode 5 of the eight-part documentary Television. Episode 1 is below:

In it, she says she was surprised to discover (emphases mine):

Sponsors (like Camel Cigarettes) had great control over the content of the news. For example, news could not show politicians smoking cigars, except for Winston Churchill.

John F. Kennedy’s campaign worked with CBS to make him look better compared to Richard Nixon. This information came straight from the people who did it, it’s not a conspiracy theory. Among the tricks: They told Nixon to wear a light suit because the background would be dark. However, they used a light background, and JFK “just happened” to show up in a dark suit. They kept the studio too warm knowing that Nixon was prone to sweating, and that it would make his makeup look awful. They had the candidates stand knowing that Nixon had a bad leg and it would cause him to shift his weight (looking nervous or untrustworthy).

The press (in particular Sam Donaldson, who was interviewed for this program) dismissed Reagan’s huge rallies as being stacked with supporters just for show, and claimed that there were no people “off the streets”. However, they did seem to indicate that the huge rallies worked to sway public opinion, which was interesting considering that so many are dismissive of DJT’s yuge crowds now (which are NOT rigged).

I remember that bit about Reagan rallies.

My mother and I used to discuss that often in 1980. She, a Reagan supporter, was sure they were real. I, a John Anderson supporter by then (originally Jimmy Carter), said they were fake.

See how much misplaced faith I had in television news in my early 20s?

I agree with the lady, who concluded that we are very fortunate to have the Internet and alternative means of news which get us away from Big Media.

When I lived in the US, I enjoyed watching The McLaughlin Group on PBS.

(Photo credit: The McLaughlin Group on Facebook)

It was a political programme unlike any other: rapid-fire conversation concluding with weekly predictions in soundbites. I watched during the 1980s, when the line up was host Dr John McLaughlin with panellists Morton Kondracke of The New Republic, Jack Germond of The Baltimore Sun and Bob Novak. The show always closed with McLaughlin’s trademark ‘Bye bye’.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was still on the air and that McLaughlin never missed an episode until last weekend, when he was too ill to broadcast. He was 89 years old and, sadly, died on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 of prostate cancer.

Can you imagine hosting a television show, especially one on politics, when you’re 89 years old? I can’t. Americans were blessed to have had John McLaughlin on their television screens for over three decades.

Host versus panellists

I recall episodes of The McLaughlin Group which indicated backstage tension. My mother and I used to discuss the show during our weekend phone calls. She told me I was reading too much into personalities.

However, The New York Times reveals that not all the panellists were happy campers. Bob Novak left the show in 1988 and later hosted his own programme on CNN. During a PBS interview in 2007, the truth came out. Novak said:

He may not be pure evil, but he’s close to it.

Jack Germond, who was rather quiet on occasion although he always added much to the conversation:

called the show “really bad TV,” and said he had stayed on only because he needed the money to pay his daughter’s medical school tuition.

Whatever they say, millions of us loved the show, in large part for McLaughlin’s style of hosting:

Regardless of the panelists’ political persuasions, Mr. McLaughlin, whose own politics leaned decidedly right, would often fire off questions and cut them off, shouting “Wronnnng!”

Then there were the question and answer predictions at the end of each episode. A NYT reader recalls:

he made my favorite prediction on the last 1999 show: “The question of the 21st century will be science vs. religion and the answer is science! Bye-bye!”

Interesting facts

John Joseph McLaughlin was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 29, 1927. He was the son of Eva P. (née Turcotte) and Augustus H. McLaughlin, who was a regional salesman for a furniture company.

McLaughlin attended LaSalle Academy in Providence and went to Weston College, a Jesuit seminary in Massachusetts. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1947.

His further education did not stop there, and the young priest went on to earn masters degrees in philosophy and English literature from Boston College before obtaining a doctorate from Columbia University.

McLaughlin taught at the Jesuit-run Fairfield Preparatory School in Connecticut and later moved to New York to edit the Jesuit magazine America. Then came the 1960s and the Vietnam War.

By the end of the decade, a handful of Jesuit priests raised their heads above the parapet and became involved in politics. Daniel Berrigan was one well known antiwar activist. Robert Drinan was another; he was a US congressman for Massachusetts between 1971 and 1981.

The same year that Drinan first ran for election — 1970 — saw John McLaughlin, SJ, throw his hat into the ring. He ran for US Senate in Rhode Island as the Republican candidate against the long-serving politician, the much-loved Democrat John Pastore. Not surprisingly, he was trounced.

Whereas Robert Drinan’s superiors approved of his run for Congress, McLaughlin’s sharply disapproved of his. It would not be the first time the feisty priest ran into trouble with his superiors, including the Bishop of Rhode Island.

McLaughlin resigned his editorship of America and went to Washington, DC, to become a speechwriter for then-president Richard Nixon. A mutual friend, Republican adviser and pundit Pat Buchanan, introduced the two. McLaughlin became known as ‘Nixon’s priest’.

McLaughlin was fiercely loyal to the then-president. The NYT tells us:

At one news conference, he dismissed Nixon’s use of profanity as “emotional drainage.” Less than two weeks before the president resigned, Father McLaughlin warned in a speech at the National Press Club that the nation would face a “parade of horrors” should Nixon be impeached. (On July 31, 1973, Father Drinan became the first congressman to call for impeachment in a House resolution.)

Whereas Drinan lived in plain quarters with other Jesuits in Georgetown, McLaughlin had his residence at the upmarket Watergate complex.

When Nixon resigned in 1974, Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford abolished McLaughlin’s post. His superiors ordered him to leave Washington DC for Boston for a period of ‘reflection’. He refused and left the Jesuits. In order to leave the order, he had to petition Pope Paul VI for permission, which was granted in 1975.

Shortly after leaving the Jesuits, McLaughlin married his 1970 campaign manager Ann Dore, who later served as secretary of labor under Ronald Reagan. The couple set up their own media relations and public affairs consulting firm. They divorced in 1992.

Five years later, McLaughlin married Cristina Vidal, who was the vice president of operations for his production company, Oliver Productions, named after his treasured basset hound from the Nixon era. The couple divorced in 2010.

Media career

McLaughlin was a man who always had something to say. Fortunately, Washington DC’s WRC radio recognised this and gave him a weekend talk programme to host in the early 1980s.

From there, McLaughlin worked at National Review when William F Buckley Jr was at the helm. McLaughlin was the magazine’s Washington editor and a regular columnist from 1981 to 1989.

His friends from the early 1970s helped him set up a television production company in the 1980s (pre-Oliver) through which he was able to sell a new kind of political talk show to WRC-TV. The NYT explains what a departure this was:

At the time, TV round tables of journalists like “Agronsky & Company” and “Washington Week in Review” dissected the week’s developments in a sober, nonpartisan style. Mr. McLaughlin envisioned a more animated, argumentative format including a panel reflecting conservative, moderate and liberal views, with him as moderator.

I can tell you that Agronsky & Company and Washington Week in Review were incredibly boring. With The McLaughlin Group, it was as if someone had thrown open a window in a stuffy room. Agree or disagree, it engaged the viewer — and continues to do so.

You can see episodes from 1998 to the present on McLaughlin’s personal website. The episodes also have a link to YouTube. I would recommend watching them rather than selecting the MP3 option, if you can. N.B.: McLaughlin did not appear in the August 12, 2016 show.

His other television shows were John McLaughlin’s One on One, broadcast on PBS and NBC between 1984 and 2013, and a daily interview show which ran on CNBC between 1989 and 1994.

However, The McLaughlin Group was his most popular. In 1992, the NYT asked the ex-Jesuit if his programme ‘depreciated’ journalism. McLaughlin strongly disagreed and replied:

Journalists can get very pompous, especially in the formalized days of Meet the Press, when they took themselves so damned seriously. This show demythologizes the press, and I think people like that.

They do. One NYT reader had this to say:

The Irish have a way with words and the gift of the gab. John McLaughlin was very intelligent and highly educated. I think this is the reason his show was so successful and ran for so many years. I do not think there is an equal in quality programming today.

Nor will we see his like again.

May John McLaughlin rest in peace. He did a great service to the United States, engaging millions of Americans in politics via television for over 30 years.

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