The passion of David Gregory: We thought Mark Geragos delivered a much-needed wet blanket on CNN last night.
Anderson Cooper was killing time until he could talk about his two stolen bikes at the end of his program. (With footage of Peewee Herman! Big fun!) That said, his guests were trying to top each other, and everyone else, in their loathing for the events at Penn State. As always, a former prosecutor was showing that she knew how to convict every man in the house.
Eventually, Geragos spread his wet blanket and tried to get folk to sit down:
GERAGOS (11/14/11): I mean, I like, as much as anybody else, enjoy a good old-fashioned media lynching. And that's exactly what we've had here. I mean, is there anybody that gives a presumption of innocence at this point? No.We don’t agree that the piling-on here is almost unprecedented. We remember the evening when Geragos scolded the loathsome Nancy Grace for the way she had convicted the late Richard Ricci for the crime of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/2/03).
I think that you've seen a kind of a piling on of a degree that's almost unprecedented...
And you know, a lot of this is so reminiscent, to me personally, of what happened when Michael Jackson was first—the charges were first brought against him. And do you remember, Anderson, all of the talk about sleeping with young boys and everything else, and people saying that in and of itself, to quote your other guest here, that's exactly what they do when they groom people and everything else.
This is deja vu, as Yogi Berra would say, all over again. And he ended up being acquitted. So before we go and we say this is, you know, it's a done deal, so to speak, and we condemn them and everything else, I think maybe we step back and take a deep breath for a second.
It turned out Ricci was uninvolved—but he had already died in prison, in part because of Grace’s loathsome behavior. But then, in the past two decades, the lynch mobs have run again and again all through the American “press corps.” The lynch mobs have run with respect to criminal cases. And they have repeatedly stampeded all through our politics too.
For the record, the fact that Jackson was found not guilty doesn’t mean he was factually innocent. For ourselves, we’d be very surprised if it somehow turned out that Jerry Sandusky is an innocent victim in the current matters.
But we agree with what Geragos said next, and his comment involved many more players than Sandusky: “We still live in America. And it's a little disturbing to me, kind of the assumption of guilt here. Because everything that Penn State has done, both to the president and everybody on down, has presumed guilt in this case.”
We agree with that assessment and with that general sentiment. The lynch mobs have been stampeding again, with every pundit eager to declare more outrage, directed at every named player, than every pundit who came before. And this isn’t just on ESPN, where many pundits have exercised very poor judgment. The foolishness has even invaded our most elite preserves.
Consider the suggestion David Gregory made on Meet the Press as he interviewed poor Michele Bachmann. He asked her about the Penn State matter. Last night, Brian Williams had to take up for his friend:
GREGORY (11/13/11): Just, just one more on this. You say it's a state matter. As you know, the Department of Education is looking into this as well, to see if there's an area where federal law applies. Do you think it's a matter for Congress to get involved in? As you know, Congress can look at anything. They did in terms of steroids. They could look at it in terms of, you know, institutional abuse or a conspiracy of silence.It’s hard to turn Bachmann into the sane one, but Gregory managed to do it. But then again, why should this case be taken to Congress? Why not take it to the World Court? Why not go straight to the Hague?
BACHMANN: Well, I think that that's—the pendulum swings, and when something horrific happens people's automatic reaction is somebody needs to do something. But it doesn't necessarily mean that this issue should be kicked up to Congress. I really do believe this needs to stay exactly in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred. Congress has a lot of other things to pay attention to.
Later, Gregory emoted on the same issue with David Brooks and E. J. Dionne. It’s always bad when Maureen Dowd gets quoted. But we were especially struck by the lack of self-knowledge here:
GREGORY: I want to talk about Penn State, to shift gears to something so horrible and disgusting as the allegations there. And, you know, when I read Maureen Dowd's column this week, it helped to really sort of bring it home to me. She was very tough and, and really go to what is so disturbing about the grand jury report.An insular world that protects its own and operates outside of societal norms?
This is what she wrote in part, though, criticizing Penn State. “Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique. And sports, as my former fellow sports columnist at the Washington Star, David Israel, says, is ‘an insular world that protects its own and operates outside of societal norms as long as victories and cash continue to flow bountifully.’ Penn State rakes in $70 million a year from its football program.”
That is what has been alleged to have happened at Penn State, a conspiracy of silence to protect their own.
A conspiracy of silence to protect their own?
Could there be a better description of the way the “press corps” has routinely behaved over the past twenty years? In these basic group dynamics, our press corps is Penn State.
A point of personal privilege:
Each afternoon for several months, we’ve been living in December 1999, reviewing the episode in which the press corps finally branded Candidate Gore a LIAR. It was in that month that the press corps invented a history-changing claim: Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! In order to concoct this stupid claim, they misquoted Gore three or four different ways. Beyond that, they adopted that mocking paraphrase straight from the RNC, on a word-for-word basis. Their group misconduct was endless. In the process, they established the notion that Gore was a LIAR, a notion which sent George Bush to the White House, thereby transforming world history.
Guess what happened as this disgrace unfolded? David Gregory kept his multimillion-dollar trap shut! So did all his corporate-owned colleagues, including Brooks and Dionne.
And yes, we do mean “all.”
Ceci Connolly and Katharine Seelye behaved like absolute clowns that month. Everyone agreed not to notice—and we do mean “everyone.” Except for a bunch of high schools kids who complained long and hard in New Hampshire, getting mocked by the mainstream "press corps" for their troubles.
There have been many victims of the press corps’ group misconduct over the past twenty years. Because he died after getting thrown into prison, Ricci is a striking example. But that description which Gregory read is a perfect description of the press corps’ conduct during this era. In a wide array of cases, they have covered up for various liars—and most especially, for themselves, after they managed to get themselves conned by these people.
Repeatedly, the press corps has behaved this way, in “a conspiracy of silence to protect their own.”
Last night, poor Brian Williams had to make excuses for his excitable colleague. On Piers Morgan Live, he explained the overwrought conduct displayed on Meet the Press:
WILLIAMS (11/13/11): It's the most disturbing story in so long that we've come across, Piers. I saw it in the eyes of my friend David Gregory who was angry yesterday morning on Meet the Press. He has several children. I'm a father of two. And I recognized what I saw in my friend and colleague David, who is normally a very straight down the middle interviewer, but he couldn't help it.Poor David! For all the many millions he’s paid, he just couldn’t help it!
We’ll only repeat what we’ve said above. The descriptions cited on Meet the Press represent a perfect description of the press corps’ routine functioning. They have engaged in endless codes of silence to protect their favorites—and to protect their colleagues, themselves. They have covered up for Gennifer Flowers and for Kathleen Willey. They have endlessly covered for Chris Matthews, even when he almost got an innocent journalist killed. They covered for the ludicrous Ceci Connolly. (Jane Mayer explained that her critics were sexists!) They have lied and lied and lied again.
They never tell you the truth.
Despite this record, they’re highly aroused by the group silence of the very bad folk at Penn State. Sorry:
The mainstream press corps is Penn State. You’re just not allowed to know it.
Goofus and Gallant: In this morning’s New York Times, David Brooks talks some sense about the outrage being voiced by our highly self-confident pundits.
“Let’s All Feel Superior,” his headline says. Given what we know about human functioning, Brooks suggests that his colleagues might not have acted in the glorious ways they’re prepared to suppose, had they confronted the ugly events which transpired at Penn State.
Right next to Brooks’ column is Joe Nocera’s. He acts out in precisely the way Brooks quite sensibly challenges.
Concerning chapter 6: Our chapter on Love Canal is taking much longer to finish than we had expected. For the most part, that’s because of the astonishing ways the “press corps” misbehaved. Highlights:
On November 30, 1999, Al Gore told a sensible story to a group of students at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire.
On December 1, Connolly and Seelye misquoted Gore in the Post and the Times, saying he has dograndiosely boasted about himself once again. That afternoon, the AP did a report on the growing flap—and they managed to misquote Gore in a second way.
On this same day, the RNC issued a mocking paraphrase of what Gore had supposedly said. (Al Gore said he discovered Love Canal! At this point, the RNC was working from the original Connolly misquotation.) This paraphrase was completely absurd—but the press corps quickly adopted it on a word-for-word basis.
Needless to say, Chris Matthews adopted the RNC's language first. His colleagues raced to catch up.
By December 2, pundits had begun to place the paraphrase inside quotes, thus creating a third misquotation. There was an important fourth misquotation, but we won't burden you here. (These misquotations all resulted from a 240-word story.)
Through the use of videotape, the Connolly/Seelye misquotation was corrected on the December 1 Hardball. But so what? The Post and the Times refused to issue corrections, absurdly claiming that their misquotation hadn’t changed Gore’s meaning. And good God! Major “journalists” just kept repeating the misquotation for the next several months.
There’s much more, but these are the highlights.
Very little of this has ever been reported. It’s a difficult story to tell, due to the sheer volume of the press corps' misconduct.
As this disgraceful conduct transpired, David Gregory kept his trap shut. As for Brian Williams, he broadcast the first misquotation on December 6, five days after it was corrected on Hardball. He didn’t correct himself on the air until December 20. But you have to understand Brian’s problem! You see, he was kissing the ass of Jack Welch at the time—Welch, the man who would make him even more wealthy. Today, he’s very, very upset by the group silence at Penn State.
These are horrible people. And make no mistake:
These people are Penn State.