Part 4—The brain cells of Anderson Cooper: A week ago Tuesday, on September 9, Anderson Cooper was puzzled.
The previous day, a damning videotape had been released by TMZ. It showed Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens’ running back, punching his fiancée, Janay Palmer, inside an Atlantic City elevator.
Previously, there had been no tape of what occurred in the elevator. A different videotape had shown Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée off the elevator that night. But there had been no way to see what happened inside the conveyance.
As usual, Cooper was puzzled. Originally, the NFL had suspended Rice for two games and fined him an additional $500,000. When the new videotape appeared, the league hit Rice with an indefinite suspension.
Cooper was puzzled by that. As many other “journalists” would do in the next ten days, he asked Jeffrey Toobin a question:
What possible difference did the new videotape make?
COOPER (9/9/14): Jeff, when you hear the commissioner, Roger Goodell, saying, “Well, we didn't see the tape.” I mean, he said, “We didn't know what was on the tape.”Anybody with brain cells could tell you! Of that fact, Cooper felt sure.
But I mean, anybody with, you know, brain cells can tell you, if you're dragging an unconscious woman out of the vehicle you can get a pretty good idea of what happened inside that elevator.
Based on his work in the past two weeks, Cooper may not be the best person to count up everyone’s brain cells. But in that clip, he was advancing a theme which would become quite common as the Salem Village of cable news staged its latest group chase.
Cooper was suggesting that the new videotape hadn’t added new information to what we already knew about the elevator incident. According to Cooper, the NFL had always had “a pretty good idea” of what happened inside that elevator.
Earlier in the program, Cooper had played tape of the NFL’s Roger Goodell being interviewed by Norah O’Donnell. After playing the tape of Goodell, Cooper stated his point more explicitly:
COOPER: Late today, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this to CBS This Morning's Norah O'Donnell:According to Cooper, it was always “pretty obvious what was on the tape.” It was surprising when Goodell said he didn’t already know what he would see on the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: How is it that the NFL couldn't get their hands on a second tape but a Web site called TMZ could?
GOODELL: Well, I don't know how TMZ or any other Web site gets their information. We are particularly reliant on law enforcement as the most reliable. It's the most credible. And we don't seek to get that information from sources that are not credible.
O'DONNELL: The question becomes, did the NFL drop the ball or was the NFL willfully ignorant about what was on this tape?
GOODELL: Well, we certainly didn't know what was on the tape. But we have been very opened and honest and I have also, from two weeks ago when I acknowledged that we didn't get this right. That's my responsibility and I'm accountable for that.
O'DONNELL: But what changed? I mean, on the first tape she was lying unconscious on the ground, being dragged out. Did you really need to see a videotape of Ray Rice punching her in the face to make this decision?
GOODELL: No. We certainly didn't, and I would tell you that what we saw on the first videotape was troubling to us in it of itself. But what we saw yesterday was extremely clear, it was extremely graphic and it was sickening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Surprising he said we didn't know what was on the tape when obviously—it's pretty obvious what was on the tape.
Later today, we’ll do a post which will help you picture the telegenic CNN TV star as he lounges, cavorts and plays in The Houses of Cooper County. In fairness to the CNN star, O’Donnell also seemed puzzled by the NFL’s reaction to the new videotape.
As many other stars would do, she voiced her puzzlement over the NFL’s conduct. “What changed?” the CBS star asked Goodell. (O’Donnell was once much better than this.) “Did you really need to see a videotape of Ray Rice punching her in the face to make this decision?”
From that day to this, a range of TV stars and journalists have worked off this general framework. They’re expressed deep puzzlement about the NFL's reaction to the second tape.
Why would someone be more upset after seeing the second tape? After we saw the first videotape, didn’t everyone already know what the second tape would show?
TV stars have pounded Goodell for reacting differently to the second tape. They keep forgetting to mention a major point—their own behavior massively changed when the second tape appeared.
Our TV stars paid little attention to the Rice matter before the second tape surfaced. But after the second tape appeared, they staged one of their patented Cable Entertainment/Moral Outrage Spectaculars, with Goodell eventually supplanting Rice as their primary target.
Everyone was thoroughly puzzled concerning that second tape. If you had any brain cells at all, you already knew what that tape would show, they said.
By the end of last week, this had morphed into a second piece of script. In this second script, the TV stars rolled their eyes at Goodell’s claim that he had been misled about what happened in the elevator at a June 16 meeting with Rice. Working off a blatantly shaky report by ESPN, the TV stars all bought the idea that Goodell had of course been told the truth.
Rice told Goodell that he punched Janay Palmer! All the cable stars knew it.
What was Roger Goodell told in that June 16 meeting? Like the scripted TV stars, we have no way of knowing.
But because we have at least three brain cells, we know what Goodell might have been told. And we know what that second tape could have shown, even though hapless stars like Cooper simply can’t seem to imagine.
Below, we’re going to tell you, as quickly as possible, what Goodell might have been told in that June 16 meeting. We’ll also tell you what that second videotape could have shown.
When that second tape appeared, it showed an extremely violent punch to the face of Janay Palmer, who is now Janay Rice. On the other hand, it could have shown something less incriminating.
Let’s get our brain cells all in a row and try to stay on the path:
What might the second tape have shown? What might Goodell have been told in that meeting?
Possible answers to that question have been floating around for months. On Cooper’s September 9 show, CNN reporter Miguel Marquez gave him a bit of a hint.
Marquez played tape of Chris Mortensen, a major investigative reporter at ESPN. Well before the June 16 meeting, Mortensen had described something he had been told:
MARQUEZ (9/9/14): The existence of the inside-the-elevator view was known for months. In May, ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen had it described to him. The description appearing to partly exonerate Rice:Back in May, someone had (falsely) told Mortensen that the tape would show Janay Palmer “attacking” Rice. In Mortensen’s account, there was also a suggestion that contact with the elevator rail may have explained Janay Palmer’s loss of consciousness.
MORTENSEN: I'm told, for those who've seen the video, it wasn't pretty. And in fact, she attacks him, we don't know the reason why, and he strikes her, strikes her hard, and her head, according to the sources I've spoken with, struck the rail inside the elevator and she was unconscious.
MARQUEZ: Ravens' general manager Ozzie Newsome on July 24th called the NFL's investigation a thorough process.
Reporting to the brilliant Cooper, Marquez said that this account, delivered in May, had “appeared to partly exonerate Rice.”
A person can judge that assessment as he likes. But if Goodell was told that Rice had been defending himself from an “attack” by Janay Palmer, that might have been considered a mitigating factor.
If Goodell was told that Palmer lost consciousness because she hit her head on the rail, that might have been a mitigating factor too. Meanwhile, consider this:
What if Goodell was told that Rice had merely “slapped” Janay Palmer? What if Goodell was told that Janay Palmer “attacked” Ray Rice; that Rice “slapped” her when she did; and that she slipped and hit her head on the rail, thereby losing consciousness?
That isn’t what the second tape showed. But obviously, the second tape could have shown something like that.
Was Roger Goodell told something like that? Like the multimillionaire TV stars, we have no way of knowing. But let’s consider something else Marquez reported to the stars they parade at CNN.
It was now Thursday, September 11. The highly telegenic Marquez was hauled on the air to speak to the highly telegenic Erin Burnett.
Below, you see what he told her about an exciting new ESPN report. The report was extremely shaky on its face, but only if you know how to read:
MARQUEZ (9/11/14): If you look through that entire article, this relates to a June 16th meeting in which Rice, his wife, two reps from the players' union, Ozzy Newsome, the GM of the Ravens and the president of the Ravens were all in the meeting.Say what? As is required by Hard Pundit Law, Marquez’s account was a bit unclear. (Telegenicity may have its tradeoffs.)
There were five different accounts of what Rice told Mr. Goodell during that meeting. Four of them said that he—that Rice admitted hitting his wife and the fifth said that Rice “slapped” his wife.
And I also say it is unclear because the owner of the Ravens, Steve Bisciotti said earlier that he believed that Rice had—that Rice had told him that he had hit his wife, but it was an open-handed slap and she was aggressive with him and drinking, and that all of the damage was caused when she fell in the elevator and hit her head on the railing.
Let’s ask the obvious questions:
Did Bisciotti really say that? Did he really say that Rice told him that he struck Janay Palmer with “an open-handed slap?”
The second tape could have shown Rice doing that. In the end, of course, it didn’t.
That said, did Rice really make that claim to Bisciotti? Did he really tell the Ravens owner that he hit Palmer with “an open-handed slap?” That he did so because “she was aggressive with him?” That all the damage occurred when she fell and hit her head on the railing, with all that claim might suggest?
We don’t know if Rice said that. But unlike the beautifully scripted Cooper, we can at least imagine this obvious possibility.
Just for the record, here's part of the statement by Bisciotti which Marquez was paraphrasing for Burnett. In this clip, Marquez is airing the tape for Cooper on that same Thursday night:
MARQUEZ (9/11/14): The alternative narrative, and keep in mind that some of those individuals in that room are friends of Rice or people who think that he is getting a raw deal in all of this, the alternative narrative of this was espoused really by the team owner, Steve Bisciotti, when he talked about the way he envisioned what happened in that elevator, prior to seeing the TMZ tape.In that clip, Bisciotti seems to say that he received an “explanation” in which Rice hit Palmer “with an open hand,” and only after Palmer hit him.
BISCIOTTI (videotape): We love Ray, so we have a tendency to hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see. And so the—the misdemeanor, the explanation that she hit him, he hit her with an open hand. The facts that she had—was aggressive. I was picturing—I was picturing her whaling on him and him smacking her.
COOPER: You know, it's interesting, I mean, there's now this investigation being headed by the former director of the FBI. Some people say it's not going to be impartial enough before it even gets under way.
That isn’t what actually happened, of course. But could that be what Goodell was told in that June 16 meaning?
We have no way of knowing, but it’s obviously possible. But so what? On that same September 11 program, Cooper persisted with the script.
By now, Goodell had said that the story he heard on June 16 was “ambiguous.” The nation’s most telegenic star was puzzled by that statement. “How is it that this could be ambiguous?” Cooper wondered that night.
Burnett was even more clueless. She interviewed Marquez that same night about Goodell’s interview with O’Donnell, the interview where Goodell said the story he heard on June 16 was “ambiguous.”
Burnett and Marquez discussed that comment. They produced this very, very, very, very, very sad exchange:
MARQUEZ (9/11/14): If you go through the entire interview, [Goodell is] very clear that he's concerned seeing her brought out of that elevator. The other thing is, you don't even need any of that because, as we've pointed out before, the summons that was made publicly available and reported everywhere after the February 15th incident, it says that he “hit” her, “rendering her unconscious,” in plain English.Good God! Obviously, Goodell knew that Rice “hit” Palmer that night. In the wake of the June 16 meeting, he suspended Rice for two games and fined him an additional 500 large.
So the fact that he wouldn't have known that he hit her, either from Rice's own mouth or from the police who were on the scene, just doesn't seem credible.
BURNETT: No, it doesn't. And certainly the word ambiguous, whether it was a “slap” or a “hit,” also seems strange to me.
The suspicion would be that Goodell was told that Rice only “slapped” Palmer, perhaps in some sort of self-defense. With that in mind, let’s discuss the meanings of three simple words:
If you “slap” someone, you have also “hit” them! But you haven’t viciously punched them, and that is the conduct which was shown on the second videotape.
That videotape could have shown something different. It could have shown Rice slapping Palmer with an open hand in response to an attack by Palmer. It could have shown Palmer slipping, then hitting her head on the rail, thereby losing consciousness.
That isn’t what the second tape showed, but it could have shown that. Beyond that, that may be the story Goodell was told in the June 16 meeting. Consider:
All along, Janay Rice had expressed regret for her “role in the incident.” It may be that the Rices were telling some version of that story until the second videotape emerged.
Is that what happened? We have no idea, but it’s an obvious possibility. Unless you’re being paid millions of dollars to stage entertainment/outrage spectaculars, in which case you may play it dumb and keep the story simple.
Or you may simply be that dumb in your real life.
What was Goodell told in that meeting? We don’t know, but there is a blindingly obvious range of possibilities. Unless you work for CNN, in which case you might construct a pleasing story in which the corporate witch was wrong, just oh so wrong.
People like Cooper have played these games for a great many years. In 1999 and 2000, his predecessors played a similar game about Big Liar Gore, keeping it up for twenty straight months. We’re now entering our second war in Iraq because of what those murderous, pseudo-journalist entertainers did.
These games work for one reason—because everyone else goes along. In the current instance, read this post by Kevin Drum, our favorite blogger.
Granted, it was just the second day. But we were surprised by this passage:
DRUM (9/8/14): And yet, that [second] video told us nothing. We already knew what had happened. Based on previous video, we knew that Rice had punched Janay Palmer hard enough to knock her out. We just didn't have it on tape.Maybe he hadn’t been following the case. But when our brightest people reason that way, we really have no defense against the games of the press corps.
Let us tell you one more thing about what might have happened. This involves something which might have happened on the elevator that night.
Last week, a news report by the AP’s Rob Maaddi attracted a ton of attention. Maaddi reported that someone in law enforcement sent a copy of the second videotape to an NFL executive three months ago.
(Last Friday night, on The O’Reilly Factor, Maaddi clarified a previously murky point. He said the tape was sent to an NFL executive at "the NFL offices on Park Avenue" in New York.)
Maaddi’s report was widely discussed. What follows has disappeared:
MAADDI (9/10/14): The video, shown to the AP on Monday, is slightly longer than the TMZ version, and includes some audio.Maaddi saw a different version of the videotape. He says Palmer “appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch.”
Rice and Janay Palmer—now Janay Rice—can be heard shouting obscenities at each other, and she appears to spit at Rice right before he throws a brutal punch. After she collapses, he drags her out of the elevator and is met by some hotel staff. One of them can be heard saying, "She's drunk, right?" And then, "No cops."
Rice had been charged with felony aggravated assault in the case, but in May he was accepted into a pretrial intervention program that allowed him to avoid jail time...
We all do stupid things at some point. Did Palmer spit at Rice that night?
We have no way to answer that question. Maaddi and his editors apparently thought the action was clear enough to include in the news report.
If Palmer spat at Rice that night, we’ll assume it was the dumbest thing she has ever done in her life. (Emphasis on “if.”)
We all do stupid things at some point. We assume that Janay Rice is a good decent person. She and her husband have a beautiful daughter, with whom they’ve been photographed smiling and laughing. We’re hoping for the best for all three. We aren’t lusting to see them humiliated, attacked, scapegoated, banished from our modern Salem Village or sent to jail. We aren’t lusting to see them turned into metaphors or cartoons.
That said, that part of Maaddi’s report has disappeared. In interviews, no one asked him about it.
If Maaddi wasn’t fairly sure about what he saw on the tape, he shouldn’t have put it in his report. If it actually happened, it’s ultimately a part of the story, perhaps in several ways.
On cable, though, that part of Maaddi's report didn’t fit the pleasing, simple-minded story people like Cooper were pleasing their viewers with. Just for the record, Cooper is a terrible fit for his current job, although he may not have enough brain cells to know that.
All over the cable dial, people like Cooper have played it dumb in the current cable chase. They did the same thing during Campaign 2000, in a much more dangerous context.
People are dead all over the world because of the game they played in that instance. Now, we’re gearing up to go over there again!
That said, nothing will ever make our “journalists” tell us how this stupid shit happens. Nothing will make them stand and resist their guild’s next brain-dead chase.
We love it when they hand us this crap. As in Salem Village, so too today:
It makes us feel morally pure. We feel much purer than Roger Goodell, the man to whom Rice told the truth.
Later today: The Houses of Cooper County!