Part 3—Sunny Hostin delivers: In yesterday’s post, we saw Mike Pesca, a good decent person, deliver a bit of perfect pundit behavior.
On Monday’s Anderson Cooper show, another such performance occurred. It was delivered by Sunny Hostin, a “hang ’em high” former prosecutor with a warm, sunny smile.
Hostin is a familiar type of cable pundit. She’s a youngish, conventionally attractive, female former federal prosecutor for whom all people are plainly guilty and in need of extensive punishment.
Nancy Grace invented the type. By now, this type of casting on “cable news” programs is extremely familiar.
When Hostin shows up in Salem Village, the target will always be guilty. Let’s discuss the perfect moment she authored on Monday evening’s show.
Cooper spent his first half hour discussing the NFL’s various problems. Twenty-four minutes into the program, Jeffrey Toobin did something unusual.
Toobin made a positive statement about the current target:
TOOBIN (9/15/14): Now the NFL, I think to its credit, just hired four very prominent domestic violence experts to try to articulate and help them formulate a policy. One of the many problems of the NFL's response here is that the rules were very unclear, and basically dumped it all in Goodell's lap and he could be the emperor who decided, you know, how each case was resolved on its own merits.Toobin is a former prosecutor who tends to take a more moderate view than Hostin does. On “cable news,” a figure like Toobin is often cast in tandem with a Nancy Grace knock-off.
The problem with that is, you don't have clear rules so that you have some people who have been convicted of domestic violence who are playing. You have some people who have been suspended. The length of the suspension is up for grabs. So the fact that they've hired these good people and at least in the future, I hope, we'll have—
In this passage quoted above. Toobin was breaking the basic rules of his trade. Here’s why we say that:
In the previous week, the NFL had become the obvious target of cable’s latest Entertainment/Moral Outrage Spectacular. In the Salem Village of cable news, the NFL was plainly the latest witch.
The parsons and goodies of the Village were chasing the NFL all around. Now, Toobin said that the NFL, “I think to its credit,” had done something constructive!
We were struck by the timing of Toobin’s comment. By now, twenty-four minutes had passed in the program, but Cooper hadn’t reported the hiring of these “prominent experts.”
Whatever! Out of nowhere, Toobin was saying the current target had done something constructive. Infallibly, Hostin interrupted, producing this superb example of perfect pundit behavior:
HOSTIN (continuing directly): I have to completely disagree with you, Jeff. And that is because we know, after the scandal erupted, what did Goodell do? He did implement a policy, right? He implemented this two-game suspension and then an indefinite—I guess, a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense for domestic violence.Hiring experts on domestic violence? The conduct was tone deaf!
He is playing catch-up! The NFL is playing catch-up. So to name these four women as domestic violence experts on his team at this point, I think, is too little, I think it's too late, and I think it's tone deaf.
You’ll rarely see a better example of perfect cable pundit behavior. Let’s note what Hostin did.
Interrupting Toobin’s remarks, she said she completely disagreed with his statement. That represents the total oppositional dumbness cable news has long adored.
Why did Hostin disagree so completely? In honesty, her logic is hard to parse.
She started by saying that Goodell initiated a domestic violence policy in late August—a policy whose basic conditions she misstated.
On this basis, she said the recent hiring of the experts was too little and too late. She also said it was “tone deaf” to hire the four experts.
We’re not real sure how to parse that.
For starters, we’ll note that Hostin didn’t seem to know the basics about the policy Goodell put in place after the scandal erupted. Under that policy, a first offence for domestic violence will bring a six-game suspension.
Thundering loudly, Hostin seemed to think the number was two.
In fairness, everyone makes mistakes of this type; Hostin makes them quite often. That said, it’s hard to know what the NFL could possibly do this point, given Hostin’s logic.
Because Goodell announced a policy in late August, she says it’s “tone deaf” to hire four experts to help him further now. She says it’s “too late” to do that.
By that logic, what can the NFL possibly do if it feels the need for better advice with regard to this problem? By Hostin’s logic, all further action is wrong!
Hostin didn’t seem to know the basic facts; her logic was rather obscure. But she was exhibiting perfect behavior, like Pesca in yesterday’s post.
Below, you see the basic pundit rule Pesca and Hostin were following. This was the rule in Salem Village. It’s also the rule in the modern cable chase:
Whatever the target says or does, it can only show us, even more clearly, that the target is guilty as charged.
Everything must be taken to show that the target is truly a witch. Last week, the pundits had reached that judgment about the NFL. On Monday evening, Hostin knew that the target was guilty as charged.
Hostin isn’t especially lucid. As a pundit, her value lies in the fact that she will find every target guilty as charged.
She will “completely” disagree with alternate judgments, even if she’s a bit fuzzy about the issues at hand.
Hostin’s fuzzy thinking was on display all through Monday’s program. Cooper was quite fuzzy too.
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s report, let’s examine the basic point of the current chase.
Early in his segment on Ray Rice, Cooper introduced Miguel Marquez.
On what basis is Rice appealing his suspension from the NFL? Marquez gave a clear explanation:
MARQUEZ: Roger Goodell [is]saying that he was either led astray, or misled, or lied to by Mr. Rice during that June 16th meeting. He has been saying that now several times over the last week while Rice, at least his side of the camp, [is] saying that it was Goodell that was told everything by Ray Rice, and that he didn't hear it and made his decision on the two-game suspension, and only changed his mind once that TMZ Sports video came out showing the inside of the elevator in that Atlantic City casino.Goodell is saying that he was misled. Rice is saying that Goodell was given the whole ugly truth.
Goodell is saying that the indefinite suspension is because he was led astray, not for the beating of Janay Palmer back in February.
What was Roger Goodell told in that June 16 meeting? Moments later, Cooper and Hostin tried to puzzle that out. Each star was remarkably clueless. Pitifully, let’s start with this:
COOPER: It’s interesting now, Miguel saying that Roger Goodell had been saying, “Well, I was kind of misled.”Cooper started by bungling a fact. John Harbaugh, “the coach of the team,” wasn’t present at the June 16 meeting.
That's not what we heard from the coach of the team in that press conference who said, “Well, no, nothing Ray Rice said was any different—you know, everything that's come out is pretty much what he told us.” And there must have been a roomful of attorneys in that meeting between Roger Goodell and Ray Rice. I mean, at least Ray Rice's attorneys were there.
COOPER: It must be pretty clear what was actually said.
HOSTIN: Well, no question about it. I mean, we know that the meeting took place and we know that there were representatives for Ray Rice and representatives for the NFL.
(Ozzie Newsome, the general manager, was present. As far as we know, he hasn’t made a public statement about what was said in the meeting. If he did make a public statement, that wouldn’t mean it was true.)
After that, Cooper bungled an obvious bit of logic. Since Rice’s attorneys were at the meeting, “It must be pretty clear what was actually said,” the TV star deduced.
Hostin cheered him on. “No question about it,” she said.
Could they get dumber and live? If there’s an audiotape of the meeting, it may be “pretty clear what was said.”
(Even then, there could be disputes about what various statements meant and implied.)
Beyond that, it may be “pretty clear what was said” if a reliable transcript was created.
(We stress the word “reliable.” CNN’s transcript of Monday’s program has Toobin making the clueless remark, “It must be pretty clear what was actually said.” Does CNN ever bother getting its transcripts right? If we were Toobin, we’d want our name taken off that remark.)
At this point, can we talk? Absent tape or reliable transcript, it won’t be clear in any way what was actually said!
The teams of lawyers will disagree. The fact that Cooper and Hostin don’t understand that tells us about the types of performers CNN puts on the air.
As the pair continued to talk, they continued to flounder. Finally, Hostin asked the clueless question pundits have been asking for two weeks.
Tomorrow, we’re going to answer that question. Below, you see Monday’s exchange:
HOSTIN (continuing directly): But I think that the larger question is, how could Goodell and the NFL have screwed this up, have botched this up so much that Ray Rice now has the ability to appeal?Haplessly, Hostin said Rice is on solid ground in his appeal “if he indeed told the truth” at the June 16 meeting.
And I think, Jeff, that he has solid ground. I think he's standing on solid ground, quite frankly, because we know that he was suspended for two games. If he indeed told the truth—and there was a video showing the aftermath of the knockout—
COOPER: And a police report.
HOSTIN: —and a police report that clearly says he hit her and rendered her unconscious—I looked at the police report today—there was really nothing different that occurred, other than the fact that this videotape was shown to the public.
COOPER: Right. The only, the only thing that's different now, Jeff, is that—
HOSTIN: What did they think domestic violence looks like?
Stating the obvious, this begs the basic question: How will anyone be able to show whether Rice told the truth?
Finally, the avenging angel of Salem Village fell back on the silly question our pundits have asked for weeks: “What did they think domestic violence looks like?”
In context, here’s what that question meant:
As the original tape showed, Janay Palmer was unconscious when she came off the elevator that night. For that reason, pundits have said, it was always obvious that Ray Rice had punched her, just as the second tape later showed.
When the second tape emerged, it showed Rice punching Palmer in a very violent manner. Pundits have stood in line to ask this exceptionally clueless question:
What else did Roger Goodell think the tape could have shown?
We can’t tell you what Goodell thought. Nor can we tell you what he was told at that meeting.
But we can very much tell you what he might have been told in that meeting. The outlines of what he might have been told have been floating around for months.
What might Roger Goodell have been told? In what way might he have been misled, even lied to?
Tomorrow, we’ll run you through these obvious questions, in precisely the way Cooper and Hostin never could—or never would.
Sunny Hostin seems to think that Roger Goodell should go. If CNN was a journalistic concern, Hostin would have been gone herself, several years ago.
Tomorrow: The basic question