FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2023
Here's what Scarborough said: We're pleased to report the following:
This very day, on Morning Joe, we saw Mika Brzezinski engage in some very solid questioning about a very serious topic.
It may have helped that her red-faced husband was absent today. Based upon his recent ranting, he may have been persuaded to take a much-needed "mental health" day.
At any rate, Mika's questioning was solid and strong. Tomorrow, we may be able to show you what she said.
For today, we want to discuss some of the things which were said on yesterday's Morning Joe. The (very important) question we're pursuing is this:
What is actually happening on America's college campuses? Yesterday, as part of his daily red-faced rant, Joe Scarborough joined with Molly Jong-Fast to offer this commentary about the performance of those three college presidents at this week's hearing about antisemitism on campus:
JONG-FAST (12/7/23): I was really disturbed that these college presidents couldn't say, "Antisemitism, just like Islamophobia, is wrong. It is wrong." Like, you don't need to couch it in anything else. You can just say, "It's appalling. It's not okay."
And the way they spoke, all in unison, saying the same thing in this very kind of lawyered way, when they couldn't just say it's not okay to discriminate against anyone, even including Jews.
SCARBOROUGH: We're talking about 18-year-old kids going to class and having mobs scream about the genocide of Jews.
I mean, if I were a college administrator— Well, you wouldn't want me to be in that position. You just wouldn't. It just wouldn't be pretty.
As we noted yesterday, we think those college presidents performed very poorly in the face of Rep. Elise Stefanik's rather disordered questioning.
That said, consider that exchange between Jong-Fast and Scarborough.
In her statement, Jong-Fast is assailing the college presidents for being unable to say the kinds of things they did, in fact, repeatedly say during the lengthy hearing. As for Scarborough, he was praising himself for the instant action he would take if he was one of These College Presidents Today.
Along the way, he described what's happening on college campuses. According to Scarborough, as 18-year-old kids are going to class, they're "having mobs scream about the genocide of Jews."
Is that what's happening on the campuses under review? We've seen no footage of any such conduct, nor have Scarborough's producers ever aired any such footage.
That said, has some such thing been happening somewhere? In theory, our nation's "cable news" programs should help us learn the facts about such deeply important matters. Meanwhile, no one gains when multimillionaire corporate "journalists" posture in the way Scarborough has been doing of late.
Yesterday afternoon, the New York Times' Michelle Goldberg posted a column about this very topic. As we had done a few hours earlier, she provided some basic background to the "grilling" to which the three college presidents had been subjected.
Good for Goldberg! Her column starts with a portrait of a dear friend who had been misled:
GOLDBERG (12/7/23): On Wednesday, a dear friend emailed me a viral clip from the House hearing on campus antisemitism in which three elite university presidents refuse to say, under questioning by Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, that calling for the genocide of Jews violates school policies on bullying and harassment. “My God, have you seen this?” wrote my friend, a staunch liberal. “I can’t believe I find myself agreeing with Elise Stefanik on anything, but I do here.”
As happens a million times every day, Goldberg's friend had watched "a viral clip" and had drawn an instant conclusion. With amazement, the friend announced that she found herself agreeing with something the normally horrendous Stefanik had said and done.
Continuing directly, Goldberg began to explain what she presumably told her friend:
GOLDBERG (continuing directly): If I’d seen only that excerpt from the hearing, which has now led to denunciations of the college leaders by the White House and the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, among many others, I might have felt the same way. All three presidents—Claudine Gay of Harvard, Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T. and Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania—acquitted themselves poorly, appearing morally obtuse and coldly legalistic. It was a moment that seemed to confirm many people’s worst fears about the tolerance for Jew hatred in academia.
But while it might seem hard to believe that there’s any context that could make the responses of the college presidents OK, watching the whole hearing at least makes them more understandable. In the questioning before the now infamous exchange, you can see the trap Stefanik laid.
Uh-oh! We're now being told that the persistently horrendous Stefanik had actually "laid a trap" for the three presidents.
We wouldn't make that accusation ourselves, but as she continues, Goldberg points to the same background information we'd laid out a few hours earlier. In this passage, Goldberg provides the background to Stefanik's repeated insinuations:
GOLDBERG (continuing directly): “You understand that the use of the term ‘intifada’ in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict is indeed a call for violent armed resistance against the state of Israel, including violence against civilians and the genocide of Jews. Are you aware of that?” she asked Gay.
Gay responded that such language was “abhorrent.” Stefanik then badgered her to admit that students chanting about intifada were calling for genocide, and asked angrily whether that was against Harvard’s code of conduct. “Will admissions offers be rescinded or any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say, ‘From the river to the sea’ or ‘intifada,’ advocating for the murder of Jews?” Gay repeated that such “hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me,” but said action would be taken only “when speech crosses into conduct.”
So later in the hearing, when Stefanik again started questioning Gay, Kornbluth and Magill about whether it was permissible for students to call for the genocide of the Jews, she was referring, it seemed clear, to common pro-Palestinian rhetoric and trying to get the university presidents to commit to disciplining those who use it. Doing so would be an egregious violation of free speech. After all, even if you’re disgusted by slogans like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” their meaning is contested in a way that, say, “Gas the Jews” is not. Finding themselves in a no-win situation, the university presidents resorted to bloodless bureaucratic contortions, and walked into a public relations disaster.
For ourselves, we have no way of knowing what people are saying and doing on college campuses. That said, are students hearing such repulsive cries as "Gas the Jews" as they walk to class?
If there is tape of some such behavior, a certain red-faced cable news host has never bothered to air it. He has also never aired any tape in which mobs are "screaming about the genocide of Jews," in any conventional sense of that term, as students walk to class.
Are mobs really behaving that way on some college campuses? If so, Scarborough should stop his self-impressed ranting and simply show us the tape. If he has no evidence of such behavior, he should stop making his inflammatory claims.
Along the way, millions of people—people like Goldberg's dear friend—become misled, and become upset, when the screeching of people like Stefanik is seconded by people like Mika and Joe, and by people like Jong-Fast.
For what it's worth, the three presidents did repeatedly say that they regard antisemitism as appalling. In all probability, those repeated statements were excised from the short video clips which Goldberg's friend probably saw.
Ditto for Jong-Fast and Scarborough. Had either party actually watched the fuller hearing? Or were they simply going by the edited clips assembled by Morning Joe's staff?
We have no way of knowing. We'll guess that neither Jong-Fast nor Scarborough knew what they were talking about when they postured and posed in the manner shown.
Should Goldberg's friend have believed what she thought she saw when she watched a few video clips? Here's another passage from Goldberg's column:
GOLDBERG: Amid the uproar over the campus antisemitism hearing, many have claimed that if Stefanik were asking about attacks on any other ethnic group, there would have been no waffling. But Stefanik did ask about another group. Her first question to Gay was, “A Harvard student calling for the mass murder of African Americans is not protected free speech at Harvard, correct?” Gay started to respond, “Our commitment to free speech,” but Stefanik, perhaps realizing she wasn’t going to get the answer she wanted, cut her off and changed tack.
Is that why Stefanik quickly interrupted Gay at that point? We have no way of knowing. But a great deal of harm can be done when the work of routine offenders like Stefanik is taken at face value—for example, on programs like Morning Joe.
In her column, Goldberg discussed the same points we'd noted a few hours earlier. Most specifically, she noted the fact that Stefanik had adopted a very low standard for her claim that people on college campuses have been "calling for the genocide of the Jewish people."
What's actually happening on college campuses? When 18-year-old students are going to class, are they hearing "mobs scream about the genocide of Jews?" With apologies, are they hearing people yell such things as, "Gas the Jews?"
That's the impression Stefanik created. For reasons we can't begin to explain—Scarborough is much sharper than this—a certain red-faced millionaire has been eager to jump on that bandwagon.
Many people, like Goldberg's dear friend, become upset when they hear such things. This is completely understandable. It's also very unhelpful.
What's happening on our college campuses? It's a very important question.
Scarborough shows no sign of knowing. Nor does he seem to care.