No Humor Allowed
At the Media Research Center, jokes about George W. Bush are frowned upon. But if you have some tasteless humor about the Clintons, fire away.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center is not known for its sense of humor. In fact, if someone makes fun of the wrong people, that person runs the risk of incurring the MRC's wrath.
Case in point: Bill Maher, host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect." Trying to balance politics and humor like Dennis Miller (whom the MRC doesn't like, either), Maher can be pretty provocative. Too provocative, it seems, for the MRC's taste.
What got the MRC's goat most recently was Maher calling President Bush "a lying sack of s--t" after Bush abandoned the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
In his April 2 CyberAlert, Brent Baker tsk-tsked that Maher "once again went over the line ... in hurling derogatory insults." Baker is also unhappy that Maher calls Bush "Drinky McDumbass." He goes on to cite other offensive anti-Bush remarks as examples of how Maher has "abused his position."
MRC head honcho Brent Bozell joined the fun a couple days later, saying that "no late-night comedian is as likely to offend, even outrage, as is Maher." He then trashes Maher's show: "These days, however, the resulting salad is usually pretty bland, and it becomes unpalatable on those too-frequent occasions when ... Maher adds to it his special, incredibly tasteless dressing."
Bozell complains about more verboten humor, noting that "In 1998, Maher dared to make light of former president Reagan's Alzheimer's disease, 'joking' that Reagan "ran up the debt, he lied about something much more important than sex, and he's nuts.' And they called James Watt insensitive?" He also mentions Craig Kilborn's "Snipers Wanted" "joke" about Bush, but nothing at all about John Derbyshire's "joke" that the Clinton family should be killed.
Bozell then huffs: "Why conservatives continue to agree to appear on 'Politically Incorrect' with this man is a mystery to me."
OK, so tasteless comments about Republicans are out at the MRC. But how about tasteless remarks about their all-time favorite target, Bill Clinton? That's perfectly acceptable, perhaps even encouraged. Let's look through the MRC archives to see what passes for humor there.
Actually, most of what passes for humor is reproductions of the more Clinton-bashing Top 10 lists from "Late Night with David Letterman" in MRC's CyberAlerts (which have pretty much stopped appearing there now that Letterman's writers have turned their firepower on the new president), to which editor Brent Baker adds his snide remarks:
But it's not just in trying to rip off Letterman that Baker attempts to find ways to slam the Clintons. On Dec. 8, on a Rolling Stone inverview in which Clinton hints he'd like a third term, he adds: "President Bill Clinton in 2004? Or 2008? Or 2012? We wouldn’t be safe for decades."
On Jan. 25, regarding a New York Post story in which the ex-wife of Bryant Gumbel -- another person the MRC loves to hate -- claims that Gumbel slept with more than 50 women in their 27 years of marriage, he comments: "50 women in 27 years? That’s not even quite two per year on average. Bill Clinton long ago left Gumbel in the dust."
And on Feb. 23, on another New York Post story (detect a pattern here?) alleging that Geraldo Rivera, yet another MRC target, bought a home in Manhattan for his "new galpal": "At least now when Geraldo breaks up with his young lovers Bill Clinton is conveniently nearby and available to pick up where he left off."
And all this is just in the past six months.
When it comes to Republicans, however, cattiness fails our would-be comedian. On Feb. 9, Baker notes an appearance by Nancy Reagan on "Larry King Live" during the controversy over gifts the Clintons supposedly received. Asked about the designer dresses loaned to her, she said that happens "all the time." Baker then feels the need to share that he "can't think of a cute closing line."
And on Jan. 23, noting that a week of Letterman reruns include the appearance of Bush, "whom Letterman treated much harsher than he did Hillary or Al Gore." He then jokes: "That one includes musical guest James Brown, which shows how diversity seems to naturally surround W."
Then again, maybe that one wasn't supposed to be funny.
Supposedly liberal TV hosts obviously don't have the corner on obnoxious political humor. Baker certainly isn't demonstrating much originality, just hurling the same kind of "derogatory insults" that supposedly offends him when his political idols are the targets.
For a guy whose job it is to document "bias," Baker is pretty biased himself. Since such an obviously skewed perspective makes it impossible for him to be truly objective, wouldn't that disqualify him for the job?
Naaaah -- Brent Bozell wouldn't have it any other way.