FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2003
ANOTHER FISH STORY: Unintentional comedy is always near-by when Bernie Goldberg heads out on the stump. On November 15, Goldberg appeared for the full hour on Tim Russerts CNBC program, Russert. Soon, the irate press-watcher was waxing indignant aboutyesa New York Times food review! The New York Times shoves ideology down your throat every place in the paper, he fumed. Then he went where the quiche hits the pan:
GOLDBERG: This is a piece about food in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Sunday New York Times Magazine about food, about monkfish, to be precise. Youre not going to believe it. As Yogi used to say, You can look it up.In fact, you can make this stuff up, as Bernie has proven again and again (for example, with that shoelaces quote, his previous clowning fish story). At any rate, Russerthit with a novel complainttried to divine the facts about the troubling monkfish remark. Is that written in a humor column? he asked. And Bernie got all hot again:
GOLDBERG: No. No, this is in a piece about, about eating seafood in Norway! How does that get through? I mean, if the writer wants to be goofy enough to write something like that, thats one thing. But the editors at the New York Times let a piece about monkfish include ideology about the presidents capital gains tax cuts? This is the problem. And journalists need to stop following the leader and start thinking more for themselves.Russert let Bernie have the last word on monkfish. From there, he began a new topic.
Journalists need to start thinking more for themselves? If only Bernie would follow that dictum! As usual, he had cadged his quote from the Media Research Center, which swung into action when the monkfish quote appeared in the Times on July 27, 2003. Three days later, the MRC issued a CyberAlert about the troubling monkfish remark (click here, then search on monkfish). Two weeks after that, there was Bernie, venting on national TV.
Bernie, of course, was all wet, as always. In fact, the monkfish remark had been written by Jonathan Reynolds, a comic playwright turned food critic who tends to pepper his New York Times columns with various corny jokes. And Reynolds is an equal opportunity jokester. On March 4, 2001, for example, he pepped up a column called Fear of Frying with a zinger aimed right at Bill Clinton:
REYNOLDS (3/4/01): First, dont bother with commercial or domestic frying pans. The best equipment is a large cast-iron pot or a Dutch oven that holds between four and eight quarts. Cast iron retains heat at a constant temperature, unlike the flightier aluminum and stainless, and it will last almost as long as Billy Jeff Clinton will keep fooling Hollywood's billionaireswhich is to say, forever.Earlier that year, in a column written in the form of a screenplay, he aimed a jibe at a fellow named Gore:
REYNOLDS (2/18/01):And yes, that is the tone of his columns. That same year, in a column called L. A. Confidential, he explained where to find hot tamales:
REYNOLDS (5/6/01): You just need to motor to the west side of town, knock on the door of a show-biz quadrillionaire or out-in-time Nasdaqer and ask if she or he has any female undocumented workersa euphemism for illegal alienson staff, the harboring of whom gave the 42nd and 43rd presidents of the United States supposedly just reason for withdrawing support from the cabinet nominations of Zoe Baird and Linda Chavez. If the quadrillionaire employs someone illegal, and Ive yet to find one who doesnt, your chances of getting a brilliant tamale are substantially increased.In that one, Reynolds got both Clinton and Bush (42 and 43)! So yes, Timthe monkfish quote you were asked to discuss did appear in a humor column. As usual, Bernie cadged a quote from the pathologically fake MRC, then went on TV and blustered. As usual, he didnt have the slightest idea what he was actually talking about. He knew one thinghis scripted spin. So he went on TV and he spun it.
Amazing, isnt itthe amount of buffoonery this clowning clown is allowed to spread through your public discourse? In a sane world, youd almost think that a man like Russert would avoid having clowning clowns on his program. But the Washington press corps is no longer saneand the Washington press corps bows low to power. Goldberg may be a clowning clown, but hes a clowning clown of the powerful right. Yes, Russert knows what a fool Bernie is. But on Monday, well finish our Days of Bernie by letting you watch Russert pander.
JONATHAN REYNOLDS, CONSERVATIVE PLAYWRIGHT: Bernie just knew what he was seeinghe was seeing the Times liberal bias in action! The Times let a piece about monkfish include ideology about the presidents capital gains tax cuts, he thundered. Even Bernie could barely believe it! This is the problem, he exclaimed.
But what is Jonathan Reynolds political slant? Sorry, BernieReynolds seems to be generally conservative. Back in 1998, Frank Rich quoted the joking jokester about the danger of including politics in theatrical shows:
RICH: Producers are afraid of controversy whether from the left or the right, says the screenwriter and playwright Jonathan Reynolds, whose conservative-minded satire about white liberals and race, Stonewall Jacksons House, received rave reviews Off Broadway but has not been produced in a single major city in the 16 months since.Say what? Reynolds show was conservative-minded? In fact, one of Reynolds rave reviews had come from the demonically liberal New York Times. How conservative-minded is Reynolds? Peter Marks had described his production:
MARKS (2/19/97): The gloves come off early in Stonewall Jacksons House, Jonathan Reynoldss caustic comic tirade against political orthodoxy...Mr. Reynolds climbs on his soapbox at the American Place Theater for a rambling, funny, cranky and highly entertaining diatribe against all the agenda-laden forces and high-minded programs (especially of the liberal stripe) that he believes have conspired to wring common sense out of American political and cultural life.Why, Bernie could have written it himself! So Tim, heres what occurred on your dumb-ass program when you pandered to the clowning clown Goldberg. The New York Times employs a food critic, Jonathan Reynolds, who happens to be generally conservative. He spices his columns with corny jokesjokes which batter everyone. But your crackpot friends at the MRC found a quip which mentioned Bush, and Bernie Goldberg went on your show and pretended that the pointless joke reflects the Times overpowering liberal bias. Sensibly enough, you asked if the comment came from a humor piece. And a clowning clown told you it didnt.
How many fish tales will Bernie tell before the Russerts make him stop? Apparently, Bernie can clown as much as he likes. Next Monday, well cringe, rouge up and avert our gaze as we watch a quite tiny Tim pander.
AN INSTANT CLASSIC: The monkfish tale is an instant classic. Just this morning, C-SPAN broadcast Bernies November 9 appearance at the Miami Book Fair. Ten minutes into his troubling talk, he described the monkfish outrage. You can look it up, he said, knowing that no one in the audience would. But here at THE HOWLER, we did look it upand we found more contempt for your discourse.