Tucker Carlson Firing Upsets Russia, Don Lemon Fires Back, Rapey Trump Ditches Rape Trial, Lakers' Inspiring Comeback, FL Top Doc Lies about COVID, Georgia GOP Cheats, Harry Belafonte Sings
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
Why Are Trump, DeSantis, and Carlson Doing Russia’s Dirty Work?
When I was growing up, America was high on anti-Communism. Authorities warned us that the Red Menace could drop nukes on us at any minute. If we wanted to survive a massive nuclear strike, we’d need to hide under our school desks.
To distinguish the US from the atheistic Soviet Union bent on world domination, in 1954 President Eisenhower convinced Congress to add “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. “Take that, godless commies,” we taunted from under our school desks.
The U.S.’s real problem wasn’t Soviet nukes; it was public relations. We were telling the world how great democracy was—“with liberty and justice for all” (wink, wink)—but the world was seeing Black people banned from eating at White restaurants or drinking from White fountains. Black children were blocked from entering schools. The Soviets, meanwhile, were welcoming Blacks and guaranteeing them freedom. It made for complicated international relations when we were desperately courting allies, many of whom didn’t look like White Americans, at the same time the Soviets were.
The anti-Soviet hysteria resulted in congressional hearings that ruined many innocent lives. Although there were politicians like Sen. Joseph McCarthy who used the Red Scare to promote their own careers, they weren’t wrong that the Soviet Union was not acting in our best interests any more than we acted in theirs.
I’m not sure why some of today’s Republicans are suddenly romanticizing Russia. They did a lot of horrific things, and they continue to do so. Putin has invaded a sovereign country for economic gain, resulting in more than 350,000 casualties. Putin’s critics have a habit of falling out of high windows or getting poisoned. He’s also financed troll factories that spread lies on the internet in order to encourage divisiveness among Americans. Worse, they hacked into the Democratic National Committee to spread disinformation to influence the 2016 election. One major lie they focused on afterward was that the election was rigged. All those deniers were doing Putin’s bidding like good little “useful idiots,” as they are referred to by the Russians.
Now, here’s what I can’t get my head around: Russia is attacking democracy everywhere, especially right here, by enflaming discontent and pushing candidates that they think they can more easily manipulate, like GOP candidates Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, both of whom have cowered under the disapproving Russian stare the same way the world cowered when Hitler invaded Poland. They rationalized that it’s not our problem.
Republicans are divided about whether to support the dictatorship of Putin or the democracy of Ukraine. These are the same Republicans who are constantly shaking their fists at domestic socialism and communism, wanting to ban books, TV shows, and songs that they label as socialist or communist. But when it comes to actual real-life, real-time communists—thumbs up, comrade!
Russian media has even celebrated disgraced Tucker Carlson as one of their own, wailing and rending their clothing over Carlson being fired by Fox. Russian state TV has lamented, “Our beloved Tucker Carlson has been fired, it’s a disgrace!” and “It’s a total outrage!” and “Tucker, come work with us! Solovyov Live is waiting for you, Tucker!” The BFF of communist Russia has been influencing US elections and social policy for years. Who needs a Cold War when you’ve got Tucker, Taylor Greene, Trump, and DeSantis acting as celebrity spokespersons pimping the Russia brand like Steph Curry endorsing Subway. Come to Russia for the ballet, stay for the political assassinations and human rights violations. Selfies optional.
As Russia ramps up its cyber attacks and election meddling in the U.S., remember who loves ya, baby. Because it sure isn’t these American moles praising their Russian masters.
This Week in Media Firings: Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon
Tucker Carlson Was Blindsided by Fox News Firing (Vanity Fair)
SUMMARY: “The media world was blindsided by the news that Tucker Carlson and Fox News would be parting ways. So was Carlson.
“On Monday morning, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott called Carlson and informed him he was being taken off the air, and his Fox News email account was shut off. According to a source briefed on the conversation, Carlson was stunned by his sudden ouster from his 8 p.m. show, the most watched program in cable news last month. Carlson was in the midst of negotiating the renewal of his Fox News contract through 2029, the source said. As of last week, Carlson had told people he expected the contract to be renewed.”
MY TAKE: There might be some premature e-jubilation among liberals and anyone who cares about journalistic integrity over Carlson’s firing. But Fox’s widely reported culture of misogyny, racism, antisemitism, and general boorishness will undoubtedly continue without the whiny Carlson scrambling the brains of Fox’s audience with his admitted lies and illogical ramblings. In other words, Fox still knows that their massive income depends on spoon-feeding pre-chewed news pablum to their customers. Their mantra: “Don’t confuse them with facts.” Another talking head bubbling with faux outrage will soon be sitting in Carlson’s chair twisting the truth like a clown twisting balloons into animal shapes.
Still, let’s take some satisfaction that, even though this wealthy entertainer (not journalist) will remain wealthy, he can join ex-Fox employee and serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly on the sidelines for a while. We have to take our small victories where we find them.
Don Lemon Ousted From CNN in Move That Left Him ‘Stunned’ (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: “Don Lemon is out at CNN.
“In an announcement that Mr. Lemon said left him ‘stunned,’ CNN on Monday declared an end to its longtime relationship with Mr. Lemon, a star anchor who was a fixture of the network’s prime-time lineup before enduring a short but controversial tenure as a morning show co-host.
“‘CNN and Don have parted ways,’ Chris Licht, CNN’s chairman, said in a statement. ‘Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.’”
MY TAKE: Let me start with the CNN statement, which is pretty lame and disingenuous, especially for a news organization. My notes are in brackets and bolded.
“CNN and Don have parted ways. [The phrase “parted ways” is misleading in that it implies the parting was a mutual decision, which it clearly was not. He was fired and as a news organization they should have reported it accurately, even in a statement.] Don will forever be a part of the CNN family [How can he be part of the family if you fired him? If parents kick their child out of the house and tell them to never come back, they aren’t really “part of the family.” It makes CNN look patronizing and, again, inaccurate.], and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.” [Nobody reading this statement believes CNN will be cheering him on after they fired him and he then complained about the circumstances of the firing, which they had to know he would. They come off as smug liars.]
I watch CNN regularly, and I’ve been on Don Lemon’s show a few times. I always found him respectful, informed, and engaging. I have no inside information as to why he was fired. Several newspapers report that it is because of his unfortunate remark in February: “Mr. Lemon had asserted on the air that Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate, “isn’t in her prime, sorry,” adding, “A woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.” He dismissed the objections of his female co-hosts by responding, “I’m just saying what the facts are — Google it.” He later apologized to the CNN newsroom and agreed to a corporate training program to address his on-air behavior. The fallout was immediate. CNN bookers said that some guests refused to appear with Lemon and research indicated Lemon’s popularity with the viewing audience had fallen.
I agree that Lemon’s comments about Haley and women in general were insulting and inaccurate. It’s shocking and abhorrent that he said those things, and he definitely should have been disciplined—which he was. Perhaps he should have even been suspended. But fired? Certainly there should be some grace for a “part of the family” for seventeen years. Maybe there are other internal factors we don’t know about, but the public impression is chilling: you make one mistake and you’re out. Yes, there are different levels of mistakes. I would not include in that grace people who deliberately use hate speech. But Lemon’s comment was out of ignorance rather than malice. Though CNN shouldn’t have excused what he said, he deserved a second chance. And only a second chance.
I do the writing, you do the reading. Seems fair. It would help if you also did the subscribing.
The Lakers’ Stunning Comeback
It started in February when the Lakers made history by overcoming a 27-point deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks, 111-108. This was the biggest comeback in the NBA of the entire season. It was also the biggest Lakers comeback in twenty years, when the Lakers overcame a thirty-point deficit in 2002 to beat, yup, the Dallas Mavericks.
Now they’re in the playoffs and, as of this writing, hold a 3-2 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the postseason. This is the same team that had such an erratic season that many thought they wouldn’t even make the playoffs.
One of the reasons I’m excited is that this is the season that LeBron James broke my all-time NBA scoring record. I didn’t want such a monumental achievement to be tarnished by a losing season. Because after you accomplish something so unreachable to most, that’s when the taunts and jibes about age begin from jealous players who resent that they’ll never soar to those heights. LeBron has proven to them once again why he continues to be such a dominating force.
Sports is all about the comeback. The underdog. The come-from-behind miracle. Those moments of unexpected glory inspire all of us to never give up—in sports and in life. Yeah, I know how corny that sounds. It’s true nevertheless. Whether we’re charging back from an insurmountable point deficit, or an insurmountable age deficit, we still have the potential for greatness. One glorious moment at a time.
Kareem’s Video Break
This video of two toddlers and a dog waiting at a window for the brother is how I feel when I’m about to see my granddaughter. I just wish I had the dog’s energy to express my joy.
This Week in “Blacks Who Are Bad for Blacks”
Florida’s Anti-Vax Top Doc Accused of Personally Altering COVID Vaccine Study (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: “Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo personally altered a study about COVID-19 vaccines last year so it’d align closer to the dangerous anti-vax messages he’d been spreading, Politico reported Monday. According to a document released as part of a public records request, Ladapo removed part of the study to make it appear as though mRNA vaccines posed a higher risk of cardiac issues in young men than what had previously been determined by the medical community. The study raised eyebrows at the time, and researchers involved in it called out Ladapo for the false edit—exposing his sneaky switch in the document titled “Dr. L’s edits,” and in an interview with Politico. ‘I think it’s a lie,’ Matt Hitchings, one of the researchers involved, said about Ladapo’s edits. ‘To say this—based on what we’ve seen, and how this analysis was made—it’s a lie.’ Ladapo denied altering the study with ill-intent, telling Politico that making revisions and refinements to a medical study is standard practice.”
MY TAKE: This is not the first time Dr. Ladapo has proven himself to be unethical as a medical professional—jeopardizing the health of the Floridians he’s charged with protecting. It’s especially appalling to me when a Black man allows himself to become the paid political stooge of a racist regime like DeSantis’. DeSantis parades Ladapo around as a diversity poster boy while doing everything in his power to crush diversity. That Ladapo willingly goes along with the same man who is trying to sanitize Black history in schools while also enacting voter restrictions to minimize Black voting, is an insult to doctors and to Black people. Worse, his fudging of COVID facts encourages vaccine hesitancy, which is a major issue in the Black community, further endangering their lives.
‘Bigoted vitriol’: Florida Republican urged to resign over offensive trans remarks (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: “A Republican Florida state lawmaker has made a partial apology for calling transgender people “demons”, “imps” and “mutants” during a hearing on a contentious bathroom bill.
“Webster Barnaby, a self-described ‘proud Christian conservative’, said his ‘indignation was stirred’ by members of the transgender community who spoke out on Monday against the bill banning them from bathrooms not aligned to their gender at birth.
The controversy comes just days after conservatives elsewhere in the state forced the removal of an illustrated novel about Anne Frank from a high school library, claiming it contained inappropriate sexual material that ‘minimized’ the Holocaust.
“By Tuesday, Barnaby’s Twitter account appeared to have been removed from the platform after his outburst the previous day at a Florida state house commerce committee hearing in Tallahassee.
“‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of your demons and all of your imps who come parade before us,’ he told the speakers at the hearing. ‘That’s right, I called you demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend you are part of this world.
“‘We have people that live among us today on planet Earth that are happy to display themselves as if they were mutants from another planet. This is the planet Earth where God created men male and women female.’”
MY TAKE: It’s painful to me to see a Black politician spew bigotry based on ignorance that is cloaked in religion. This is a man who has witnessed the perpetual oppression of his people, often justified through biblical verse, only to turn around and do the same thing to others.
Religion is the default defense of those without reason. This is an insult to those believers who balance their faith and reason. He claims to be a “proud Christian,” but the Jesus portrayed in the Bible would not have said such hateful things nor created an atmosphere that encouraged a rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. That means he’s neither a good Christian, a good representative, nor a good person. Religion—which should inspire us to be more loving toward each other—should never be used to justify heinous acts against each other. Doing so just might be the definition of demonic.
E. Jean Carroll Accuses Trump of Rape in Testimony (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: “The writer E. Jean Carroll on Wednesday told a Manhattan jury a harrowing story of being raped in the mid-1990s by Donald J. Trump in a department-store dressing room — describing a brutal attack that she tried to fight off by stamping on his foot and that has left her traumatized for decades.
“Just before she began testifying in federal court, the former president infuriated the judge overseeing the case by railing against the proceeding on social media. Mr. Trump, who has so far avoided the trial, was not there as Ms. Carroll related a tale she said she had waited decades to tell.”
MY TAKE: Despite the judge’s warnings against commenting on the case, Trump and his son Eric immediately launched social media attacks on his accuser after her testimony. (The judge then admonished them both for their comments.)
I haven’t attended the trial, so I can’t comment on his legal guilt in this case. But the sheer number of women accusers (“The 26 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct”) and his own admissions of sexual misconduct (though he didn’t see it as misconduct) doesn’t suggest a man who is entirely innocent. His decision to viciously attack Carroll, as well as the manner in which he did it, claiming he’s innocent because “she’s not my type” and she was too old, reveals him to be clueless about and dismissive of the painful journey of rape victims.
It’s difficult for me to comprehend how anyone, especially women, would support a candidate as rapey as Trump. Trump supporters have inundated Carroll with social media vitriol that calls her “too ugly” to rape. So, I guess we know exactly the character of his supporters. To them, being a sexual predator is a plus.
Georgia Republicans race to pass laws to restrict and challenge votes
SUMMARY: “In the final few days of this year’s Georgia assembly legislative session, Republican lawmakers raced to propose laws seeking to restrict voting access, and make it easier for citizens to challenge and subvert normal election processes.
“Senate bill 221, house bill 422 and house bill 426 are just a few of the newly proposed election laws, which come after state Republicans, including the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, praised election officials for smooth elections in the past two years. They include measures to eradicate absentee ballot drop boxes, allow citizens to more easily challenge voter registrations – which Republican conspiracy theorists had already done with little backing evidence during the midterms – and even unseal ballots for review.”
MY TAKE: So many conservatives seem to obsess over conspiracy plots. Yet, the most insidious conspiracy is the one to keep legitimate voters from the ballot box. As I’ve said before, once you resort to undermining the basis for our democracy, you’ve revealed yourself to be without popular ideas and, worse, lacking moral character. If you have to cheat to win, you shouldn’t be in office. I would think Republican voters would embrace that concept. Yet, state after state with GOP-run legislatures are enacting laws to keep from the ballot box any group they think might vote Democratic. That is not a party promoting America’s values.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Harry Belafonte: “Hine Ma Tov”
Harry Belafonte died this week at the age of 96. Harry has been a hero of mine since I was a little boy, so when I finally got to meet him, I was thrilled. In person, he was the same soft-spoken, fiercely intelligent man whose eyes conveyed an abundance of joy and compassion. Plus, he was the most handsome man I’d ever met. I mention that because with his stunning looks and powerful talent, he could have have settled for being a wealthy international star. But he didn’t.
Harry won three Grammys, an Emmy, a Tony and had a thriving movie career, but he risked all of that and his life to march with Dr. King, to protest apartheid, and to advocate for social justice for all people. He spoke often and loudly against all forms of oppression in this country and abroad. He was Grand Marshal of the NYC Pride Parade in 2013 and honorary co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington in 2017. He never got discouraged or disaffected. He continued to fight regardless of his age.
All week, people have been showing him singing his most popular songs, “The Banana Boat Song” and “Jamaica Farewell,” but I wanted you to see him singing a song that embraced his desire to bring people together. He sang in many languages, bringing music from different cultures to his audience in an attempt heal divisiveness through music.
The song I selected is “Hine Ma Tov,” a Jewish hymn sung in Hebrew (listen here.) The lyrics are from the first verse of Psalm 133 which means, “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together.” The song has been recorded by many artists and has appeared in movies. But Harry Belafonte popularized it in his 1960 album, Return to Carnegie Hall, which is among his best and most versatile works. Watching him sing with such force and passion is inspiring. To be inspiring is the best legacy one can have.
"Come to Russia for the ballet, stay for the political assassinations and human rights violations. Selfies optional."
Great stuff Kareem! Love reading your column.
Loved you on the court (college and pro) and in Airplane. But getting to “know” you in this view has greatly increased my love, respect, and admiration for you. AND as a grandfather of an 8 month old little girl, I feel the very same excitement as you have describe in this writing. Thank You! You are a True Champion!