What – was Janeane Garofalo busy this week? If not, she has some real competition in the "lefty comic making outrageous statements" category.
On HBO’s Oct. 1 “Real Time with Bill Maher,” during the “Overtime” segment available on HBO.com, left-wing comedian David Cross of “Arrested Development” fame appeared to offer his view on issues of the day. This segment of the program is produced generally to answer viewer emailed questions. One of those questions was if people in the media “should be held more legally accountable for presenting false or misleading information.”
The host, Bill Maher likened that scenario to the system in place in the United Kingdom. However in the United States, Americans are protected by the First Amendment and he explained the legal implications of speech in the U.K. compared to the U.S. But in Cross’ estimation, that protected right is somehow wrong. He named two Fox News Channel hosts, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and declared he would like to see them taken off of the airwaves although he wasn’t clear about what “false or misleading information” they may have presented that would warrant this action.
“I think so, absolutely, and I say that as somebody who would like to see Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity off the air, you know,” Cross declared with an approving response from the audience. “So, I think to -- it’s just part of the job. It should be part of the job, you know, if you knowingly do that, then absolutely you should lose your job. We don’t get to, you know, lie and make up things in our jobs, you know. And nobody really does.”
Maher interrupted to point out that is what comedians do – “make up things” to be funny. And according to Cross, that was different because it was “understood” what their profession does. However, he did double down on his premise.
“No, you know other jobs you don’t get to continuously misrepresent facts and get to keep your job,” he continued. “That’s considered a liability.”
Maher’s panel, lacking a conservative voice, included Cross, Joe Klein of Time magazine, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post and Cornell West, professor at Princeton University. The voice of reason on this panel ended up being Klein, who once suggested former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Fox News host Glenn Beck were committing sedition – sort of. He explained Beck had the right to be “a paranoid.”
“It can’t be a public figure and almost everybody is a public figure,” Klein said. “As soon as you go into the arena, you become a public figure. But you know, I think there is something called the First Amendment and I guess Glenn Beck has the right to be a paranoid.”
Huffington split the difference between Cross’ view and Klein’s. She said explained, as she has said before, that some voices should be silenced because they are figuratively “crying fire in a crowded theater,” which is known as a nation in economic despair.
“But there’s also an exception to the First Amendment about crying fire in a crowded theater,” Huffington said. “And right now, we’re in a very crowded theater of a country filled with economic anxiety and they’re crying fire every night and as example have this large majority who believe that Obama is a Muslim, a communist, a Nazi – destroy everything.”
Klein said it wasn’t a significant number, but explained there is a segment of society who “will believe anything.” That led Cross to say that was the reason there should be this crackdown on certain speech.
“That’s the exact reason there should be you know, just a, some kind of a legitimate watchdog – somebody to say, and not so that the person who says it is then, ‘Oh well, you’re left-wing,’ or ‘Oh, you’re right-wing, that’s why you didn’t like thing the left-wing guy said.’ But, a legitimate source for people not to go seek out but if equal time – if Bill O’Reilly says something that is blatantly false, specious, propaganda – then there should be, he should be – he should be held to a standard that – where somebody can go in and say --”
Perhaps someone should explain to Cross that O’Reilly is the left-wing boogeyman of the last decade. Nonetheless, Huffington argued there should be some sort of robotic fact-checker for anything put out over the airwaves.
“I agree with you, but I think it should be completely non-partisan,” Huffington said. “I think it should be a technological tool. I’m sure we can create – I don’t know, it would be something that simply bubbles up whenever you say something and compares what you said with a fact, like was there a death panel provision in the health care legislation, yes or no. It’s not a matter of opinion.”