Whoopi Still Clueless About the Constitution

December 21st, 2008 9:41 PM

“The View” moderator Whoopi Goldberg is apparently still unaware that the Constitution explicitly forbids slavery. Appearing on the December 21 edition of “Reliable Sources” (video here), host Howard Kurtz played a clip of Whoopi Goldberg questioning John McCain, that is he were to appoint strict constructionist judges, if she should fear a return to slavery. 

Unfazed, Whoopi replied “I thought that was reasonable.” After complaining many took her remarks out of context, the daytime star continued “if you were going to say you wanted strictly by the Constitution, it has to be a fluid thing, because we'd still -- I'd be working for somebody right now.” Goldberg, months after the interview, apparently still does not know that slavery was banned by the 13th Amendment, something a strict constructionist judge can very clearly understand.

Kurtz also inquired as to Whoopi’s opinion on the liberal tilt of “The View” (three conservatives to one liberal) and wondered if another conservative should be added for more balance. Goldberg simply replied that Sherri Shepherd “leans from side to side” and that another conservative is unnecessary. 

Howard Kurtz also brought up the subject of the media’s love affair with Barack Obama. Whoopi disagreed and added “when [the media] were going after him about Reverend Wright, it didn't seem very nice,” but added the media were “really rotten” to Hillary Clinton. 

The relevant transcript follows. 

HOWARD KURTZ: I've always been curious to meet Whoopi Goldberg. Here's an actress who starred in such films as "The Color Purple," "Sister Act," and "Ghost." A controversial figure with no shortage of opinions, and a woman who has reinvented herself over the last year and a half as moderator of "The View." So, after I chided the daytime show for its campaign coverage last month, Whoopi sent me a note and I sent her a note, and that led to an invitation to appear on this program. I sat down with her in New York.  Whoopi Goldberg, welcome.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Welcome. Thank you.

KURTZ: Now, you are a tremendously successful actress. You've won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, but much more important, you've been the center square on "Hollywood Squares." What made you want to join "The View" and spend part of your time arguing about politics?

GOLDBERG: They asked me. I mean, it was that simple. Someone said, "Would you like to do this?" And I thought, well, this could be fun because I thought it was going to be an interesting couple of years. So I said sure.

KURTZ: Do you like to argue about politics?

GOLDBERG: Well, I don't like to argue. I like to talk about stuff. I like to have lots of great discussions. And better they should pay me well and do it on television.

KURTZ: Is your role as the moderator to stir things up or calm them down?

GOLDBERG: I think it's just to keep everything sort of in some sort of balance. Not whether one is right or wrong, but just to not go off in 40 million different directions, to try to keep it in one area.

KURTZ: Speaking of balance, it often seems like it's much of the gang against Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Should there be another conservative on the show?

GOLDBERG: I don't know. I don't know if there should be -- I think Sherri is sort of leaning -- she leans from side to side, which I think most of us actually do.

KURTZ: Sherri Shepherd.

GOLDBERG: Yes. I don't think most of us are one thing or another, I think we all find ideas in both parties to talk about. But there is no third party to sort of be those people that blend. So, no, I don't think we need another conservative, though I'm sure the conservatives would think so.

KURTZ: I'm sure that a few of them have made that observation.

GOLDBERG: I'm sure.

KURTZ: Let's talk about the presidential campaign. You and I got into it on the air a little bit when I said I thought "The View" had been tougher on John McCain than Barack Obama.


KURTZ: And you made the point that when Obama came on, it was back in the primaries. That's when Barbara Walters called him sexy.


KURTZ: And when McCain got more of a grilling, it was during the general election.

GOLDBERG: Right. We called him sexy, too, actually.

KURTZ: I missed that.

GOLDBERG: "Johnny Mac," I called.

KURTZ: Why didn't Obama come back? Obviously "The View" invited him. Were you miffed by that?

GOLDBERG: No. I was a little disappointed, because I thought this is a good place to come. And, you know, for whatever reason, maybe they just -- they haven't had a lot of time to get their act together, so maybe it just wasn't a good time. Because I haven't seen them go on very many shows. I've seen them get satellited in...


GOLDBERG: Or satellit (ph). Satellited in, but I haven't seen him appear anywhere.

KURTZ: He went on "Meet the Press," he went on "60 Minutes."

GOLDBERG: Yes, but that's a different kind of -- you know, now you're the president, you've got to look like you have a little more than when you're with us, I guess.

KURTZ: I see, alright. Now, when McCain did come on, you made some remarks that got widely picked up. I want to play the clip for the audience.



GOLDBERG: Did you say you wanted strict constitutionalists? Because that-

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): No, I want people who interpret the Constitution of the United States the way our founding fathers envisioned for them to do.

GOLDBERG: Should I be worried about being a slave, being returned to slavery? Because certain things happened in the Constitution that you had to change.


GOLDBERG: I thought that was reasonable.

KURTZ: But were you surprised that it got so much attention, as if you were saying to John McCain, am I going to be a slave again under your administration?

GOLDBERG: Well, I am used to the fact that people only half hear things. And if they had been listening, they would have heard me say to him, because if you were going to say you wanted strictly by the Constitution, it has to be a fluid thing, because we'd still -- I'd be working for somebody right now. But a lot of people missed that and say, “oh, you don't know anything about the Constitution.” I said, "Actually, you should read it. It's got some interesting things in it." But no, it doesn't surprise me anymore. I mean, that's one of the reasons you're doing “Reliable Sources,” isn't it? So that there is some way for people to say, actually, if you had listened, this is what was said?

KURTZ: I get this too, sometimes. People say, you accused somebody of doing something, and fortunately we have these things called transcripts and videotape, and you can say, well, it wasn't quite the way I put it.


KURTZ: Alright. Now, the consensus seems to be that at least during the presidential campaign, the press was somewhere between pretty nice to Barack Obama and getting the pom-poms out. Do you think that is -- the press is still being nice to the president-elect, or is this starting to change with this Rod Blagojevich scandal?

GOLDBERG: Well, I don't think they have been -- I don't think they were nicer to one or the other. I think they were all really rotten to Hillary Clinton. You know, that was pretty much all (unintelligible). But, you know, when they were going after him about Reverend Wright, it didn't seem very nice. And there were a lot of issues that people didn't like. They were curious about it, they wanted information out, and they dug and they dug and they dug. And you know, after two years, at some point you've got to go, you know what? You're not so bad. You know, if this had been a shorter amount of time, I don't know.

KURTZ: You don't agree that overall -- I mean, I'm thinking about Barack Obama being repeatedly -- I mean, he was on every entertainment show, he was on every magazine cover, much more than John McCain. You don't think that he got gentler treatment than John McCain?

GOLDBERG: No, I don't think he got gentler treatment.

KURTZ: You really don't?

GOLDBERG: I think that he was more popular. I mean, that's the bottom line, you know, the difference...

KURTZ: But maybe that's because the press helped build him up.

GOLDBERG: No, it's because the people he was appealing to wanted to see him in a different arena than they wanted to see John McCain. You know, I love John McCain. I've liked him for many, many years. But the truth of the matter is, if you're not reaching out to kids and college kids, and you're not talking to them in the way they that recognize, they don't see you. They don't really see you. And I think that Barack Obama did something that Bill Clinton began. And then we saw Joe -- not Joe Biden. Who was the head of the DNC?

KURTZ: Howard Dean.

GOLDBERG: Howard Dean -- what Howard Dean did brilliantly, and Barack Obama took it and took it to the next level. You will remember Howard Dean was everywhere, too, because he was talking to young people.

KURTZ: Right now, are journalists being fair to Obama in raising these questions about Obama and his Chicago inner circle and the governor of Illinois, who obviously likes to talk a lot about bleeps on wiretapped conversations?

GOLDBERG: Right. Well, I would think that with all the tapes that they have, if you don't hear him calling the man, I don't know why you -- if you don't hear Barack Obama on the phone with the dude, it's possible he did not have the conversation. Now, did other people talk? You know, I'm sure. People said, “oh, so what's he going to do?” I don't know, he's probably talking to the guy. I don't know.

KURTZ: Is it fair for journalists to ask these questions?

GOLDBERG: I think they should ask the questions, but I will say that yesterday CNN did a -- not yesterday, but during the week CNN did an interesting thing. It was -- they showed a journalist talking to him after he had talked to some little kids. And again, the journalists brought up the Blagojevich situation and he said, you know, I'm not talking about it. Now, if Patrick Kennedy (sic) said no discussion about it-

KURTZ: Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney.

GOLDBERG: Why do I have Patrick Kennedy in my head?

KURTZ: These Kennedys have been much in the news.

GOLDBERG: Oh my gosh, yes. Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, Kennedy – hello? Patrick Fitzgerald says this is not to be discussed, you kind of have to give the guy a little props and say, “okay, I'm not going to do it until you tell me it's okay.” But I could be wrong.

KURTZ: You seem to have a talent for attracting controversy. But your first day on "The View," if I'm correct, last year, when you talked about Michael Vick and the dog fighting charges, and you said that this was not unusual in the Deep South.


GOLDBERG: Well, I said it wasn't unusual in the dog fighting culture. They thought because I said there are places in the country like in the Deep South, in Brooklyn, there are a lot of places where dog fighting happens. But it's not culture of what color your skin is, it's the mentality. It's like racism is a culture, dog fighting is a culture. Sexism oftentimes is a culture if you've just been raised and you're supposed to be a woman who does nothing but subservient. It's a culture.

KURTZ: Did you feel you got unfairly pilloried on that whole Michael Vick episode?

GOLDBERG: No. You know, it's like a lot of things.

I think a little bit differently, and I saw a brilliant thing on HBO about this very thing. And I thought, oh, you know what? I didn't know that dogfighting was as prevalent in the United States as it is. And if you are someone who grew up in this mindset, it would not be unusual and you would not be somebody who thought, oh, cute little puppy. That's not the way he was raised.

KURTZ: Is there room in the media culture for somebody who thinks a little bit differently, or do you find that the media kind of pounce on these incidents and pump them up and distort them, and the original meaning of what you tried to say sometimes is lost?

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, that's been -- for the last, you know, ten years that's been happening, and specifically the last eight, where you couldn't say anything without getting a lot of garbage for it. You know, people got very mad when a lot of folks spoke out whether they were speaking out about Cuba or they were speaking out about things that were going on in Iraq. You know, people didn't want to hear that. And so it's like, oh, who are you are as an entertainer to speak about these things? And the bottom line is we're Americans and citizens.

KURTZ: Do you feel pressure to tone it down a little?



GOLDBERG: No. No. I got into a lot of trouble, unnecessarily, for something I supposedly said but nobody could ever find.

KURTZ: And that is?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, I did a benefit and got into a lot of trouble.

KURTZ: Was this the 2004 John Kerry fund-raiser?



KURTZ: Okay, and it was widely reported that you told a joke about Bush, it was a play on his name.

GOLDBERG: Right. But did you ever see the joke right after?

KURTZ: No. I've read 50 articles about it.

GOLDBERG: Right. But you never saw what I said.

KURTZ: Right.


KURTZ: Is that because you said something different or you didn't tell this joke?

GOLDBERG: I don't know what joke they're talking about.

KURTZ: It's a play on Bush's name that supposedly made a reference to genitalia.

GOLDBERG: And I'm the first person who ever made that reference?

KURTZ: Probably not.

GOLDBERG: So why suddenly during an election year would it take on this meaning and why wouldn't you, if there was something to really write about, why wouldn't you do dots and dashes like they do when there's a bad word said? Why couldn't you refer to what it was? Because nobody knew what it was because it didn't happen the way they said it.

KURTZ: But supposedly, allegedly, reportedly, as a result you lost a contract.

GOLDBERG: Yes. I lost quite a few gigs.

KURTZ: Go ahead.

GOLDBERG: People didn't care whether it was true or not. That's one of the reasons I like your show.

KURTZ: Well, I'm glad to hear that. When you say people, do you mean the general public, do you mean journalists who write about this?

GOLDBERG: Yes. I think journalists and the general public for a while there didn't care if it was true. All you had to do was-

KURTZ: Because it was so juicy?

GOLDBERG: Yes. You just had to put it out. And no one ever fact-checked, no one ever saw it, nobody ever said-


KURTZ: We'll call you, or call your spokesman and say, by the way, is this the way it went it down?

GOLDBERG: No. They already did it. After everything was taken, then they wanted to know what it was.

KURTZ: Ah I see, alright.

GOLDBERG: And it cost me a good three, four years of work.


KURTZ: Earlier this year, as you'll recall, Jesse Jackson was caught on a microphone off camera making some disparaging remarks about Obama. He wanted to slice a certain part of his anatomy off, and using the "N" word. Now, you talked about this on "The View." And let me play that for the viewers and we'll talk about it on the other side.


GOLDBERG: I need you to understand there's the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn't balanced, and we would like it to be, but you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we're telling you there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you've got to know this if you want...

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST: I understand that. In the pop culture, when that word is used, when -- this is upsetting to me.


KURTZ: Were you saying that it is okay in some contexts to use that word, or that the word has become radioactive because we all treat it that way?

GOLDBERG: Well, I was simply saying -- well, that wasn't in reference to the word, that was -- that whole exchange was in reference to you have to know why we're talking about -- I think Jeremiah Wright -- why he is angry. You have to understand the history from his point of view. Here is a man that comes -- you know, who is born here and until '68 doesn't have the right to vote all over the country. You know, people are still angry. You know, there is a certain generation that's pissed off. There's a certain generation of folks who don't recognize that word the same way Jeremiah Wright's age group does. And they've taken that word and made it into something totally different. And my point has always been, if it can stop you, if it's a word that can stop you if you ever thought you were one or you think you might be one or you know one, maybe that is a word that's going to stop you, stop you in your tracks and put you off what you're going to do. But if you take that word and you take the crap out of it, then you can move on because it doesn't have any meaning.

KURTZ: In that taping did you use the "N" word?

GOLDBERG: Oh, probably.

KURTZ: Was it cut out?

GOLDBERG: Probably.

KURTZ: Did that bother you?

GOLDBERG: Well, I found it interesting, because suddenly now, when you watch "Roots," "beep, beep, beep," that's all you hear. Anything that has the word in it, whether it's-

KURTZ: Even in a historical context.

GOLDBERG: In a historical context, it's ridiculous.

KURTZ: So that is a whitewashing of history, in your view?

GOLDBERG: I think so, you know.