Today Show: Lauer Surprisingly Respectful to Bernie Goldberg and '100 People Screwing up America'

August 11th, 2005 7:33 AM

Has something gotten into the water at The Today Show? Yesterday, as reported here, Katie Couric's thesis was that W's poll numbers on the economy were unfairly low. This morning, Matt Lauer gave surprisingly deferential treatment to Bernie Goldberg and his book, '100 People Who are Screwing Up America,' which focuses on liberals and the cultural elites as the root of our societal ills.

Lauer began by asking "who is this book for?"

Goldberg: "Anybody who cares about the culture they are living in. There is a tremendous disconnect between regular, ordinary Americans who live in the middle of the country and what Tom Wolfe calls the 'blue parentheses' on both coasts Culture has gotten too angry, mean and vulgar."

Matt observed: "Not a lot of conservatives on this list. Are more liberals than conservatives screwing up America?"

Goldberg: "Yeah, and I'll tell you why," explaining how liberals are responsible for the debasement of the culture and adding " if we care about the environment, shouldn't we care about the cultural environment?"

Lauer then noted Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton's appearance on the list.

Goldberg stated that he wrote about the civil rights movement with great sadness, since it was the most moral movement of the 20th century and MLK, Jr. one of its greatest men. "But after the death of MLK, Jr., they turned civil rights into nothing more than a partisan political movement."

Lauer then synthesized Goldberg's argument on the matter, and while not expressly endorsing it himself, one got the sense that had Lauer found it entirely repugnant he would not have offered his own summary.

Said Lauer: "Fair to say that you say think people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have wrapped themselves in the banner of civil rights and in someways become people you can't criticize, because if you criticize Sharpton and Jackson, you criticize civil rights and that's something you can't do in this country?"

Goldberg: "There are grown men over at CBS News who have gone into war zones who are afraid to talk about race. That's not going to cut it."

Lauer then turned to 'artist' Chris Ofili, who notoriously created an image of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung.

Lauer: "Liberals when they heard the criticism of Chris Ofili were outraged, saying you had taken away his freedom of expression. Why did you put him on the list?"

Goldberg: "This is part of the disconnect between ordinary Americans and the cultural elites. He has every right [to cover the Virgin Mary in elephant dung]. But liberals and cultural elites turned him into a big hero; courageous. You want to be courageous? How about if you took MLK, Jr., another icon, and covered him with elephant dung, and then we would see how vile and bigoted and nasty it is, but somehow covering the Virgin Mary, that's courageous and sophisticated."

Lauer closed with a quote from the book in which Goldberg calls for "a little more appreciation for the values that most of us - liberals as well as conservatives, used to take for granted: civility, mutual respect, a semblance of decency and yes . . . a little old-fashioned love of country too." In a respectful tone, Lauer asked "what happens to us" if we don't change?

Beyond the questions posed, by his tone and body language Lauer was clearly at ease with Goldberg. There was none of the hostility and us-against-them vibe that seethed from Katie Couric during her infamous interview of Ann Coulter a year or so ago.

Bonus coverage: Today then moved to a segment into which it took delicious delight in the apparent hypocrisy of a highly-placed NYC priest caught on tape sharing a motel room for several hours one recent afternoon with his married secretary. Today tried to give itself cover in airing the salacious segment by using journalistic standards as a hook, commenting on the decision of the Daily News, a NY talbloid, to splash the story it on its front page. Of course that didn't stop Today from reveling in this latest embarrassment for the Church, airing a video clip from a recent talk in which the priest in question decried our declining moral standards.

Finkelstein has degrees from Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He lives in Ithaca, NY where he hosts "Right Angle," a local political talk show. Finkelstein specializes in exposing liberal bias at NBC's Today Show.