Why the Over-The-Top PC Reaction to Al Michaels’ Harvey Weinstein Joke Matters
So, apparently, we now live is a world where Lorne Michaels can be criticized for NOT making jokes at night about Harvey Weinstein on NBC, and where Al Michaels can be forced to apologize for making a joke at night about Harvey Weinstein on NBC?!
I already knew that in the era of Trump as president of the United States we had left the gravitational pull of the rational earth, but even by these new crazy standards, this is just plain nuts.
Now, of course, I realize that Saturday Night Live and Sunday Night Football, despite both being live entertainment shows on weekend nights on NBC, are two very different programs. SNL often focuses on how liberals are protesting against Trump, while SNF… well, they do a lot of that as well lately.
I acknowledge that the role of a TV play-by-play announcer (a job I once did at a low level many years ago) is different from that of a comedian, but it is not THAT dissimilar. Both are in the entertainment business and humor is often, or at least used to be, part of what a good announcer brings to the endeavor.
Al Micheals specifically is a legend and is probably, along with Bob Costas, the very last link to the pre-ESPN golden age of sports broadcasting. He is also, much like Costas, known for his sharp wit and humor where he often weaves politics and current events into whatever is happening on the field.
Last night, while doing the broadcast of the previously dreadful New York Giants who had been beset by injuries, Michaels quipped, “Let’s face it, the Giants are coming off a worse week than Harvey Weinstein.”
Twitter immediately went into a near total meltdown (had the Los Angeles Dodgers not won their playoff game in dramatic fashion within the same timeframe, it would have been even worse). Most hilariously, maverick sports websites like “Barstool Sports” and “Deadspin,” both known for posting content that a TV network would never dream remotely appropriate, immediately “virtue signaled” that this rather tame joke by Michaels was totally out of bounds.
Michaels was then quickly forced to offer a rather half-hearted on-air apology.
But exactly was Michaels’ foul? He was NOT joking about the victims of Weinstein. He was not even kidding about the nature of the allegations against him. He was mocking Weinstein and making a humorous comparison between two entities which clearly had endured horrible weeks.
About the only thing I found remotely wrong about what Michaels said was that it wasn’t really accurate. Weinstein obviously had an even WORSE week than the Giants did, even before they ended up somehow beating the Broncos last night.
I am still struggling to even understand what all the outrage was theoretically about. Did people think that Michaels was somehow suggesting sympathy for Weinstein? If so, then the Twitter mob, which is dangerously gaining power as our culture’s moral arbiter, is even dumber than I previously presumed them to be.
My best guess is that Michaels got caught in the bad luck situation of the #MeToo hashtag (devoted to women sharing their stories of sexual harassment and abuse) trending at the top of Twitter all day and that created a combustible situation. But the two circumstances are totally different. It is absurd to instantly conclude that because someone makes a mild joke dissing the name of Harvey Weinstein that it is somehow disrespectful to victims of sexual abuse. I certainly don’t recall that being the standard a year ago when Trump/pussy jokes were all the rage.
It should also be noted that comedian James Corden has been forced to apologize for a Weinstein joke as well. His attempt at humor at least somewhat dealt with the subject of the allegations themselves, but it is important to point out that they occurred not on his CBS TV show, but at a private event he was hosting.
Shouldn’t the standards of humor, especially for a comedian, be completely different when someone is at an event where you have to pay to get in, as opposed to on broadcast television where people could be watching just by accident? If not, we are soon going to be living in a rather dull world (except, of course, for the morose entertainment which president Trump provides on his own almost daily).
If this is indeed the new standard of political correctness (and I thought one of the few benefits of the Trump presidency would be to curtail PC), then I fail to see how a broadcaster of a live event can possibly do their job without being incredibly boring in order to not jeopardize that employment.
In short, as they often say on Twitter, “this is why we can’t have nice things.”
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at [email protected]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.