Ahhhhh. Finally, a former talk show host who is a breath of fresh air and not so enthralled with himself that he can’t give tough, thoughtful responses about what is happening with the media in this country.
(Here’s looking at you Montel Williams. Perhaps you can take a hint.)
Phil Donahue, the God of talk show hosts who, at 81, never ages, appeared on MSNBC Wednesday morning to give the media some unsolicited advice.
Prompted by host Stephanie Ruhle, Donahue gave the media some tough love.
“I think they are welcoming finally a pushback,” he said of President Trump‘s supporters. “I don’t think the press should get in the mosh pit.”
Donahue said the media needs a thicker skin.
“I think they have to all be big boys big girls and takes the hits,” he said. “Take the hits and hope we have an audience that understands this. …I just think it’s bad for the press to get into the punching game. There are a lot of people in the press who can’t take a punch.”
Watch this part closely, Montel. Here’s where Donahue gets self-reflective: “You know, maybe I couldn’t either. I don’t remember. I think it’s important for you to be above this and keep doing what you’re doing.”
The pep talk: “You’re not supposed to be popular. You’re supposed tell people often what they don’t want to hear. THAT’s YOUR JOB! And of course the problem is, if you’re not popular you don’t get promoted in the news game, and uh, somebody else will have to feed your kids. It’s really a tough dilemma for news in my opinion.”
The stern lecture: “Keep working. Don’t be so sensitive. Don’t look like you have a glass jaw. It’s a boxing phrase. One who can’t take a punch. I think the press has to be above that.”
Donahue saw a sharp turn against the media in 2011 when then-SNL’s Seth Meyers hosted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “The joke was what is Donald Trump going to run as? And the joke was, well, I thought he was going to run as a joke. Ha ha ha ha. You took a picture of Donald Trump sitting there not laughing in the audience and all the press surrounding him laughing and laughing. It made me wince.”
He saw “public humiliation.” And now? “I think that now he’s the man, he’s refusing to go to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” he said. “It’s like he’s peeking through the window and giving them a middle finger.”
Ruhle asked him about the news of fake TIME covers Trump created for himself.
“He’s a bad boy. But for those who voted for him, he’s their bad boy,” Donahue said. “It’s like he’s the antidote to what they see as the pompous, self-righteous, elite media. They know stuff you don’t know. And that’s one of their angers. They welcome him. They turn out to his rallies. He can fill any large venue in this country.”
Ruhle snapped a little: “For now.”
But Donahue wasn’t buying it. “Well, we don’t know now do we? We don’t know. I think it’s going to be harder to dislodge. We might want to just move on and deal with it.”
Ruhle went on about all the lies that have been told. She wondered, “What does deal with it mean?”
“I think you want to keep pushing back,” Donahue said. “But consider this — it’s not going to be that easy. …In some ways to vote for impeachment is to step on the third rail.”
He said the media needs to consider this: “A lot of very nice people voted for Donald Trump.”
Before the segment closes, Donahue pops off with a crack about Trump’s recent sycophantic cabinet meeting. “How about the cabinet meeting where they all worshipped the king, do you remember that?” he asked, thoroughly amused.
Ruhle’s tone turned sharp. “Here’s the thing, we don’t have a king here in the Untied States.”
Donahue replied, “He’s acting like one though.”