Ethics Revelations In The Obituaries: Media Bias And “Big Al”


Ethics revelations lurk everywhere, even in the obituaries pages:

The Surprising Integrity of “Big Al”

Al Molinaro, the rumpled, large proboscused character actor best known as “Murray the cop” on TV’s “Odd Couple” and the proprietor of
the diner on “Happy Days,” where he mastered the world-weary catch phrase of “Yeeeaaahh, yeah-yeah-yeah…,” died last week at the advanced age of 96. In his Washington Post obituary, I gained new admiration for Al. (I was always an Arnold (Pat Morita) man, myself, and if you don’t understand that reference, good for you. You ignored “Happy Days.”) At the end of Al’s obit, there was this…

“In 1990, Mr. Molinaro told the Chicago Tribune that Marshall, who went on to direct hit films including “Pretty Woman,” tried unsuccessfully to recruit him for big-screen work.

“I can’t work in movies with Garry because I’m so square that I won’t be in a movie that has four-letter words in it,” Mr. Molinaro said. “That puts me pretty much totally out of films these days. . . . You get to a point where you don’t want to do just anything for the career. You gotta live with yourself.”

Now that’s integrity, and in show business, of all places. Our culture remains civil and benign only if we are willing to fight for it, or at least withhold our assistance as it deteriorates. Molinaro had the courage and integrity to accept this civic duty, Few among as do, and actors—especially specialty character actors like Al, almost never do. I remember that Mel Brooks harbored dreams of getting John Wayne to play “The Waco Kid” in “Blazing Saddles,” and said that he ran in to the Duke and talked him into reading the screenplay.  Wayne called him the next day and told Brooks that he loved the script, but that he couldn’t take the role. “It’s too dirty,” he said. “I’m John Wayne!” But he said he laughed all night as he read it, and promised to be “at the head of the line” when it opens.

I salute you, Al. Nobody expected you to be John Wayne, but you stood up for standards anyway.

Another Media Bias Smoking Gun

I admit it, the fact that otherwise smart and honest people continue to deny that the news media is frighteningly—as in “it’s dangerous” —biased toward progressive policies and politicians and against the other kind continues to astound me. As I am keeping track of the media commentators and others whose reaction to the CNBC debate was “Bias? What bias?,” this still a raw topic with me. Smoking guns are everywhere, all the time, though. The biased and” so far left they think left bias is just stating the truth” gang are incapable of see it, however.

Right under Big Al’s obituary in the Post was the story of Willis Carto, dead at 89, a mysterious, racist, anti-Semitic Holocaust denier who spread bigotry and hate though publications and organizations he launched and financed. He sounds like quite a guy:

“Mr. Carto founded the Liberty Lobby in the 1950s, and the organization maintained a presence on Capitol Hill for decades. He had a publishing company, Noontide Press, that distributed extremist literature and launched several publications, including the Washington Observer newsletter and a weekly newspaper, the Spotlight, which had a national circulation of 300,000 in the early 1980s.

In letters and other statements, Mr. Carto voiced admiration for Nazi Germany and recommended that black Americans be deported to Africa. In 1981, the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that monitors anti-Jewish slurs and threats, called Mr. Carto “a professional anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer and the mastermind” of a “propaganda empire.”

The Post could have justifiably shortened the obituary to one word under the headline: “Good!”

It was much longer, though, covering a life of spreading lies and neo-Nazi policy positions. He  “founded the Institute for Historical Review, which promulgated anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and denounced the Holocaust as a hoax.” Carto reportedly kept busts of Adolf Hitler in his office. Carto founded the Populist Party, whose 1988 presidential candidate was David Duke.

Then, after all this and more, we get this smear:

“In the end, Mr. Carto’s views proved beyond the pale even to other figures of the right.”

You know, like William Buckley, Barry Goldwater, all those other Republicans, conservatives, racists and Holocaust deniers.

This is the kind of reflex contempt and bias journalists have for conservatives, and it is so ingrained that it comes out in everything. Either the Post’s editor didn’t notice it (as a fair journalist should have) or he believes it himself.

Bias? What bias?

10 thoughts on “Ethics Revelations In The Obituaries: Media Bias And “Big Al”

  1. Biased? Certainly. Unprofessional? Absolutely. Lacking in anything resembling a moral compass? Uh huh.

    I guess I haven’t been agreeing with you, not because I think that the purveyors of news don’t fit your descriptions, but because I stopped paying attention to the media at least 10 years ago when interviewers began doing such inexcusable things as asking family members of murder victims et al. “And how did that make you feel?” Those are the things that made MY head explode years ago.

    Of course, there’s bias, unprofessional actions, and a lack of moral compass on both sides. So in protest, I read The Onion.

  2. I missed the news of Mr. Molinaro’s passing. He brought a lot of honest laughs to people. That’s a laudable achievement in itself. He also had a moral outlook that extended beyond career considerations. Had I been him, I really don’t know if I could have resisted the offer from Garry Marshall! That he did so bespeaks of an excellent character. May God rest him.

    And John Wayne as the Waco Kid?? I’m still trying to contemplate that!

  3. Laugh line of the day: John Wayne telling Mel Brooks, “I’m John Wayne.”

    Would that all the guys who strut around the non-movie world thinking and acting as if they are John Wayne could say, “I’m Joe Schmoe.”

    • For the Duke, it was actually a complex statement. He played John Wayne. He knew he wasn’t John Wayne, but that “John Wayne” was his life’s work of art, and had to maintain integrity always. He said he always thought of himself offscreen as “Marion”, which is why he wanted to be called “Duke,” his pre-John Wayne nickname. He once said that when someone called “John” his first reaction was to look around to see who “John” was.

      Wayne was a good comic actor (McClintock!; True Grit, Laugh-In, Red Skelton, I Love Lucy…) but too big a presence for Blazing Saddles, though his version of The Kid would have been very funny. But it would have become a John Wayne movie. Good call by Duke/John/ Marion.

      • The only thing that could have made casting Wayne work would have been if Pryor was in it. That would have taken the movie to another level.

        • And apparently the Wayne recruitment was going on while Mel was trying to get the studio to accept Pryor. That would have been a pairing for the ages. You’re right—even as a relative unknown, Pryor had the presence and inherent star power to hold center stage, even against Wayne. The movie as it was cast was essentially all supporting actors, no established leads, just unknowns or second bananas (Brooks, Korman, Pickens, Kahn, Wilder (then)).

      • Agreed. Which is what makes it so funny. He didn’t say “I’m Marion Morrison.” (his given name, I believe) Nice to hear he had a good sense of humor.

        When I was in college, students used to get work at the Utica Club brewery giving tours. A guy we knew could do the tour in all sorts of personas, one of which was John Wayne: “There’ll be no shilly-shallying…”

  4. Ironically (and, IMO, unfortunately), John Wayne was a longtime subscriber to Willis Carto’s publications and avidly devoured them. The ‘Duke’ particularly enjoyed the SPOTLIGHT, American Mercury, and the Liberty Letter – all published by Carto’s empire of Hate.

    • You should see what I read. He was an educated man, he was intellectually curious. He read the New York Times and the classics. He was a hard right conservative, no doubt about it, but not the most extreme of them (he was well-left of Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Cecil B. DeMille and maybe even James Stewart. Anyway, JOHN Wayne was fictional You’re talking about the real artist who brought John Wayne to life.

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