I Can’t Let THIS Pass…

[For some reason Gilbert and Sullivan quotes are running through my feeble mind this morning. The title is from “Yeomen of the Guard,” which I have directed. It’s not the best of the operettas (though it’s a great show), but it may have the finest score, and I figured out just a couple of weeks ago how to handle its famous shock ending. I hope I get a chance to stage it some day.]

 Michel Martin is the NPR host who in December of 2017 stabbed me in the back by permitting Professor Paul Butler’s on-the-air ambush in the middle of my (100% correct) explanation of how sexual harassment works, and then banned me from her show  because I didn’t sufficiently bolster her anti-Trump agenda. It was my fault…

I foolishly thought providing last minute, authoritative and free ethics commentary for her show for five years meant I could trust her to treat me fairly and with a modicum of respect.

Here was a recent exchange with with Harmeet Dhillon, committeewoman for California’s Republican National Committee, as Martin asked about her reaction to the Mueller report:

MARTIN: What’s your reaction? I’m sure you have many, but what’s your top line reaction to today’s report?

DHILLON: Well, the president was completely vindicated and exonerated after two years of false allegations and really, what I consider to be a coup attempt against his presidency. But we are not cheering, most of us here on the Republican side, because it is atrocious and outrageous that the Department of Justice and the FBI and these other institutions were hijacked for a partisan end, and that for two years, our president was not allowed to fully carry out his agenda because of this cloud hanging over his presidency.

So contrary to your prior commentator, many Republicans believe that there needs to be a continuing investigation into the Obama administration who did the unmasking there, false representations made to the FISA court, a fraudulent report from Fusion GPS making its way into a government investigation and on and on.

And I will also say on the other side, the Democrats in Congress don’t appear to be willing to let this go either. So I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this entire situation by a long stretch.

MARTIN: Does the president now need to accept that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?

DHILLON: The president has actually said that many times, that the Russians attempted to interfere. The issue that is under investigation is whether the president interfered and colluded with the Russians. So I don’t think anybody questions that many foreign governments, including China, including Russia, have always, for many decades, been trying to interfere in our elections. And frankly, that is sort of the ground rules of what is expected, whether it’s a Democrat winning, whether it’s a Republican winning. I’m sure they’ve been doing it. And you’re aware as well that the president has said that.

MARTIN: Does the president owe Robert Mueller and his team an apology? I know that he’s not big on apologies. But he’s made disparaging comments about him in particular, about the people working for him for months now He’s disparaged their professionalism and objectivity. And now that their report has concluded what he has said all along, does he owe them an apology?

DHILLON: Absolutely not. That’s a totally false premise. The fact that they reached a correct conclusion does not mean that they did not waste two years of time, $25 million worth of money of the people. And they probably, given the volume of evidence, the interviews that they did, knew early on that there was nothing to this. And yet, they dragged out their investigation for two years.

MARTIN: Were they not asked to conduct this investigation?

DHILLON: Excuse me, don’t interrupt me, please…

MARTIN: Were they asked to conduct this investigation…

DHILLON: I’m a guest on your show.

MARTIN: I understand that.

DHILLON: I’m a guest. Let me finish. Let me finish my comment.


DHILLON: My comment includes that people in this investigation were dragged through the mud unnecessarily using abusive prosecutorial tactics. A elderly man, Paul Manafort, was held in solitary and pressured to lie and to confess that the president had colluded with Russia. That is a fact.


DHILLON: It is a fact that other people like Michael Caputo and Hope Hicks and others in the White House have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves against now known to be false charges. So no, I am not a fan of this prosecution. And nobody is owing an apology to Robert Mueller.

MARTIN: All right.

I found myself wondering if I would have been able to get away with the the “Don’t interrupt me: I’m a guest” tactic when Professor Butler and Michel ganged up on me to cut me off because my explanation could be construed as defending Trump.  My guess is that I wouldn’t, as a white male. I also  think Dhillon’s push-back, while effective, was unethical. It’s Martin’s show, and she controls the interview. The guest is obligated yield to the host. I think Martin, who is a strong character, was surprised…just like I was, when she let her pal Butler mug me.

22 thoughts on “I Can’t Let THIS Pass…

  1. Do tell, Jack, how WOULD you handle that ending? My director in college said that he would have given Jack Point white hair under the jester’s cap and bells to make the point that he was not the ideal partner for Elsie Maynard. I would go a step farther and give him increasingly pale makeup in the second act, as well as instructing the actor to perform as though dizzy and short of breath, like someone in less than wonderful cardiac health. That way the audience will be ok with Elsie being less than enthusiastic about him vis-à-vis heroic Colonel Fairfax, and they’ll just shrug at his end, saying he would have died soon anyway.

    • The approach you describe was exactly what the great patter baritone Martyn Green staged when he played the role himself in his sixties. Even before that production (which I saw as a child), he wrote, he used make-up to suggest that Jack Point had heart disease, and he looked worse and worse as the show went on. When he died (laughing madly), it seemed completely plausible, but was still a shock.

      The problem is that most Jack Points aren’t Martyn Green, a great actor, and also that the rest of his role is greatly enhanced by a younger, lively jester. Gilbert’s death by a broken heart just isn’t believable with a younger actor.

      I would have him commit suicide as the finale rises to its climax, cutting his throat bloodily: those blood spurting prop knives are great. And the last image would be the jester, lying in a widening pool of his own blood, eyes staring, as Elsie and Fairfax look on in horror, as the curtain falls.

  2. I am surprised someone was allowed to say what Dhillon did. Usually the left just shouts opposition down.

    Is it unethical to allow your position to be shouted down? Maybe this was ethics zugzwang?

  3. Jack: “I also think Dhillon’s push-back, while effective, was unethical. It’s Martin’s show, and she controls the interview.”

    I don’t entirely agree. It is hard to tell from the transcript, but it did not appear as if Martin was interrupting Dhillon, so I am not sure where those comments were coming from. But, it is not as simple as saying she controls the interview. It is either a conversation or it is not. If she is being responsive to the question, she should be allowed to finish without interruption or cross-examination (unless there is a good reason, like switching topics or time constraints).

    I can’t really tell what was going on with the transcripts, but it looked like Martin was trying to argue with her.


    • I disagree. Martin asked loaded questions. She asked, “Does the president now need to accept that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?” and “Does the president owe Robert Mueller and his team an apology?” Martin approached the interview with an agenda and Dillon did not take the bait, at which point Martin interrupted her. Dillon was right to push back if the Martin, the host, was misrepresenting Dillon’s answers.

      While it’s Martin’s show, Martin has to be honest with her guests. From the outset she was dishonest. The first question assumes Russian influenced the outcome of the 2016 election. Martin has not read Mueller’s report and has no idea what that influence was and what impact it may have had on the 2016 election. President Obama assured us the election system was safe from outside influence or attacks. If that is not the case, then why does this problem lie at his feet. After all, it happened on his watch.

      The second question was even more obnoxious. Martin assumes that Trump is not a legitimate president. Martin also assumes that Trump, in collusion with Russia, stole the election from Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, why would Martin assert that Trump owes Mueller an apology. Again, she has not read the report but Mueller did not recommend further indictments or prosecutions. If it is true that you can indict a ham sandwich, then procuring an indictment would be pretty easy, right?


  4. It seems to me that when one understands what they feel is at stake, and then discerns what they are fighting for and afraid of losing, one more easily understands their choice to shut down speech on the issue.

    The entire issue hinges — it absolutely hinges — on what sort of America one wants. *You* opened it up to be what it is. It was the participation of an ‘entire generation’, wasn’t it? It is now becoming more of what it was opened up to be. Now you have second thoughts?

    That is pretty much the ‘long and the short of it’.

    It seems to me that the following is true: For ‘them’ to feel they get what they want, in a very real sense *you* must be eliminated. Or highly modified. The entire problem arises from the ‘experiment’ though!

    Who put it — ideologically — in motion? If it is now becoming unacceptable, how will it be reversed? Or what will happen next?

    Once the ‘real issue’ comes into clear and sheer focus, one can then arrive at decisions about what it means and if one assents to it. If things go on in this way, the American Republic will become a different republic. It will literally be a Multi-Ethnic Republic under a sort of Socialist Police State.

    Is that what you want? Is that what you are willing to sacrifice everything for?

    All I can say is there is a growing movement of people that reject the premises upon which the whole construct was ideologically constructed.

    For your listening pleasure. Let the notes drift into your ear like the sweet sound, that breathes upon a bank of violets:

    [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZrAYxWPN6c ]

  5. I also think Dhillon’s push-back, while effective, was unethical. It’s Martin’s show, and she controls the interview. The guest is obligated yield to the host. I think Martin, who is a strong character, was surprised…just like I was, when she let her pal Butler mug me.

    I think this is too simplistic, and therefore I disagree. You can’t be made to look like a patsy by the host and ethically bound to lie down for it, and you are not obligated to submit to unethical behavior by the host because it is his/her show. You have an ethical duty to the listeners to object.

    Being invited on a political show is not the same thing as being invited into someone’s home. The show host has a duty to know that you may not agree with her, and that she is ethically constrained from abusing your presence, even as a guest.

    • I think you’re onto something, Glenn. I find it very telling that the host seems to have continued running through her scripted questions without even listening to what the guest was saying. Pathetic, but typical of what hosts of these sorts of shows do. They don’t seem to have the capability to actually listen to answers and engage in conversation.

      • And worse yet, they typically let approved lefty guests spout issued talking points without objection or interruption.

        • I don’t object to that, as long as guests from the other side get to complete their points as well. Abuse of position for partisan gain can’t possibly be ethical.

          • I think a host letting guests simply read talking points is journalistic malpractice and therefore unethical. Incompetence is unethical. It’s been one of my pet peeves ever since the Dems invented talking points and Debby Wasserman Shultz.

            • And I think Michel’s guest WAS reciting talking points. On the other hand, NPR’s segments are so short, just memorizing a speech is probably the wisest course….and saying what you planned regardless of what the question is.

  6. If you’re not going to let your guest talk, why have a guest? Just go ahead and babble on and on by yourself. Several mainstream hosts, Lou Dobbs and Laura Ingraham in particular, do just that. Their guest sits there looking bewildered. as the host goes into their diatribe while I’m yelling at the TV “Let them talk”. Good For Harmeet!

  7. I also think Dhillon’s push-back, while effective, was unethical.
    I do agree that it is the host’s duty to get conversation moving, and to keep it in a civil. However, if you are asking someone for an interview, that means you are also obligated to let them answer the question. If they cannot be permitted their full responses (answers should not become filibusters unrelated and not concise) then the host is setting up an interview under false pretenses.

    The host here revealed they did not want an answer, they wanted to ‘gotcha’ a new target and guide fault in the initial ordering of the investgation. The guest commenting on the waste of the investigation’s duration was interrupted repeatedly to prevent finishing the thread of their answer.

    This is not the traffic cop or researcher of a good interviewer, but someone tryig to revise a first draft that isn’t going the way they want it to. The host did not like the answer and interrupted before the guest finished their thought. That was the first bad manners, then repeated. If the guest was not supposed to finish a thought (this ain’t Twitter) why bother with doing interviews at all? Just sit at the tale and lecture the audience? Everyone looves to hear pontificating from someone in the peanut gallery.

    Are there any good blanced interviewers? And why should anyone trust to be their guest ever again?

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