A candid assessment of the contemporary state of journalism at Restoration Weekend.
The discussion below recently took place at David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend in West Palm Beach, Florida (Nov. 17-20, 2011).
David Horowitz: Good morning. Hello, everybody. Good morning. This morning we're going to have a conversation between me and one of my favorite TV personalities and cultural critics, Bernie Goldberg. Bernie was a mainstream media newsman mainly for CBS for 28 years. His reporting won him 11 Emmys. By 1996, Bernie--it was very typical of CBS reporters and personnel--he had never voted for a Republican in his life. But he was alerted to a TV segment from his network, from CBS, in which a reporter was describing Steve Forbes, who was running for President then, his flat tax. And in a scenario that will be familiar to all of you, the reporter brought in unidentified experts--identified only as experts, but actually leftists, who attacked the flat tax plan, and described the plan objectively as wacky. And this disturbed Bernie enough that he wrote an Op Ed piece, a column. He had actually taken his sense of discomfort with this so called reporting to executives at CBS and nobody--so Bernie wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal called, "The Networks Need a Reality Check."
And in it he said we have a free press, but we no longer have a fair press. It's pretty radical. For this, Bernie was called a traitor. The head of CBS news told him that his column was as though he had raped his wife and kidnapped his kids. And this reporter, who was a friend--has never spoken to him again I guess.
Bernie Goldberg: No.
David Horowitz: Yes, stopped speaking to him. And as Bernie said, after a quarter of a century--and by the way we have his books. His books are wonderful. They are such great reads and they'll tell you all the unpleasant news about our media. He said, I had become an unperson, which is--that's a term you apply to Stalinists. They make you--they airbrush you out of the picture. Anyway, I'd like to start this conversation by putting this to Bernie. You used to be a liberal, and how did you change, when?
Bernie Goldberg: Well, before I answer that, I wasn't sure if David was going to bring up how I got there. Can I tell the story?
David Horowitz: Go ahead.
Bernie Goldberg: David contacted me and asked if I would speak to all of you, and I said, no, which may have been the right decision. We'll find out before the morning is over. And I said, no, because I had gone on a cruise with--sponsored by a conservative magazine and I was one of the guest speakers. And the subject came--went around to media bias and I mentioned all the things that they like to hear, not because they like to hear it, by the way, but because I actually believe the things, and then I mentioned things about conservative media bias. And what the people didn't quite understand is that I'm not an activist. I'm an analyst, I'm a journalist. So if the subject--whatever the subject is--but in this case, if it was bias, I'll answer the question about bias, whether it's liberal bias or conservative bias.
We were in a beautiful auditorium with 700 to 800 people and a good percentage of them starting booing and hissing. So I said to David, and if I didn't say precisely this, I'll say it now, it wasn't the booing--it wasn't that the booing and hissing hurt me, but it saddened me that I realized that our side could be just as orthodox as their side. That's what really troubled me, that our side should be better than their side. And what I realized was all these people who say they like fair and balanced, that's a bunch of crap. They like their biases validated just as much as liberals want their biases validated. Liberals go to MSNBC to hear their propaganda, and while FOX does present both sides to its credit, and thank God for Fox, because a whole bunch of views would never get out if it weren't for FOX, they do certain things that, if you're going to ask me about bias, I'm going to mention their bias as well. And I realize that the 700, 800 people or whatever percentage of the 700, 800 didn't want to hear anything like that.
And I said, David, I like the people that go to Restoration Weekend. They're here to have a good time. They are not here to hear me criticize conservatives. And he said, we're not orthodox. We're the one group that is not orthodox. Come. The silver-tongued orator talked me into it. Here I am. But because I really do understand that you traveled, you know, from all sorts of places to have a good time, if you want to hiss and boo, be my guest. That's fine with me.
Now, to the question of--that David actually asked about how I move from one side to the other, I grew up in the Bronx where I think I'm literally correct about this, certainly in my neighborhood there were no Republicans, I mean none. I don't mean almost none. None. Everybody--it was a lower middle class neighborhood. Everybody was a blue collar worker and my parents were Democrats. When I first started thinking about politics many years later I thought it was just in my DNA and I was a Democrat. I certainly in college was a liberal Democrat and proud of it, because I think in those years in the '60s liberals were on the right side of issues and conservatives, frankly, were on the wrong side of issues. The most important moral issue of the 20th century, civil rights, conservatives were on the wrong side of that issue. It's really as simple as that. Not Republicans, but conservatives. And not all conservatives, obviously, but conservatives were the ones who were on the wrong side of history.
So I was a liberal and not necessarily proud of it, or not proud of it, I just was. And then, I started in 1981--Dan Rather took over the CBS Evening News and asked me to come to New York. And I reluctantly did and I started noticing things that I hadn't noticed before. Ronald Reagan had just been inaugurated and I started noticing all these reporters who were calling him an amiable dunce. And I said, what the heck is this about? I mean, he's the President of the United States. He just got inaugurated. But he was an amiable dunce. And that bothered me. Then I saw the biggest stories of the '80s I'd say how they were covered - homelessness. The people I ran into on the street going to CBS News were talking--the homeless people were talking to spaceships, they were either schizophrenic, alcoholic, or on drugs - almost all of them. And that's statistically true. Of the homeless street people, almost all of them fit into one of those categories. But the homeless people I was watching on the air looked exactly like you people. They looked really just like you, because CBS News and the others realized that if you want our audience to pay attention, show them people who look like their neighbors and not people who the homeless really look like. That bothered me, too.
Then came along what I think is the worst covered story of the 20th century, AIDS. Now, let me be clear. If even one person in the whole world has AIDS, it's a terrible tragedy, terrible tragedy. But the people on the air--and there have--there were studies to back this up, but I just noticed it by watching the news--the people on the air who had AIDS, again, looked just like all of you, all of us. But the people who had AIDS in real life were junkies and homosexual men. But we rarely put homosexual men on and we rarely put junkies on. So I said, what the hell is going on here? And I started to put the pieces together and I came to a conclusion and the conclusion was that the media wasn't just covering these stories that were important to a lot of people on the left. They were championing these causes and I didn't want to be part of that.
Then I saw how--let's go back to civil rights, to use an example. So I'm a liberal. I was a liberal, as I said, growing up, I was a liberal in college. But this affirmative action doesn't make a lot of sense to me, not when a black kid whose parents may be professional people gets to check off a box and gets extra points in college or for a job, but a white Anglo Saxon protestant kid whose father is a coal miner in West Virginia doesn't get to check off a box, how is that kid privileged? So I wasn't happy with that. I was all for women's rights. And then, the feminist movement came along and said that women had the right to be firefighters, even if they couldn't carry a man out of a burning building because they wanted to be firefighters, so they had the right to be firefighters. I said, no, I don't think so.
Then, I noticed how my liberal friends were jumping through hoops to defend this kind of crap and it was embarrassing. It was embarrassing the excuses they would make to defend this. And then, as I started to make a slow transition, they said what--it was understandable. They said, well, you're making money now. That's why you're becoming a conservative. And that wasn't totally untrue, but it wasn't mostly true either. It wasn't that I was making money. This is a very important point for me. It was that I was being called names. I was being vilified. The liberals were saying, you're not paying your fair share. That's what they say to all of you. No, we're paying more than our damn fair share. It's the 47% who pay no federal income taxes who aren't paying their fair share.
So it was a combination of all these things. And in the end, I don't know if I left them or they left me - probably a little of both. But I'm not on their team anymore and this puts them out of whack, because they say things like, well, you're not really a conservative. I say, no, I am. Why do you say that? And what they say in their own way is you can read and write, you don't drag your knuckles on the ground, you're not a racist. This is their cartoon caricature of conservatives. This is--I mean, this is what they really--these are smart people I'm talking to and they really believe this. They really believe that that's who we are. Well, that's not who we are and I'm not one of them anymore, and I'm thrilled that I'm not one of them anymore.
David Horowitz: Do you want to just run through--I mean, here you have this example, which was on--it's a video so everybody can see it and there's a script. And you did get a chance to talk to some of your colleagues and point out that this is biased. And what's their reaction when that happens?
Bernie Goldberg: When you point out that there's bias?
David Horowitz: That they're--that they are biased, they're biased to the left.
Bernie Goldberg: It's interesting. They--bad things happen to people when they live in a bubble because inside the liberal bubble, which is very comfortable--and this is where the elite journalists live, inside this liberal bubble--you can go for a day, a week, a month, a year, you can practically go a whole lifetime and not run into people who have different views than you have. So you say, look at this story that, as David says, was just on the air. Look at this. You can't possibly defend this. Well, this is going to sound crazy, but trust me, I was there for 28 years. I know I'm right about this. They don't see it as biased because they don't see their views as liberal. They see their views inside this bubble as mainstream, as moderate. They see everything to the right of center as conservative, which it is. And they see everything to the left of center as middle of the road. So if you have this feeling about where the middle of the road is, you're not--you don't--they don't see their ideas as liberal. They see their ideas as decent, reasonable, and therefore they dismiss you as somebody with an agenda.
Now the fact is--and this is another fact--if you're--in my 28 years just so you know, I was never once accused of having a conservative bias, because most of my 28 years I wasn't even a conservative. But even when I was, I was never accused of having a conservative bias. Again, I'm a journalist, I will criticize conservatives when they need to be and liberals when they need to be. But if you are this much to the right of center in a typical American newsroom, this much, you will be noticed. You will be noticed. You're a conservative. If you're this much to the left of center you will fit right in. You will not be noticed. And that's the problem. The problem isn't a conspiracy. The problem isn't that Dan Rather--in my day, Dan Rather called his top lieutenants into a room and pulled the shades and doused the lights and gave the secret handshake and the secret salute - you know that one - and said, how are we going to screw, you know, those conservatives today? It never, ever, ever happened that way. The problem is group think.
You have so many like-minded people in one place where nobody is ever telling them that they're wrong about anything except the one conservative in the place who says this is wrong. You can almost not blame them for not believing me. That's what happens when you live in a bubble. It's not good for anybody to live in a bubble, but it's especially not good for journalists to live in a bubble.
David Horowitz: And that's one of my biggest criticisms of conservatives, just to help you out there, is that conservatives collude with these people in calling them liberals, because that makes them actually--I mean, they don't like you--to call you a liberal if there is an audience which might resonate sort of against liberalism. But they like to be called liberals because it means that they're tolerant.
Bernie Goldberg: Exactly.
David Horowitz: You know, they're decent people. And I think Bernie is exactly right. I mean, I think your phrase is, "A fish doesn't know when it's wet." You know, they're decent human beings, and their decency is involved in seeing you as extremists and indecent.
Bernie Goldberg: By the way, that term, I use that term fish don't--I thought I got it from a George Clinton Funkadelic song called, "Fish Don't Know He's Wet." And some media critic who will never comment on media bias wrote a piece that said, Goldberg's at it again saying that George Clinton and his band Funkadelic Parliament use that line, and they never used it. Okay, I'm wrong. I don't know where I got it from. It wasn't George Clinton. But this is what media writers write about. If you make one little mistake like that, they'll write about that, but they won't write about the elephant in the room, which is media bias.
But my point was that--think about it--how would a fish know he's wet? He has no frame of reference. That's all he knows. Well, if you're in the liberal bubble and all you hear all day long are liberal views about all the big social issues of our time, how's that fish going to know he's wet? It just seems like the only position that a decent person would have. That's what I meant by fish don't know he's wet. They have no frame of reference.
David Horowitz: I've got several thoughts here. The first one, I just want to--I mean, Bernie is a classic journalist and there has been a dramatic change, I think you would agree, in the media that there used to be a time when there was a standard that people observed. Journalists of a previous generation probably--a lot of them didn't even go to college.
Bernie Goldberg: Right.
David Horowitz: Let alone to J school, journalism schools. They went out and they reported what they saw. How big an influence--and if you look at the--and this is where I've done work on academic freedom and the state of the university. So I know quite a bit about J schools. And you can go to--well, I once had lunch with the--with Michael Parks. It was--he's a--you know, on the left as a journalist, but he covered the Soviet Union for the LA Times and did good reporting on that. And I said to him, Michael, how many--he was Chairman--they made him Chairman of the Journalism Department at USC. I said, how many conservatives do you have on your faculty? He said, I can't think of one. And I said, well, do you think that's a good thing from the point of view of educating journalists? And he said, no. I said, well, what can you do about it? And he said, nothing, because the faculty chooses--they hire themselves. And so, once the left gets in, it's over.
So all our journalists now are being trained by leftists. I can tell you there's no conservative at NYU journalism school, there's certainly not at Columbia journalism school, and on and on.
Bernie Goldberg: Right. A couple of points. One, journalists and journalism professors would say, it doesn't matter if we're liberal, as long as it doesn't come out in our work. And theoretically, they're right. But why do we--why do they worship at the altar of diversity? What if I said, well, what if every journalist was a white male, but he was an honest journalist? Would--and he covered stories honestly. Would that be good enough? And the answer would be no, and they would be right, because a white male can't see things the way a woman sees them or the way a black person sees them, or the way a Latino sees it, whatever else. So we have this push for diversity, but it's only a certain kind of diversity.
And as a result, we have newsrooms filled with white liberals and black liberals, male liberals and female liberals, gay liberals and straight liberals, Latino liberals and Asian liberals, and this passes for diversity. But there is no intellectual diversity. And I've come up with a solution for this that a few years ago I was only kidding about, but I'm not kidding anymore. Now, I'm not saying it would be easy to implement, but I'm--but I am serious about it. My solution is just two words - affirmative action. If you could jump through hoops to find, you know, candidates for college or even for the faculty that fit every--you know, every protected group that we have lists for, okay, that kind of diversity is fine with me. I want to make that clear. I have no problem with that. Then go out and try to recruit some conservative professors and try to go out and recruit some conservative journalists. And then, tell both of them, keep your conservative opinions to your damn self. And then, tell the liberals, keep your opinions to yourself. And what it would bring is a different perspective, so that when somebody writes a story, let's say about abortion, and it's a totally slanted story, at least somebody in the newsroom would say, whoa, hang on, hang on, you've got to think about this.
So I don't want conservative views in the news and I don't want conservative views in the classroom. I want conservative perspectives for the same reason that we want black people in journalism and women people in journalism and gay people in journalism and Latino people in journalism, and Asian people, to get all these different perspectives. But I don't want their opinions in their stories. I just think that we see things differently depending on what group we're in and we see things differently if we're conservatives rather than liberals. This argument would go nowhere in a room filled with liberals. They would--it would be as if I was speaking Greek, you know? They just don't get it.
I once said, along with my fish don't know he's wet, this is my second favorite, that I have met people who worked the overnight shift at Seven/11 selling cigarettes and Slurpees to insomniacs who have more introspection than most of the journalists I've ever met.
They're smart people. They are smart people. But because they hang out with so many likeminded people, they don't see things that all of you see. They don't see those things.
David Horowitz: When Bernie had the bad judgment to write this article for the Wall Street Journal, his friends stopped speaking to him. They called him a traitor and his boss compared him to a rapist.
Bernie Goldberg: Can I tell the Dan Rather story very briefly?
David Horowitz: Oh, I'm going to get to the Dan Rather--no, I'm--that's what I'm--but I have two things here. Now, let me--so if you deviate or if you have the temerity to say the emperor is unclothed, you get cast into the--Siberia. That's basically what it is, it's an intellectual, social Siberia. So that has--that had two effects. One, it's a blessing. If Bernie--if they had just let that article go and had a discussion and made a little--Bernie would never have written Bias, he would never have written Arrogance. These are all wonderful books you should read and are never a [slobbering] love affair. Probably--maybe not.
Bernie Goldberg: No, you're right. You're absolutely right.
David Horowitz: So then, he made--they made him one of us. Great. That is the blessing. The other side is though it's a form of terror against everybody inside the bubble, because if you think of moving in this direction you become part of the untouchables.
Bernie Goldberg: Right.
David Horowitz: If--.
Bernie Goldberg: --You'd call this liberal Stalinism.
David Horowitz: Exactly. Well, you compared it to the Mafia in your books, which is quite right.
Bernie Goldberg: Yes.
David Horowitz: Very, very powerful. You lose all your friends. That's not easy to do in midlife. Now, I want you to tell the Dan Rather story because I have a slightly different take. I want to add to your perception of that.
Bernie Goldberg: Okay. First, let me make a comment about the liberal Stalinism. David refers to this. What we've been talking about is liberal Stalinism. And it's really a good term and I was thinking about it, figuring the subject might come up at some point and I realized that there has to be a component for liberal Stalinism to exist. And I touched on it earlier, but let me mention it again. And the component is moral superiority. That's a necessary component I think for liberal Stalinism. In other words, you're for affirmative action, I'm against it. I'm against it as it's practiced, meaning the kid from--whose father is a coal miner in West Virginia, you know, why doesn't he get points?
Well, for liberal Stalinism to work you have to think that I'm not only wrong, but my position is morally inferior to yours. And therefore, yours is morally superior to mine. And if your position--if you honestly believe that your position on any issue is not just right, but morally superior, yes, you're going to start to be a Stalinist on that issue because it's not a matter of he thinks taxes should go up and I think they should go down. He thinks--you know, I think that I'm better than he is. I think I'm morally superior to him because he thinks taxes should go one way and not the other. So that creates the kind of gulag mentality. And by the way, I was sent to the gulag. I didn't get fired. I quit four and a half years later to write Bias. Talk about payback is a bitch, I mean, okay? But you're right the way they treated me. I lost friends. People wouldn't be seen with me because Dan Rather would--might--let's put it this way, they worried that Dan Rather might punish them.
Now, let me tell you my--if they were seen with me, let me tell you the Dan Rather story. So I show this what people have called incredible courage in writing a piece in the Wall Street Journal, but what I have called incredible stupidity. But it was one of the best things I've ever done because I would have never written the books. You're absolutely right about that. I would have never started commenting on the news. So this was a great thing that I did. But I didn't know it at the time. I did it because I'd had enough. For over a decade I had spoken to them privately, quietly, about examples of bias that were on their air. They never told me to get lost, they never kicked me out of their office, it was as if I was talking to the wall. It didn't resonate. It made no sense. Thanks a lot, Bernie. Take it easy. See you around.
So then, this one thing with Steve Forbes, and it wasn't even a sexy subject. I mean, it wasn't about race or gender or this or that. It was about the flat tax. And I said, I've had enough of this crap, and I wrote this Op Ed. So I know that it's coming out the next day in the Wall Street Journal. And by the way, the editor of the Journal called me. It was a fellow who is now on FOX, David Asman, was the editor of the Op Ed page, and he said, we're running your piece on Wednesday--on Tuesday. I said, be prepared to run my obituary on Wednesday.
So Dan Rather is in Des Moines, Iowa, covering the Iowa Caucuses. This was 1996, a presidential election year. And I know it's coming out the morning. I've got to give him a call. I'm not looking forward to this, but I've got to do it. So I'm in New York and I call him up and I say, Dan, I wrote something that's going to be in the paper tomorrow that you're not going to be too happy about, so I need to give you a heads up. Now obviously, at this point he has no idea of what the piece is about. And he says--and this was in 1996--how many years later is that--15 years later, I will give you the exact verbatim response, word for word. Fifteen years later and I've got the exact response. He said, Bernie, we were friends yesterday, we're friends today, we'll be friends tomorrow. What did you write? I told him and my good friend, Dan Rather, never uttered another syllable to me from that moment until this moment.
By the way, I've never told this part of it, but years later, four and a half years later when I was doing Bias--I guess I was writing--it came out--Bias came out 10 years ago next month. So I was writing and I was doing some research and Dan Rather despised Connie Chung. Despised her. Everybody who worked at CBS at the time knew it. They'd sit here like this. He would not--he wouldn't look over at her, let alone talk to her. Despised the fact that he had to share the anchor chair with this incredible lightweight, which was an accurate description of Connie Chung, by the way. But Dan despised her. But he never let on publicly because that's how Dan was, you know.
So I'm doing this research for the book and I come across an interview that Dan gave to the Boston Globe. And it was about Connie Chung joining the staff or whatever, becoming the anchor, whatever it was. And he said to the reporter, he said, Connie was my friend yesterday, she's my friend today--.
--The hair on the back of my neck literally stood up. I mean, I couldn't--I didn't know this. And then, a month later, Connie Chung got fired. So if Dan Rather--if you ever run into Dan Rather and he says, you know, you were my friend yester--just head for the door. Just get the hell as far away from him as you can, if he says that.
What is your extended take on this?
David Horowitz: Oh, I don't know where this conversation--in that conversation with Rather when you said that there was a left leaning bias, instead of responding to that, he went into that he was a Marine.
Bernie Goldberg: Yes. I got something wrong in the first edition because I wasn't taking notes. I wasn't writing a book. I was living my life. And I said--I made a slight mistake. But what you're saying is correct. I mentioned to him what the article was about. I said it was about something that was on the air last night or the other night rather, and it was--I said, Dan, this was just wrong, it shouldn't have been on. It was wrong. And he--you're going to think I'm leaving something out from what I just told you to what I'm about to tell you. And then, he says, you know, I signed up for the Marines. I'm saying, where the hell is this going? Now, I mentioned that he said he signed up twice. That part wasn't true. He signed--when he got kicked out of the Marines for health reasons--health reasons--he signed up for the Army. So I was wrong about that and I made--and I corrected that as soon as I could.
But anyway the gist of it was 100% correct. He said, I signed up for the Marines. I love my country. And I said, what the--.
David Horowitz: --Well, I will explain this. See, I--.
Bernie Goldberg: --What does--what does this have to do with anything? And then--but I realized--it took me a long time before I realized that if you accuse Dan Rather of putting on a broadcast--he was the managing editor - he wasn't just the anchorman, he was running the show--that had a liberal bias, it's going to sound crazy. But you were accusing him of being un-American.
David Horowitz: Exactly. And this is--so I come from a much more, obviously, left than Bernie did. And so, Bernie is describing the mindset of what once were actual liberals. But the media is filled with people who are dedicated leftists and there's a kind of--well, there isn't a kind of--there is a united front between them that's--you know how Billy Ayers and Obama and they all--they got a clean bill of health. There was a time when liberals in this country would have been appalled by the Billy Ayers and by Obama, right, and would not have colluded with them. And this all ended in '68 when Tom Haydon created this riot at the Democratic Convention to destroy and anti-Communist liberal, Hubert Humphrey. That's when the Democratic Party became a leftwing--a leftwing party.
But for leftists who are impersonating liberals, they are anti-Americas. And Dan Rather would be somebody--you know, I know by this time they all understand that they--if they are seen by the American public as on the left, well, they think--actually they're very paranoid, so they think it's curtains for them. Unfortunately, it's not. Well, you know, people like Michael Moore, a--I mean, Michael Moore is a Leninist. You can be very popular and make a lot of money in America. I mean, we really have--our standards have so dramatically declined. So I think that's--.
Bernie Goldberg: --I was criticizing a piece of journalism. That's all I was doing. But then I fear--.
David Horowitz: --Exactly--.
Bernie Goldberg: --They saw it totally differently. Well, they--he saw it totally differently.
David Horowitz: As an existential--.
Bernie Goldberg: --He saw it as attacking his patriotism.
David Horowitz: Yes. It's an existential threat to them.
Bernie Goldberg: There's a word for this in psychology. This is called "crazy" is what it was.
David Horowitz: But it rules the--well, so let me then ask you if things have gotten worse--.
Bernie Goldberg: --Yes. That's a very important question. Let me jump to the end and say something you mentioned about journalism. I'll save it for the end of this thing. I bring you no good news today about if things are going to get better or not, I will say that, because of the journalism schools and all. So have things gotten worse? Yes. Yes. It used to be about liberal bias in the news. It has moved from liberal bias to liberal--to liberal or journalistic activism. You know what judicial activism is - that's where judges don't simply interpret the law, they legislate from the bench because they know what's better. Well, before the Democratic candidates were people like Mondale and Dukakis, Gore, Carey, Obama was different. Obama was different. He was a historic candidate. And journalists weren't content simply being eye witnesses to history as they had been in the past where they merely put a thumb on the scale in favor of the liberal Democratic candidate. Now they have to sit on the whole damn scale because this was too important, this was way too important to leave to chance.
And the press didn't elect Barack Obama. I want to make that clear. There were four things that elected Barack Obama. I mean, McCain was not a great candidate, the American people don't usually elect the same party three times in a row, the financial meltdown, and George Bush was an albatross around Obama's neck. And on the other side, Obama was young, he was cool, he was black, and he was liberal. If he had been three of things, but conservative, there would have been no slobbering love affair for President Obama.
But anyway, they went from media bias to media activism because this was a historic candidate and they had to throw everything they had behind him. And on Christmas morning--I'm going to give you a couple of real examples here. On Christmas morning, right after the election, a month after the election, page one of the Washington Post--I want to make sure everybody heard that. This isn't page 83 of the Jerkwater Gazette. This is page one of the Washington Post. There was a story about Barack Obama's exercise regimen. Okay. I'm going to read you one sentence from the story and I don't blame any of you if you think I made it up. I didn't. I didn't, and you could, as I say, as Yogi Berra used to say, you could look it up. Was that Yogi Berra who said that? Yeah, it must be. Okay.
I swear to God this was in the Washington Post on page one. "The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals, sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games."
David Horowitz: Now, was that written by a man or a woman?
Bernie Goldberg: It was written by a man. It was written by a man.
And it's the kind of stuff you'd expect to read in a romance novel with Fabio on the cover.
Now, I could see where this guy may have gotten carried away, but editors let that crap get in the newspaper. They let that get in the newspaper. Okay, so that's one kind of what you might call harmless example of how things got worse right after the election. Then, more recently, earlier this year, there was the debt ceiling debate. And this is how--this is how a number of--I'll give you the names of the people. Now, Chris Matthews--wait, I don't blame you. I don't blame you. Chris--you see, this wasn't--this isn't just about--"When I hear him speak, I get a thrill running up my leg." That's what Chris Matthews said. And he's a commentator. He's allowed a comment. But that isn't commentary. That's a man crush. Okay?
So then during the debate--during the debate on the debt ceiling, Chris Matthews referred to the Republicans as Wahhabis--the Tea Party Republicans as Wahhabis. Wahhabis is a sect of Saudi--of Islam that's especially harsh and unbending and all that. Tom Friedman, he's a big time columnist for the New York Times, referred to them as Hezbollah, a terrorist group. Tina Brown, who runs Newsweek, described them as suicide bombers on Morning Joe. Peter Goodman, who used to be with the New York Times and now is an editor at Huffington Post, said they're acting like terrorists. Yes, terrorists. That's what he said.
A fellow named William Yeomans, who is a law professor at American University, wrote on Politico that the Tea Party caucus in the House were full blown terrorists. Fareed Zakaria on CNN said, what they're saying is we'll blow up the country if you don't listen to us. Paul Krugman in the--I thought I'd get another round of groans on that. Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote, basically the Republicans said, we'll blow up the world economy unless you give us exactly what we want. Then Maureen Dowd, the perpetual junior high school student at the New York Times, she came up with a good one. She came up with a good one. She referred to them not as Wahhabis or--she wrote a piece that was entitled, "The Washington Chain Saw Massacre," in which she referred to the Tea Party Republicans as monsters. No, but I mean really monsters. She said, "They're an uncompromising new force that epitomized Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and evoke comparisons to our most mythic creatures of the night. Well, what kind of creatures of the night, right? Glad you asked. "They were like cannibals eating their own party and leaders alive. They were like vampires draining the country's reputation, credit rating, and compassion. They were like zombies, relentlessly and mindlessly coming back again and again to assault their unnerved victims - Boehner and President Obama. They were like the metallic beasts in Alien flashing mouths of teeth inside other mouths of teeth bursting out of Boehner's stomach every time he came to a bouquet of microphones.
David Horowitz: And the Occupy Wall Street criminals are idealists.
Bernie Goldberg: Yes. Okay. Then the other day--the other day, if you didn't hear this you'll think I'm making this up. There was a question at a live news conference in Honolulu and the CNN reporter said that the other day at the Republican debate in South Carolina, several of the candidates said that they were if not in favor of waterboarding they weren't against waterboarding. And then, the question was - and to me nothing will ever top this in terms of if they don't think this is biased, let's shut out the lights, because you can never have a discussion with them. Here's the question to the President. He said, I'm wondering, right--I'm wondering if you think they're--referring--when he says "they're" he's referring to the Republicans who are not against waterboarding. I'm wondering, Mr. President, if you think they're uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible. This is--these are the three choices. This is it. Were they uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible? How--this is the White House correspondent. It just amazes me.
And if you criticize this, you're the one who is the rightwing crazy, who is always criticizing the media. But this should not be allowed. By their own people they should not be--by the way, to President Obama's credit, he just sat there for what seemed like a week, but it was like three or four seconds. He even looked embarrassed by the question. It was as if he wanted to say, man, look, I know you all love me out there and I understand why you love me, but you can't do this. This makes me look bad.
David Horowitz: To answer that question and to show how far we have slid in just the last few years, 10 years ago, Chris Matthews was a featured speaker at the Weekend. And he gave--no, no, no--he went--started out as a Goldwater Republican--and gave a speech on individual liberty and free economies and everybody loved it. And he has turned in an amazing way. But I think he's symbolic of the whole media has shifted and become a leftwing media.
Bernie Goldberg: Let me just say that in--both in fairness and since this is going to happen, I want to look like I'm right down the road. They will be tough on Barack Obama from time to time. This is not 100% of the time where they're slobbering all over him. And they will especially be tough on him when his poll numbers are down. This is when they feel--they feel their oats. You know? It's like he's down, so now we can kick him. But when he's actually running against the real opponent, hopefully--well, let me take that back. When he's running as a real opponent who will be more conservative certainly than Barack Obama or whoever it is, that's when they will circle the wagons and jump back on the Obama team because they have too much invested in him. They sold out what was--what little was left of their reputation and now they have--you know, now they're stuck. So they're going to be with this guy, and it may not look like it every second of every day, but when push comes to shove, when he's up against a real Republican, and especially if it looks like he may be in trouble of not winning reelection, they will--they will be back on Team Obama.
David Horowitz: Yes, and then the attack squad for Team Obama. I mean, it's--they can be mildly critical of Obama if they are vicious on Republicans. So before we go to questions, would you like to get off your chest--.
Bernie Goldberg: --Yes--.
David Horowitz: --(Inaudible).
Bernie Goldberg: Thank you. Thank you. Here's the thing, let me make clear that in this upcoming election, for instance, I will vote for Charlie Sheen before I'd vote for Barack Obama, okay?
So I say that, so you know that I'm one of you. But the orthodoxy that I see on our side troubles me. So when I got on O'Reilly and he says to me, do you think it's legitimate for the press--well, I'll give you that story in a second. I go on O'Reilly and I say something mildly negative about Michelle Bachman, with apologies to anybody in the room who supports Michelle O'Bachman--Michelle Bachman. Michelle Bachman. And I get an email--I get an email the second sentence of which is I've always appreciated your commentary. That's an important point, because this is a person who likes me. The first three words of this email are, "You f'ing bastard." And it doesn't say f'ing, it's the whole word.
And then, he goes on to say, you're--forgive me for the vulgarity here--"You're a goddamn leftist traitor. Watch your back, Bernie, because we're coming for you." You wouldn't laugh if it was aimed at you. I'll tell you that. "Resign now or your job will be the last thing you have to worry about." Okay? Now, I'm not saying I get 12 of these a day, but it's not unique. It's not unique because I criticize somebody that he likes. You have to--when you--when I say something that conservatives like when I'm on O'Reilly, I literally get love letters--I mean this literally--from people who don't know me who say, "We love what you say, please keep saying it. Thank you." And you know, a guy coming from a lower middle class background in the Bronx, the first person to go to college in my family, that means a lot to me. You stray that much and you hear from people like that, that troubles me.
Then you know, I made a note here, because this is the one thing I did want--not the one thing. This is one thing I did want to get into. So talk amongst yourselves for about 10 seconds until I find the page where I--okay, we've got it. Here it is. All right. Then I said something that somebody didn't like about the Tea Party people. You know, I mean, I think the Tea Party people have done a great deal of good. I mean, if it weren't for the Tea Party people we wouldn't be having a discussion about debt.
We wouldn't be having a discussion about spending. They've done a great deal of good. But the Tea Party, because they are what I call purists, along with people like Rush Limbaugh, who is very smart about politics, but he's a purist. These are people who want the most conservative candidate to be nominated. Okay? I want to get to that in a second. So I said something, whatever it was, maybe it was--you know what it probably was? It was that the same Tea Party that did all of this good also brought us Sharon Angle and Christine O'Connell, and I would rather have two RINO Republicans than two liberal Democrats in the Senate. That's a reasonable position. You may not agree with it, but it's--you can understand that position. I mean, that's our real life choice, you know? Those two got--were the Tea Party favorites because they were the most conservative, but they were disasters and we got two liberal Republicans, one of them Harry Reid, by the way, because we were--Tea Party had to be purists.
So I get this--I get this email that says, "You fear and despite Tea Party candidates. We get it. You media elites must support the anti-American, pro-union, pro-illegal alien, pro-gay agenda, anti-business, pro-cultural diversity, Social Fascist agenda of Hussein the Destroyer. We get it. Go away please for the good of the country." Well, how about screw you for the good of the country?
That kind of orthodoxy bothers me. That kind of orthodoxy bothers me. During the Bush years, after 9/11 there were the Truthers, people who thought that George Bush was behind 9/11. These people--I mean this literally--have a mental--some kind of mental defect, because if you think the President of the United States bombed--helped bomb, you know, and kill 3,000 Americans, you're crazy.
And I know--I met some of these people, so I know where the craziness stems from. It's--it comes from an irrational hatred of George Bush. Okay? So they're crazy, right? We all agree on that? They have their truthers, we have our birther. And I'll bet you there are a few birthers in this audience. And the first birther--so nothing personal when I say that I think you're nuts. The first birther I met was at this weekend in 2008. I said something negative about them, and I got literally thousands--literally thousands of emails on my website. And they say things--they say things like, you don't know what the birth certificate is fake. That's the whole thing. And look at it under a microscope and you'll see that the "e" on the third line is really an "x." I mean, this is what they actually say.
And you're wondering, if the President of the United States wanted to come up with a phony birth certificate, would he really make the "e" an "x"? I mean, this is how crazy they get. Now you could say they're fringe--you're fringe, you know, and we could just ignore you. But there are two reasons I can't do that. One is that if they come out of the woodwork anywhere near the election, they could scare off enough independents that will make a difference. So if you want to believe this crazy crap, keep it to yourself until after the election.
And the second thing is, it troubles me deeply that the leaders of the Republican Party--McConnell, Boehner, and Cantor--won't stand up to any of these people. Boehner was--McConnell was asked about a survey that showed 31% of Republicans--31%--think Barack Obama is a Muslim. That's disgraceful. And he was asked about it. And he said, well, I think--he says he's a Christian, that's good enough for me. Well, no. I don't think that's good enough. You're a leader. You have to say, look, he's a Christian. I wish this other thing would just go away. And when people say he's not a citizen of the United States, he's not a legitimate President, and they asked Boehner and Cantor that, they say well, he says he was born in Hawaii and I believe he was born in Hawaii, and people can believe whatever they want. No. I mean, yes, legally they can believe whatever they want. But if you're a leader, you don't say people can believe whatever stupidity that they want. And it is stupid. And that's obviously about our side.
Thank you. Thank you. This would be a good time to boo and hiss if anybody wants to do that. Now, okay. You think I pissed you off with that? This one's going to really go over. Bill--because you never talk about religion with people you don't know personally, so here goes.
Bill O'Reilly asked me on the air, is it legitimate for reporters to ask about a candidate's religious beliefs. And I said if religion is important in the candidate's life, absolutely. Now I could have ended right there. But of course I didn't. And I said, let me give you an example. If somebody believes that the earth is 6,000 years old, and I said something ignorant like that, then that may not affect the candidate's economic policy or foreign policy, but I guarantee you it's going to affect something, if you believe something like that. Hundreds and hundreds of emails followed that one.
Now, I am as open-minded as anybody you'll ever meet. If you want to believe in God, that's fine with me. If you don't, none of my business. You want to believe anything based on faith is absolutely fine with me, as if it matters if it's fine with me or not. But it is. I couldn't care less, one way or the other, what people believe in terms of faith. But when we get articles in the New York Times or columns, Republicans against science, that troubles me because independents may be affected by that. And the earth is not 6,000 years old. It isn't, even if the Bible says it is. If the Bible says it is, and I'm saying it isn't, I'm right and the Bible's wrong. Yes, that's absolutely a fact.
And they're on our side, these people. And don't think there are twelve of them. There are millions of them who believe this kind of nonsense. And they're on our team. That troubles me.
One word about Herman Cain. I like him. He seems like a real good guy. I know all of you like him. The point I made once was, let's say at some point--I don't think anybody should abandon him based on what we know so far. Friends don't abandon friends based on what they know so--at this point. But let's say at some point--I said, hypothetically--let's say it comes out that, you know, this stuff is probably true. Conservatives who like Herman Cain are going to stick with him just as liberals sold out every one of their liberal values by sticking with Bill Clinton. They said, I mean--Paula Jones came forward and said he was Governor, I was a low-level state employee. He exposed himself in a hotel room right in front of me. Now, none of us were there.
We don't know if it's true or not, absolutely. I believe it. I have no doubt that it happened, actually. But I don't have proof that it happened. When Kathleen Willey said that the President grabbed her ass in the White House, I believe that. When Juanita Broderick said--and she was a respected businesswoman, she wasn't 25 years old either--she was a respected, grown-up businesswoman--said that Bill Clinton raped her in a hotel room in Little Rock when he was Attorney General of the state, I believe that. I don't know any of these things for absolute certainty, any more than we know for absolute certainty what happened with Herman Cain and these women. But if it turns out at some point, if there's evidence that these things happened, we have a choice. We could be just like those pathetic liberals who stood by Clinton instead of by their values. We conservatives have values, too. Are we going to stand by our values, or are we going to stand by Herman Cain, if it turns out that there's more to it?
And I think I understand why this happens. What we're really saying is, those liberal bastards have been screwing us for years, especially the ones in the media. And if one of our guys does something now, we're not going to roll over on him. We're just not going to do it. They stood by their guy, we're going to stand by our guy. This is what happened after O.J. Simpson was found not guilty, and there was that shot on television with all the black college kids cheering. You think they were cheering because the evidence was overwhelming that O.J. Simpson was innocent? No, they were cheering because they said, take that, whitey. You've been screwing with us, now we're screwing with you.
Well, we could do that. And then let's make no mistake. Let's not be sanctimonious. We will be no better than the people who we've been condemning on the other side. That's my concern about conservative orthodoxy.
Can I just say one other thing that I thought we would get into? Do we have like two minutes?
David Horowitz: Yes, we're down on the--.
Bernie Goldberg: --Two minutes--.
David Horowitz: --Time for questions.
Bernie Goldberg: This is about--this is about the split in the Republican Party. And there is a split. And it's between the purists and the realists. The purists, Rush Limbaugh would be a leading spokesman on that side, along with some tea party people. They want the most conservative candidate in this group to get the nomination. The realists want the most viable conservative candidate to get the nomination, meaning the one who can actually beat Barack Obama. That's the Bill Buckley philosophy. For whatever it's worth, I'm on Team Buckley on that.
Now the conservatives say--and Rush Limbaugh's very smart when it comes to politics. He's not just good on the radio. He's very smart. He says that the most conservative candidate can win. Well, I think he's wrong. He points to Ronald Reagan and says, Ronald Reagan was conservative, and he carried 49 states in one election. Okay? Name two conservative presidents in the last 80 years. Name two. You can't. There's only one--Ronald Reagan. And it wasn't just because he was conservative. It was because of his personality, because of his optimism. Yes, Eisenhower, he wasn't a conservative. Nixon wasn't. Neither of the Bushes were conservative. They were more conservative than their liberal opponents, yes. But they weren't conservative. And if we had nominated a more conservative candidate than whichever ones we nominated, there's a good chance that person would have lost the general election. You think Pat Buchanan would win the election? Do you think that?
Rush Limbaugh articulates conservative values probably better than any famous person in America. Rush Limbaugh couldn't be elected anything on a national ticket--on a coast-to-coast national ticket. Why not? If he's the most conservative, why couldn't he win? Because he's too polarizing. People love him or hate him. And I tend to think that's what happens when the purists want the most conservative candidate, because they think-- because they want it to happen, they think it will happen, that the most conservative candidate will win the election.
It'd be nice if the most conservative candidate would, but I want the most viable conservative to win the nomination, because I want Barack Obama to take a hike next Election Day, and if that means supporting somebody who isn't--who isn't a real conservative, I have no problem doing that. And I'm not selling out my values, which is the emails I always get. If I say something good about Mitt Romney, you're a sellout, you have no principles. Bull. I have principles. I have principles. I'm just not a purist where I think that compromise is tantamount to a crime against humanity. And I'm not giving an inch because our side, you know--Rush says, why do we have to compromise--our side won. Our side won what? We won the last election. Last time I checked, the President was still a Democrat and the Senate was still Democratic.
This kind of thinking--let me end with this. This kind of thinking will lead to a Democratic victory. If the Democrats--if Barack Obama wins re-election, it won't be because the economy suddenly got better. It won't be because unemployment is suddenly six or seven percent. It won't be because suddenly instead of 75% of the American people thinking we're on the wrong track, they think we're on the right track. If we lose this election, it will be for one reason. Because we picked the wrong candidate. I hope we pick the right candidate. Thank you.
David Horowitz: I'm going to let--we have time for one question. Yes--you get the one question.
Unidentified Audience Participant: (Inaudible).
David Horowitz: She asked what is your email address.
Bernie Goldberg: Go to my website. My website is bernardgoldberg.com. And there's a place there where you can go to contact bernardgoldberg.com, and I get all the emails. And I read them all. Even the ones that begin with you f'ing bastard.
Unidentified Audience Participant: Well, I just bought two of your books, and thank you for being here. I am--and David knows me very well. I'm a daily warrior in Republican politics for 35 years. I raise money. That's what I do for a living. And you spoke earlier about eating our own, and that that was the liberal critique. And I'm a conservative, and I will tell you we eat our own. And in California we do it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I loved all of the thinking. I've tried to stay away from this part of politics because raising money is complicated enough. But I'm glad that everybody is absorbing this information, but I want to know what you're going to do with it when you leave. And I don't necessarily need to hear what you're going to do with it. I just hope you do something about it, because we need boots on the ground. We need you to write a $10 check. We need you to give these guys a chance to show who they are as candidates, because it will tell you a lot about who they're going to be as President. And we tend to run like lemmings--this is actually a question, but my question to you is, what can we take away from this conference, and the knowledge and how you've taught us how to think, and not necessarily to be purists, because I think purists have more of a tendency to eat their own than pragmatic realists--help--.
Bernie Goldberg: --Well, in terms--.
Unidentified Audience Participant: --and tell us what to do and how to be--.
Bernie Goldberg: --Well, I can't tell you what to do. I got a call from somebody who, let's just in the broad sense say was somebody with presidential hopefuls on the Republican side. And he actually called me--this is how pathetic this guy was. He called me and asked for my advice. And I said, no, no, I don't give advice. I'm a journalist. I don't do that. Now, you can call other people, like Sean Hannity, and he'll give advice. And I don't mean that as a shot, but we don't do the same thing for a living. I'm a journalist. I analyze the situation. I can tell you, and this is not really what you're asking, but I can tell you what to take away from this is that the media is not going to be fair. They are going to be an obstacle. They will not throw the election one way or the other, but they will affect the least sophisticated voters--independents--who are the only ones who matter, by the way. They're the only ones who matter at this point.
Anybody in this room who doesn't vote for the Republican candidate, whoever it is, you have just voted for Barack Obama. So Republicans are going to vote for the Republicans, and Democrats--not in the same numbers as in the past--are going to vote for the Democrat. But it's the independent--I just thought of the one piece of advice I can give, to take away. The other thing is the press isn't going to help you. They will matter a little bit, but they are the enemy. But the one piece of advice would be--I forgot what it was. I feel--I feel like. You know who I feel like? I feel like Perry.
David Horowitz: Independents. You were thinking independents.
Bernie Goldberg: Independents. What about--I will--but unlike Perry, who (inaudible) for 53 seconds, I will tell you that I will think of it in a few seconds. And if I have to track each one of you people down individually to tell you what it is, I'll do it.
David Horowitz: All right. Let's give Bernie a big hand.
Bernie Goldberg: I just thought of what it is. What it is, is that you should think--you should think about not who is it of the candidates who are going to please the people in this room. You should think who is it that we can pick who is going to please those people we don't even necessarily respect, but those people will decide this election. So just keep that someplace in your mind, that those are the people who matter most. I'm not saying you have to sell out your principles, but I am saying, if you don't win the independents, you will lose the election.
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