Bill Maher is always mad as hell, but this time his ire is aimed squarely at talk news—the for-profit enterprise that, he claims, has led to Donald Trump’s precipitous rise from fired Celebrity Apprentice reality show host to presumptive Republican nominee for president.
You see, Trump hosted a press conference this week where he called out the media for, he alleges, ganging up on him for constantly being forced to correct the deluge of bullshit spewing from his mouth. This, in Maher’s eyes, all but affirmed his regular criticisms of Trump as being unmasculine and like a “spoiled 5-year-old throwing a tantrum.” The comedian labeled Trump’s behavior “not very presidential,” and even led his crowd in an anti-Trump chant of “WHINY LITTLE BITCH” while displaying a #WhinyLittleBitch chyron in the lower-right corner of the screen.
On his HBO program Real Time, Maher said that the TV news media has a clear “profit bias” which has led to them providing ’round-the-clock coverage of Trump due to the ratings he generates, which in turn increases his popularity. But he also warned his viewers to not conflate talk news with the print media, which has been very critical of Trump from day one—including a recent report in The Washington Post busting Trump for not donating the money he’d promised to veterans’ groups.
“That’s a profit bias,” said Maher Friday evening. “The media isn’t liberal, they’re just biased towards money. When [Trump] attacked the media in that press conference, I think he did something that was unfair… He lumped the print media in with the television media. He was exposed by The Washington Post. That’s an actual newspaper. There are still a few left. I have a lot of quibbles with The New York Times, but they’re still a newspaper. And then he goes after Jim Acosta and somebody else who works in TV news. That is a whole different kettle of fish. They are vapid ratings whores. They are traitors to journalism.”
The Daily Beast’s own editor-in-chief John Avlon, one of the guests on the panel, further reiterated how important the Fourth Estate is in covering a truth-bending demagogue like Donald J. Trump.“It’s about Donald Trump and the blizzard of lies strategy that he’s deployed from the beginning. If somebody lies every day, multiple times a day, it stops being noteworthy and the process of holding him accountable becomes more difficult,” said Avlon. “Which is why it’s our job in the news, more than anything, to call bullshit on it.
“We at The Daily Beast have been tough on Donald Trump from the beginning, unapologetically,” he added. “They’ve threatened our reporters; we’ve published the threats because we will not play that game. We will stand up to bullies, bigots, and hypocrites like Donald Trump every day.”
Another panelist, Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch, singled out the performance of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly as someone in TV news who’s done a commendable job of taking Trump to task—which lit a fire under Maher. “Megyn Kelly? Excuse me, can we go through this bullshit for a second?” said Maher. “Megyn Kelly asked [Trump] one tough question at the debate—one tough question—and then the stupid media anoints her as a genius because she asked one tough question. For months, he’s just belittling her: she’s on the rag, she’s an idiot, she’s a bimbo, her ratings are terrible. Then, she comes begging him for an interview where she says, ‘Nothing is gonna be out of bounds.’ You know what was out of bounds? Journalism. She didn’t ask one tough question. It was a profile in cowardice.”
Later on in the program, Maher seemed to defend venture capitalist Peter Thiel’s clandestine crusade against Gawker Media. You see, back in 2007, Gawker’s now defunct sister blog about Silicon Valley, Valleywag, published an article outing Thiel—a PayPal cofounder and early Facebook angel investor—as gay. So, Thiel secretly funded a series of lawsuits targeting the company over the years, including the recent invasion of privacy suit waged by wrestler Hulk Hogan against Gawker, that may effectively bury the company.
“We found out that this billionaire Peter Thiel hates Gawker because they outed him, so he is the sugar daddy for Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit,” said Maher. “He wants to drive Gawker out of business. I don’t think it’s a good thing when billionaires can drive media outlets out of business, except on the other hand, Gawker are fuckin’ whores. It’s so hard to feel sorry for the media when they’re so sleazy.”
But Gawker aside, who recently published an excellent, highly entertaining piece on Trump’s alleged $60,000 weave, Maher saved his harshest words for TV news. “Donald Trump kept saying, ‘I don’t have any corporate backers like the other people! I’m self-funded.’ The media is his corporate backer,” shouted Maher. “Two billion dollars in free media, so that’s bullshit, too.”