Don’t look now, but some liberal late-night TV shows are starting to target progressive icons.
It started late last month when Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” excoriated Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for claiming to be of American Indian descent.
More recently, HBO talker John Oliver repeatedly blasted actor Dustin Hoffman for reports that the two-time Oscar winner sexually harassed a female co-star during the 1985 CBS adaptation of “Death of a Salesman.”
The media’s coverage of the two events, though, proved radically different. Most news outlets pounced on the Oliver-Hoffman dust-up. It’s rare to see a Hollywood star hammered with such ferocity.
Yet watching a liberal like Mr. Noah tear into Ms. Warren, who some say is positioned for a 2020 presidential run, is equally newsworthy — especially since fellow late-night stars Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert shunned that devastating angle.
They weren’t alone.
“Saturday Night Live,” known of late for its progressive bent, recently mocked today’s Democrats as old and out of touch. The satire show also routinely portrayed Hillary Clinton as inauthentic during the 2016 election campaign.
“SNL” still hasn’t mocked Ms. Warren for her faux American Indian roots. That makes Mr. Noah’s attack all the more unusual: Man bites dog material.
Mr. Noah noted President Trump’s recent jab at the Democratic senator during a ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers from World War II.
“When he says ‘Pocahontas,’ you might be thinking, ‘Wait, Trevor, I’m confused. Is Elizabeth Warren Native American?’ And you see, that’s the question. Because for a long time, she said she was,” the South African comic said.
From 1986 to 1995, Ms. Warren, then a Harvard law professor, identified herself as an American Indian in the Association of American Law Schools, even though genealogical evidence does not support her claims, Mr. Noah said. He then pooh-poohed her recipe contributions to a 1984 cookbook titled “Pow Wow Chow.”
“That would be like finding out I’m completely white, I have no African blood and yet I wrote the book ‘Snacks for Blacks,’ ” he said.
Few media outlets reported on Mr. Noah’s segment. In fact, major entertainment sites such as TheWrap.com, Deadline.com, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety ducked it entirely.
That’s in stark contrast to how those outlets handle de rigueur slams against Mr. Trump. Those same Hollywood news sites cover every other monologue or sketch belittling the Republican president.
Here are just a few examples:
⦁ Stephen Colbert addresses Donald Trump endorsement of “Creme-De-La Creep” Roy Moore.
⦁ Samantha Bee tears into Mr. Trump’s “Clusterf*ck of Ineptitude” on James Comey.
⦁ Stephen Colbert calls President Trump a “Dictator, technically.”
⦁ Round-the-clock cable news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC also share late-night hosts’ anti-Trump/Republican brickbats. Mr. Noah routinely makes the cut when those channels share such gags. The South African comic’s slam on Ms. Warren yielded no replays. The echo chamber went deaf.
Why the difference?
Scott Whitlock of NewsBusters.org suggests that liberal journalists aren’t always keen on comedy that “speaks truth to power.”
“Trevor Noah effectively — and rather brutally — reminded his viewers and the country that Elizabeth Warren lied about having Native American heritage,” Mr. Whitlock said. “Yet, this segment didn’t go viral. It wasn’t replayed endlessly on the newscasts. This just shows that liberal journalists … like comedy that trashes conservatives.”
Mr. Whitlock points to the media’s approach to another late-night humorist to support his case.
“One only needs to look at the recent fawning over Jimmy Kimmel’s attacks on the NRA and the effort to repeal Obamacare to see what kind of humor reporters prefer,” he said.
Veteran media critic Bernard Goldberg says it’s not an accident that reporters spread anti-Trump gags while going silent when a Trevor Noah takes the opposite approach.
“Journalists gladly rerun clips from late-night shows that bash President Trump because it’s a way to indirectly bash Trump themselves,” said Mr. Goldberg, who is no Trump apologist. “If late-night comedians were conservative and spent a lot of time making fun of liberals, mainstream journalists wouldn’t find the jokes so funny.”
Mr. Goldberg said that if the current late-night lineup leaned as far to the right as it does to the left, “there’d be editorials condemning the conservative comics.”
“There might even be journalistic investigations,” he said, “into why the owners of the networks allow such stuff.”
Jason Killian Meath, a political media strategist and CEO of Meath Television Media, blames a bubbled media culture with little room for differing views.
“There is such a pack mentality, you really need to wonder if the media is simply talking to each other,” Mr. Meath said. “They don’t seem go out of their way to offer up anything unique.
“It’s almost like John Oliver fed the narrative and was rewarded while Trevor Noah went off script,” he said.
Mr. Goldberg said the media’s tactics regarding late-night humor may have an impact on the voting public at large.
“They probably move the needle among younger viewers because a lot of them get their news from comedians. Just ask Jon Stewart,” he said.