Since liberal producer Aaron Sorkin's HBO series The Newsroom made waves a couple of weeks ago with its infamous speech asserting that America is "not the greatest country in the world anymore," CNN host Piers Morgan has repeatedly brought up this charge with guests on his Piers Morgan Tonight show.
Morgan, who so far has not brought up the speech with any clearly conservative guest who might disagree with the premise, first raised the issue on the Wednesday, June 20, show with guest Billy Corgan of the rock group, the Smashing Pumpkins. Morgan:
I saw the premiere of Aaron Sorkin's new drama, Newsroom, which is based around a cable news show like this, starring Jeff Daniels. I watched it last night. And at the start, Jeff Daniels's character makes this kind of polemic speech to a bunch of students. And the point he makes - he's asked about what he thinks of America. He says that it's completely wrong to say America is still the greatest country in the world. It used to be. And it can be again.
But actually statistically, if you look at all the criteria, education, science, literacy, etc., etc., America is lagging way behind now many countries. What do you think?
A couple of days later, on Friday, July 22, as Sorkin and The Newsroom's Jeff Daniels appeared together as guests, the CNN host asked Daniels about the quote he had to deliver on the show. Morgan:
It was fascinating watching the room reaction, all these hard-edged news men, a lot of them sort of nodding along with that because it was a great speech and a classic - if you don't mind me saying - Sorkinism at its very best because it really made you think because you rattled off all these statistics about where America is not number one anymore, and made the point it used to be a great country, and it could be a great country again, but right now, it's not the greatest country in the world.
Let me ask you a difficult question: When you said it, did you believe it yourself?
On Monday, July 2, during an interview with Glenn Frey of the band, the Eagles, the CNN host brought up the issue of "American excess" as the two discussed the meaning of the Eagles song, Hotel California:
I always took it to mean a kind of a monument to American excess, not necessarily in a completely negative way, but just a monument to excess. When you look at modern America, and the way America has developed since you wrote the song, what do you think of what's going on now in America? In terms of, have people taken excess too far, do you think?
Morgan then brought up the speech from Sorkin's The Newsroom as he followed up:
An interesting debate was sparked - I had Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels on here and this new HBO show, Newsroom, based on a show like this - and there's a whole debate that was sparked by the big speech at the start of the first episode in which Jeff Daniels's character gets angry about America.
And the key point he was making was that too many Americans still believe that America is the greatest country on Earth when, statistically, in many, many key areas - science, education and so on - it isn't anymore. There's a lack of awareness of that. Like all things in denial, until you deal with the denial and accept reality, you can't get better again. Do you think there's merit to that?
And on Tuesday, July 3, with liberal actor Billy Baldwin as a guest, Morgan raised the issue again:
PIERS MORGAN: There's this ongoing debate now, triggered by Aaron Sorkin's show, Newsroom, about whether America has the right to call itself the greatest country in the world statistically, just based on some of the figures you just said, what do you think?
BILLY BALDWIN: I think we have to be careful because there was a time where, you know, Paris and France were at the forefront of everything culturally and politically, and then it was replaced by London and England, and that was replaced by New York and America, and we better watch out or it's gonna be Beijing and China. And we may look back 50 years from now and say, in 2012, it already was Beijing and China, we just weren't aware of it until 20 years after the fact. And by that time, it's gonna be too late, so I think when it comes to R and D, you know, and technology and education and infrastructure and reinvestment, I think we have to be very, very careful, or we're about to be replaced.