Is this Jeff Zucker's new vision for CNN? Instead of reporting hard-hitting news, Thursday's 9 a.m. ET hour of Newsroom featured conservatives getting whacked by a gauntlet of talking heads, celebrities, and centrist and liberal guests. And anchor Carol Costello added a liberal lament of "Will Gitmo ever close?"
Here were some "stories" that CNN devoted whole segments to: Tina Fey mocking Sarah Palin on Bravo, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly admonishing Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and a question about whether conservatives are overlooked in pop culture, answered by a liberal guest and a centrist guest. CNN is looking more and more like MSNBC.
After playing the clip of Fey mocking Palin, Costello laughed, "Yes, thank you very much Tina Fey! See, you needed to laugh this morning, right?"
She introduced the O'Reilly clip, "Michele Bachmann coming under some not-so-friendly fire from a fellow conservative Republican." The matter concerned a report from the previous day where CNN's Dana Bash grilled Bachmann on the veracity of statements she made concerning the President.
Costello concluded, "O'Reilly said Bachmann is playing small-ball, and needs to focus on bigger issues."
And later on, the paddling of conservatives continued. Guests John Avlon, a centrist, and Jason Johnson, a liberal, hit conservatives for falling behind in the pop culture sphere.
"And the truth of the matter is, conservatives don't tend to be funny," Johnson remarked. "If there were conservatives out there that were actually funny, they wouldn't get overlooked by pop culture. That's their problem." Costello laughed, "That is cold!" in response.
Avlon opined that "conservatives who feel like they are locked out from popular culture better look in the mirror and get with the program, and start working with American culture as it is, not as they wish it was or as it was in the past." Costello responded, "Whoo. Tough."
Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on March 21 on CNN Newsroom beginning at 9:13 a.m. EDT:
CAROL COSTELLO: Now a little politics-slash-entertainment. We all got a fresh dose of Sarah Palin last week when she took center stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference. You know, CPAC? Now we're getting another heaping helping thanks to Tina Fey. She appeared last night on Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio.
JAMES LIPTON, host, Inside the Actors Studio: Same-sex marriage, what is your view on that case?
TINA FEY: The Bible says it's gross.
FEY: And I don't judge it.
A lot of the amazing wonderful people I met in the audience at Dancing With the Stars seem to go that way.
FEY: But, no.
LIPTON: No? No same-sex marriage?
FEY: Marriage is meant for people who wear different kinds of swim suits.
LIPTON: Women look up to you. Do you have any fashion and hair styling advice for them?
FEY: Well, I'm a fan of the bumpette.
FEY: Also to a tan, a tan you couldn't possibly have in Alaska. And that's really all you need.
LIPTON: Of greater importance, how does a woman like you make her way through a man's world?
FEY: I don't think of it as a man's world or a woman's world, unless, again, we're talking about marriage.
FEY: But I think of it as people being mavericks or not being mavericks.
LIPTON: May I be permitted just one more?
FEY: Okay, then. But you know, sometimes people ask me stuff and I don't answer it anyway, so go ahead.
LIPTON: – great gift for silence.
FEY: I'm a slippery one.
LIPTON: What do you think of Tina Fey's portrayal of you?
FEY: It's the best one I never watched.
LIPTON: Thank you very much. Thank you.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: (Laughing) Yes, thank you very much Tina Fey! See, you needed to laugh this morning, right?
COSTELLO: Michele Bachmann coming under some not-so-friendly fire from a fellow conservative Republican. Fox News host Bill O'Reilly blasting Bachmann after she told a crowd of conservatives that President Obama was enjoying a few too many perks at the White House. You may remember CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash tried to get Bachmann to explain those unfounded charges.
BACHMANN: You want to talk about dog handlers, and there's four Americans killed? That's an insult –
BASH: But Congresswoman, you're the one that brought it up!
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: Well it turns out O'Reilly tried to follow up with Bachmann with no success. He says Bachmann's spokesman told him don't call him, and suggested he read the book about Bachmann – okay I'm going to (Unintelligible). He suggested that Bill O'Reilly read this book where Bachmann got those so-called facts out of. That didn't sit too well with O'Reilly.
BILL O'REILLY, Fox News host, The O'Reilly Factor: This would be much ado about nothing if not for the fact that trivial attacks on President Obama are obscuring serious problems in this country. Does the President live well in the White House? Yes, he does. Is there money wasted there? You bet there is. But every other president in history has lived in comfort and it looks like President Bush the younger had a bigger budget than Barack Obama does. This is a trivial pursuit and Michele Bachmann made a mistake pursuing it.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: O'Reilly said Bachmann is playing small-ball, and needs to focus on bigger issues.
COSTELLO: Actually, let's go 30 seconds on this one. Because it's one of my favorite topics this morning. It turns out Jay Leno is a conservative darling, at least for blogger Matt Drudge. Drudge tweeting his anger over reports that Leno may be replaced by Jimmy Fallon, writing in part that Leno dared to offer jokes for the other 50 percent of the country and not just liberals. Perhaps Drudge was talking about moments like this.
JAY LENO, host, NBC's The Tonight Show: Because after losing two presidential elections in a row, the Republican Party now has now outlined a plan to attract minorities. They want to attract minorities, women, gay, lesbian, young voters. Show the newest ad.
NARRATOR: Get ready America, for a brand new Republican Party. We've changed our position on just about everything. For starters, we'll raise taxes on everyone who makes more money than you. Also, we decided that we're a-okay with same-sex marriages. In fact, we'll even pay for the honeymoon. And lastly, we'll not only embrace immigrants, we'll make it easier to get into the country by installing a moving sidewalk on the border. The new more inclusive Republican Party. Sign up today, and get a free bag of weed.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: (Laughing) I just love that. Actually, Leno is doing what Rush Limbaugh and others have done all week. They are mocking that recent Republican autopsy in a plan to broaden the party. For his part, Leno seems to agree with Drudge about having what you call a big comedy tent.
LENO: I'm kind of old school. I sort of try to reach that broad audience, where you try to reach everybody. The Tonight Show is different from The Daily Show, and Colbert, and some of these shows because I think they have a specific audience. And excellent. Nobody funnier than Colbert and Jon Stewart. But they are reaching a specific audience. I'm reaching hopefully some of that audience, and maybe some of their friends, and maybe some of their parents, and maybe some of their kids. And we're just going for that wide scope.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: Okay, so our question, are conservatives overlooked in popular culture? Jason?
JASON JOHNSON: No. And this is a ridiculous question. It's not that Jay Leno reaches the other 50 percent. It's that he's reaching people 50 and older. He talks to an older crowd, an older audience. I was a Conan O'Brien kid when I was in college. And so that's why he's probably going to be moved by Jimmy Fallon. And the truth of the matter is, conservatives don't tend to be funny. No one has liked Dennis Miller since he left Saturday Night Live. If there were conservatives out there that were actually funny, they wouldn't get overlooked by pop culture. That's their problem.
COSTELLO: (Laughing) That is cold.
JOHNSON: It's true.
AVLON: Look, the question is, are conservatives overlooked in popular culture? The reality is that conservatives end up being very often at war with popular culture. They're trying to basically do a flanking move with much of modernity, because they want to conserve the past. They are traditionalists. So while there is absolutely space for kind of a libertarian South Park conservative that makes fun of politically-correct excesses, conservatives who feel like they are locked out from popular culture better look in the mirror and get with the program, and start working with American culture as it is, not as they wish it was or as it was in the past.
COSTELLO: Whoo. Tough.