Sean Penn's Oscar threat overshadowed by Will Smith-Chris Rock kerfuffle. And, Trump v. Hillary.
By Gary Abernathy
Chris Rock slapped by Will Smith? It’s as simple as it gets.
The Academy Awards ceremony, which I stopped watching years ago after it morphed into an annual snarky rant against conservatives, made news again this year not for anything to do with the nominated movies — most of which few people have seen — but instead for sideshow theatrics.
From what I had read and heard going into Sunday night, it seemed to me that the biggest kerfuffle would be actor Sean Penn’s threat to “smelt” his Oscars unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was allowed to have a presence on the Oscar telecast.
Penn may well be doing some noble things on the world stage, but his threat to destroy his own Oscars was another example of Hollywood celebrities developing an outsized perception of their own importance. Hard for me to imagine anyone caring what Penn does with his Oscar statuettes. Smelt them, break them, use them for doorstops or paperweights — who cares? Did Penn think millions would rally to his cause out of fear that he would destroy his Oscars if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did not accede to his demands?
But Penn’s imitation of Cleavon Little in “Blazing Saddles” — holding himself hostage — was lost in the wake of Will Smith’s slapdown of Chris Rock after Rock cracked a joke about the bald head of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. As I — and millions of others — saw later all over the internet and replayed on TV, Will Smith marched across the stage, slapped Rock — hard — and marched back to his seat, yelling at Rock to quit talking about his wife, with some choice expletives added for emphasis.
It was really that simple. Rock made a bad joke. Smith saw that it upset his wife, so Smith walked over to Rock, hit him, and then told him to stop it. What more is there to be said?
Well, plenty, according to some pundits who can’t stop analyzing it and finding some deep meaning in it all. In fact, the Academy has announced it is launching a “formal review” of the matter.
What’s to review? What’s to know that is not evident on the videotape? It couldn’t be simpler. The only real question is whether Smith should have been escorted out of the building. Instead, he stuck around and accepted an Oscar of his own for Best Actor.
Smith cooled down and apologized to Rock the next day. In his apology, Smith said, “There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
That’s probably true, but we have no way of knowing because we don’t live in a world of love and kindness. We live in a world — including Hollywood — where people from the left routinely take to Twitter and say the most hurtful, meanest things they can say about conservatives and anyone else who doesn’t agree with their politics or worldview. And yes, too many conservatives do the same in regard to people who disagree with them. Social media and other platforms are dominated by people condemning, judging and wishing bad things on each other. So spare us the Pollyanna notion that we live in “a world of love and kindness.”
To spare the Academy the wasted time of a “formal review,” here’s an informal review of what happened: Someone made a joke about someone else’s wife, and the wife’s husband slapped the person who made the joke. It’s that simple. Move on.
Trump’s lawsuit against Hillary likely true, but unwinnable
Former president Donald Trump has sued Hillary Clinton and several others over tactics used to claim that Trump colluded with Russia. As reported by Reuters:
"Acting in concert, the Defendants maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty," the former president alleged …. The suit alleges "racketeering" and a "conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood," among other claims. … The defendants in Trump's lawsuit include Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer. A dossier written by Steele, which was circulated to the FBI and media outlets before the November 2016 election, set out unproven assertions that Russia had embarrassing information about Trump and some of his Republican campaign's advisers and that Moscow was working behind the scenes to defeat Clinton.
That the Clinton campaign — aided by the fake dossier compiled by Steele — was part of an effort to smear Trump with a narrative of colluding with Russia — a narrative swallowed whole and repeated ad nauseum for two years by too many in the media — is hardly in dispute. What is questionable is whether Trump or anyone else can do anything about it in court. In the world of politics, smearing an opponent using information that has even a tangential relationship to a random fact or two is usually not legally actionable.
Still, the effort to convince Americans that Trump colluded with Russia to win the presidency in 2016 did as much to damage faith in our elections as Trump’s false claims of fraud in 2020. It’s unforgivable, and anyone who participated in propagating the Russian collusion lie should be ashamed.
Again, repeat after me: The 2016 election was fair and honest, and Russia did not “install” Trump as president. And the 2020 election was fair and honest, and Joe Biden did not win because of fraud.
Is Clarence Thomas accountable for his wife’s beliefs?
Revelations that Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, texted with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows urging him to keep fighting to reverse the 2020 election result have given some people ammunition to call for Thomas to either recuse himself from issues involving the 2020 election or the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, or even to resign from the court.
The fact that “Ginni” Thomas has long been a far-right activist is no secret. Her apparently sincere belief that the 2020 election was fraudulent, and her suggestions on what to do about it, are opinions and beliefs shared by millions of Americans. For all we know, maybe her husband shares those opinions, personally. Maybe he doesn’t. But we expect all judges to put aside their personal opinions to follow the Constitution. How many actually do that is always a matter of conjecture — your conclusion is usually influenced by whether you’re on the left or the right.
Once we go down the slippery slope of holding people in government positions — including judges — accountable for the opinions, beliefs or actions of their spouses, well, there will never be enough time for us to weed them all out. Nor should we.
Calls for Ginni Thomas to testify before the House’s committee investigating Jan. 6 are silly, based on what we know. While she encouraged Meadows to keep fighting and not concede, there’s nothing to indicate she was involved in any planning or decision-making about the Capitol incursion. Calling her to testify would be an exercise in political theater, nothing more.
PolitiFact demonstrates why trust in media is so low
Here’s a great example of the double standard that drives conservatives crazy when it comes to the media’s treatment of the right compared to the left.
PolitiFact, one of the best-known “fact-checking” organizations referenced often by mainstream media outlets, recently fact-checked comments made by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during Jackson’s confirmation hearings for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
As PolitiFact noted, Hawley said that Jackson "gave child porn offenders sentences below the guidelines and below what the prosecutors were requesting." After researching it, PolitiFact found that, indeed, “Jackson’s sentences were below the guidelines and below the prosecutors’ recommendations.”
Case closed, right? Hawley was spot-on about Jackson’s sentences as compared to federal guidelines and prosecutor recommendations.
Wrong. Even though PolitiFact admitted that Hawley was accurate about Jackson’s record, it then engaged in opining that “Jackson’s approach to sentencing in child pornography cases did not significantly differ from that of other judges, data show. A comprehensive federal study found that for these crimes, sentences are shorter than what the guidelines suggest more than two-thirds of the time. Prosecutors sometimes recommend sentences below the guidelines, too. Hawley failed to prove that Jackson is any more lenient than federal judges on average.”
And so, “We rate this claim Mostly False.”
Let’s get this straight. Hawley said that Jackson imposed sentences below the federal guidelines and below what prosecutors requested. PolitiFact found that, indeed, “Jackson’s sentences were below the guidelines and below the prosecutors’ recommendations.” But they rate his claims “Mostly False.”
The question wasn’t whether Hawley was being fair in how he characterized Jackson. The question was whether the facts he used were factual. That should be the job of the fact-checker. Facts are like statistics — they can be used to reach just about any conclusion, and calling one conclusion the only right one is merely to adopt a partisan stance and take sides. Leave it to the pundits and analysts to weigh in on whether someone is being fair or not. Just check the statements for fact.
PolitiFact does what so many in the mainstream media do. When the facts don’t fall in favor of liberals, they twist themselves into pretzels defending and explaining why the facts aren’t fair, or why they don’t tell the whole story. That might sometimes be understandable if the same standard was applied to conservatives. But it is not. And that’s one reason that trust in the media is so shamefully low, according to Gallup.
If we know one thing about Trump, it’s that he’s modest
Let’s end with this, and it just speaks for itself. Apparently — allegedly, let’s say, because it hasn’t been fact-checked by PolitiFact — Donald Trump scored a hole-in-one during a recent round of golf. Naturally, he put out a press release about it. Here it is in its entirety, because there’s no way to improve on it.
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