Long Week: Trump, Turkey, Farrow, Lauer, Warren, and more...
Because this has been an exceptionally busy news week with lots of big happenings, I’ve done something I normally don’t by putting together a digest-style piece to touch on multiple stories. This won’t become a habit. I much prefer looking at individual issues in a more deep and detailed manner, but today I'm declaring "writer's privilege" and going with something a little different.
Our betrayal of the Kurds
In Bernie Goldberg’s Premium Q&A this week (which will be published Friday), he received the below question from a member named "Jack":
“I have defended Trump on a number of things but I see no defense of what he just did in Syria. He impulsively moved a hundred U.S. troops to a different part of Syria to allow Turkey to slaughter the Kurds (who we vowed to support and who helped us big-time against ISIS). The larger result, by all the experts’ estimation, will be more Middle Eastern instability, lots of ISIS prisoners being set free, and ultimately additional ground wars involving Americans. But somehow, the pro-Trumpers are defending what Trump did by saying “it’s time to end the endless wars”? WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT? This reckless pullout stuff is what we got all over Obama for doing!”
I quoted Jack because I think he provided a rather good summary of what President Trump did in impulsively selling out our Kurdish allies in Syria, and also of what a lot of the president’s loyal fans (including in the conservative media) are saying in his defense.
The reflexively repeated "endless wars" mantra understandably resonates with a lot of people, based on our extensive presence in the Middle East since 9/11. But in reference to this particular situation with Turkey, as Jack pointed out, it makes no more sense that President Obama's precipitous withdrawal from Iraq after the country had finally reached acceptable (but fragile) levels of stability. As many will recall, that reckless, purely political move by Obama opened up the region for ISIS, earned the vehement scorn of Donald Trump, and required Obama to send thousands of troops back to Iraq to help retake provinces overrun by the terrorist group.
One of the strongest reporters on the Turkey/Syria story (as has been the case with other Middle Eastern conflicts) has been Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin. And if you’re not following her Twitter feed for the latest developments, you really should be.
On Wednesday, Griffin tweeted the details of a heart-wrenching phone conversation she’d just had with a U.S. Special Forces soldier stationed in Syria. I think it provided some important perspective:
Matt Lauer and NBC
Ronan Farrow, who helped blow the lid off of Harvey Weinstein’s long and horrid history of sexual predations, is about to release a new book that includes some stunning, previously unheard claims about Matt Lauer and his former network, NBC.
They include multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Lauer from former colleagues, including a rape allegation from a woman named Brooke Nevils. Nevils, a former Today show employee, says that Lauer raped her in his Sochi hotel room during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Though Lauer denies the claim, insisting their sexual relationship was always consensual, NBC found Nevils’ account (filed in a complaint to their HR department in late 2017) alarming enough to terminate Lauer the next day.
Farrow himself was an NBC correspondent when he started work on the Harvey Weinstein story, and as some may recall, the network ultimately wouldn’t let him run the story under their banner.
In his book, Farrow claims and offers supporting evidence that Weinstein, who was aware in 2017 that Farrow was aggressively looking into the sexual allegations against him, tried to bully NBC into killing Farrow’s story. And the leverage Weinstein allegedly used was his personal knowledge of Lauer’s history of sexual misconduct (accumulated by a close ally of his at the National Enquirer). According to Farrow, Weinstein threatened to go public with that knowledge if NBC didn’t shut Farrow down (which, again, is exactly what they did).
Unsurprisingly, NBC denies that account of events. But with the release of Farrow’s book will assuredly come increased scrutiny into NBC’s possible dealings with Weinstein, and what lengths the network may have gone to in order to protect Lauer and themselves. If their decision to spike Farrow’s story did come as a result of pressure from Weinstein, it would be the biggest journalistic scandal in a very long time.
And just to add another layer of complexity to this story, the Washington Examiner’s Tiana Lowe wrote an interesting piece presenting a case that Megyn Kelly was more likely terminated by NBC for her coverage of Matt Lauer than for her on-air conversation about blackface and Halloween costumes. It’s a column worth checking out.
Elizabeth Warren’s latest identity crisis, and those defending it
Some pretty compelling evidence has recently come out suggesting that one of Elizabeth Warren’s often repeated personal stories — a story that she uses on the campaign trail to emphasize the issue of workplace pregnancy discrimination — simply isn’t true.
Warren has long contended that, years ago, she was forced from a teaching job at an elementary school (her first year in the position) because she became visibly pregnant. However, newly unearthed records show that the school had indeed offered her a second-year contract. Rather than signing it, however, she handed in her resignation. This information is consistent with a 2007 interview, in which Warren said that she had decided to move on from teaching on her own accord.
Following Warren’s debunked claim that she came from notable Native American heritage, it would appear that the senator has a habit of embellishing parts of her biography for personal gain. Not all that long ago, such revelations would have devastated a presidential campaign, but that clearly isn’t the case anymore. After all, in 2016, both major parties nominated individuals who were notorious for sharing made-up anecdotes about themselves.
It seems unnecessary, then, that Warren's defenders have latched onto the silly narrative that, because pregnancy discrimination was (and is) a real thing, Warren hasn’t been deceitful.
Here’s CNN political analyst, Joshua Green:
Green goes on to describe, in great detail, how his mother was discriminated against because of her pregnancy.
Similarly, the Washington Post ran a story with this headline: “Conservatives claim Elizabeth Warren lied about pregnancy firing. Women reality checked them on social media.”
Talk about a bait and switch. The argument of Warren’s critics isn’t that pregnancy discrimination doesn’t exist, or that women haven’t suffered from it (this is what the social media posts were about). It’s that Warren herself doesn’t appear to have suffered from it.
When someone lies about being a war veteran, her or she is not vindicated by the existence and experiences of legitimate war veterans. Just the opposite, in fact. They’re guilty of (and appropriately shamed for) stolen valor. “Stolen valor” probably isn’t the best term to describe Warren’s particular situation. The correct term, in her case, is “cultural appropriation” (which liberals are often accusing others of employing). And she provided an even stronger example of it when she, for decades, self-identified as having Native American ancestry.
She obviously survived that whole debacle, being that she's currently the Democratic presidential front-runner. Thus, I’d say she has nothing politically to worry about...which again, says more about how far voters have lowered their standards than it does about her.
Well, that’s it for this week. I’ll be back next week with a more traditional piece. Have a good weekend, everyone.