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January 2016

When bullies face off

No doubt Fox News Channel was heartened when Thursday night’s debate drew a decent audience without the star of the GOP traveling circus, Donald Trump. Deciding he didn’t want to be ambushed and insulted, Mr. Trump put on an event across town to raise money for veterans, giving a speech that CNN and MSNBC covered.

This crossing of swords will be forgotten when actual votes come in, starting with the Iowa caucuses on Monday. But in the run-up, the staff and management of Fox News managed to come off looking unhinged, figuratively frothing at the mouth at levels unseen since The New York Times in 2002 failed to bully Augusta National Golf Club into admitting its first female member. (It happened 10 years later.)

After Mr. Trump sent regrets, Fox News fired out a stupid press release trying to make fun of him. Then it accused Mr. Trump’s people of trying to intimidate debate moderator Megyn Kelly, she of the desperate attempt to take down Mr. Trump in the first Fox News debate.

Nothing stuck. So Fox News boss Roger Ailes pleaded with Mr. Trump’s lovely wife and wonderful daughter. No dice. Then Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly surrendered credibility by begging him to show up. As Twitter pundit Ecklebob Chiselfritz noted: “If Bill O’Reilly fawned and slobbered over me like he did Trump, I would report it as a sex crime.”

Ms. Kelly insulted her loyal viewers by inviting the Tiresome Fat Filmmaker on her show.

Then came this tidbit from Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine, quoting a source close to Mr. Ailes: “Roger says Trump is unelectable. His goal here is to save the country.”

Proving once again that bad things happen when news organizations advocate rather than report.

Mr. Rock will stand tall

As I have mentioned before, hosting the Oscar telecast is the most thankless pinata job in TV. No matter how well you do, critics are out the next morning demanding that you be thrown out of your day comedy job and relocated to the Hollywood Home for Failures.

Many agree that the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences produces an interminable, unwatchable show. They’ve tried everything short of shock collars to keep the winners’ remarks short. The major Oscars are presented way too late for a school night (unless you live on the West Coast).

The only reason the show isn’t canceled is that America is hooked on it, reaping ABC a fortune.

The difference this time is that the host, Chris Rock, is being pilloried BEFORE the show, caught up in the controversy about the paleness of the nominees in major categories. Spike Lee has said he will boycott the ceremony. (Perhaps he will go further by threatening to DVR it and skip the dozens of commercials.)

Some black celebrities have called for Mr. Rock to step down, sending a message to the Academy. Rapper 50 Cent made his plea on Instagram: “Chris please do not do the oscars awards. You mean a lot man, don’t do it. Please.”

Prediction: Mr. Rock, who also hosted in 2005 when there were four black nominees in major categories, will not cave to the PC crowd. However, he will swear off the gig forever after the stupid Monday morning quarterbacking.

A final thought: This manufactured “crisis” would not exist if the deserving Samuel L. Jackson had been nominated for playing the lisping zillionaire villain in “Kingsmen: The Secret Service.” But we all know the Academy hates Fox more than it likes him.

Al Jazeera bites the dust

It would be remiss of me not to mention the pending demise of the cable news network Al Jazerra America, which is shutting down April 30.

Boo-hoo, cried NOBODY anywhere.

The network’s CEO, Al Anstey, announced that the “decision by Al Jazeera America’s board is driven by the fact that our business model is simply not sustainable in light of economic challenges in the U.S. media marketplace.”

From The New York Times: “Al Jazeera America went on the air in August 2013 after it bought Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million. It promised to be thoughtful and smart, free of the shouting arguments that have defined cable news in the United States over the last decade. But meaningful viewership never came, with prime-time ratings sometimes struggling to exceed 30,000 viewers.”

It’s hardly surprising that America didn’t cotton to a cable news channel owned by Mideast interests that didn’t mind sprinkling in anti-Semitism. The question is why these suckers paid such a high price to get into your living room.

Mr. Gore and his partners launched Current TV in 2005 and toyed with formats before settling on liberal drivel. Keith Olbermann worked there a few minutes, it has been rumored. Cenk (rhymes with stink) Yugur hosted a program called “The Young Turks.” Jennifer Granholm, once the governor of Michigan, bored people nightly.

Every twist and turn of programming was accompanied by lavish praise from The Times, dozens of stories. But the ratings never grew from what could be accounted for by pets like me accidentally stepping on remotes.

When oil money came calling, Mr. Gore was all ears. Smart people never buy anything he is selling.

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