'Shop Talk': Comedian Steve Harvey's Ex-Wife Isn't Laughing

For this week's installment of "The Barbershop," host Michel Martin speaks with author Jimi Izrael; Ruben Navarrette, columnist for CNN and The Washington Post writers' group; Republican strategist Ron Christie; and Ken Rudin, political editor for National Public Radio. They discuss President Obama's State of the Union address; comedian-turned-relationship guru Steve Harvey after his ex-wife took to the Internet to post details of alleged infidelity; and make their Super Bowl picks.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are author Jimi Izrael, columnist Ruben Navarrette, Republican strategist Ron Christie, and NPR's political editor Ken Rudin. Take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Writer): Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas. Welcome to the shop. How are we doing?

KEN RUDIN: All right, Jimi.

Mr. RUBEN NAVARRETTE (Columnist): Doing good, man.

Mr. RON CHRISTIE (Republican Strategist): Jimi, what's happenin'?

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, makin' it work, brothers, makin' it work.

Well, check this out. We're going to kick off the shop this week with a look back at President Obama and his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Now, he emphasized innovation, education, and reducing the deficit. In many ways, it actually seemed like he was framing his 2012 re-election campaign, Michel.

MARTIN: Well, we'll be the judge of that, Jimi...

Mr. IZRAEL: OK.

MARTIN: ...whether it's seen that way. Well, anyway, I'll just play a short clip for those who may have missed it. Here it is.

President BARACK OBAMA: Sustaining the American dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age. And now, it's our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. IZRAEL: Hmm. All sounds a little familiar to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: He said it was our Sputnik moment, Jimi, did you know what that is - or did you have to call somebody to - explain it?

Mr. IZRAEL: No, no, I went to a decent public school, I know what Sputnik is. Give me a break. Thanks for that, Michel.

Listen, Ruben, man.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yo. Yo.

Mr. IZRAEL:The president - he said this is our generation's quote-unquote Sputnik moment.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right.

Mr. IZRAEL: Now, do you think the president's pep talk (coughs), I mean, excuse me, State of the Union address will inspire America's next innovation revolution?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I don't think so. No. I don't think so. I think that what we have here is somebody who we know is a great orator, and he gives good speeches. But it occurred to me, particularly in that last soundbite, that sounded almost like a ring of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address - you know, the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.

I mean, as president, you have to do a variety of things with your speeches. There are the inaugural speeches, where you say this is where we need to go. Then there's the speech that he is a master at - he is a wonderful speaker when it comes to national tragedies like what happened in Tucson. If you look at the Tucson speech, that's a great speech.

You know, likewise, the famous race speech in Philadelphia. If there's a problem or a national wound, he's your guy, he's the national consoler, OK? But then there's this last speech, the State of the Union is, literally, that: Tell me the state of the union. Tell me where we are, and where we're going and specifically, lay out some proposals on how to get there.

And here's my problem with Obama. It's just like on health care. He says these great things, but he doesn't lay out a road map.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: And he expects all these people in Congress, who are going to go in a million different directions, to take what he said and run with it. And then he's going to end up with some bill that's 20,000 pages long, and he doesn't like it. He's got to be more specific. He's got to lay out exactly what he wants to do and say: Tomorrow, when you get to your office, you're going to find a bill there that we've prepared, or we're going to find some legislation. Here are the guidelines. Now, go do it.

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, Ruben, I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks he gives good Kennedy. You know, I mean, I really want to hear him

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah. There's a little JFK in there.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. I want to hear him say something original. You know, Ken-dog.

RUDIN: Yeah. I mean, he was, I don't know about Kennedy. He was more Barack Obama than Kennedy and, you know, during the campaign, we saw a lot of Robert Kennedy in Obama. But look, you know, as I said at the time, I think the State of the Union was so effective, that it would last all the way until Wednesday, and it did.

I mean, it was not a great speech and a lot of people say, well, he's trying to be a centrist. You know, he got Bill Daley as his chief of staff. He's trying to have a centrist road to re-election, as Bill Clinton did in '95 and '96. But I think he tried to be all things to all people - like he would say, well, it's great that we have gays in the military. The left love that. But we need ROTC recruiters on campus, so the right liked that. He just offered little bits and pieces to different segments of the audience, and hoped that they went away with it.

MARTIN: Let me ask you this: You said it wasn't a great speech. Tell me why not.

RUDIN: Well, I mean, look, first of all - and I agree with the early comments that Tucson was one of those - as Ruben said, Tucson was inspiring; the Philadelphia speech on race was inspiring. State of the Union speech is, by definition, is very often not inspiring. And I also think that the fact is perhaps that, you know, with Democrats sitting next to Republicans. I mean, actually, I watched this with a Red Sox fan, that's how much I believed in it. But...

MARTIN: I know. I thought that was really bold of you.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: That is a big deal. Ooh.

RUDIN: You know, but I mean, he...

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh, wow.

MARTIN: Because he ran and took a shower afterwards but...

RUDIN: But basically, when you do that, you know, it no longer becomes a pep rally. You no longer see the applause. You don't it was just not - it just seemed a tepid response to a tepid speech. And again, you don't want to give specifics because you do have a Republican House who could thwart you every step of the way. But I didn't see any specifics and great urging us to join on this crusade kind of thing, that you see from other presidents.

MARTIN: What did Ron think?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Well, I have to say I agree with the fellows on this. I was surprised, frankly, at how underwhelming the speech was. And he had given such a remarkable set of remarks in Tucson, and I thought that he united the country on that particular day and came forward not as a Democrat and not as the leader of the Democratic Party, but came forth as the president of the United States, and really asked us to hold out for loftier ideals, and to come together.

And this speech was supposed to have been the State of the Union. He didn't talk about the mounting entitlements; he didn't talk about the debt; he didn't talk about the war on terrorism; he didn't talk about our brave men and women in the field. He talked about these - sort of lofty aspirations that I thought not only didn't give a state of the union but didn't give a direction and...

MARTIN: He did - he did talk about the debt, Ron.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

MARTIN: He did talk about the debt.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Well, but only tangentially. I mean, saying that we have to address the crisis - but he didn't come up with any solutions.

MARTIN: Can I ask you this, Ron?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Yeah.

MARTIN: You were a special assistant to the - President George W. Bush.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: And have you ever heard a great State of the Union? I mean, I just feel like this is such a no-win situation. I've never heard a president actually congratulated for a State of the Union Address. If he does laundry list, he's criticized for doing laundry list. If he does big ideals, people criticize him for not being specific. Did you ever have one that people said kudos, great job?

Mr. CHRISTIE: We did. It was President Bush's State of the Union Address in 2005 - excuse me, in 2002, rather, right after the 9/11 attacks. And, you know, he has a specific quote that I remember vividly. It said: It was as if America had looked into a mirror and saw our better selves, and we are reminded that we are Americans.

And I just thought that his symbolism, and his vision, in that speech was so significant because he brought us together as Americans and as a country, at a time that we needed a little bit of healing. And other than that, presidential State of the Union addresses are political statements, and they're rather boring.

MARTIN: OK.

RUDIN: It's fair to say that the Bush State of the Union in 2002 didn't last that long either, as far as getting the country united.

MARTIN: All right. Let me move on. Before we move on, I did want to ask Ron, in particular, your reaction to that much discussed - at least, among us Tea Party response given by Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann. It was criticized by a lot of people on the left and the right. A lot of people in the Republican Party were like, what is it? What, what is this? And Meghan McCain, daughter of former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Arizona senator, told MSNBC that Michele Bachmann is no better than a poor man's Sarah Palin. I'm really not sure what that means.

But I did want to ask, Ron - well, let me just play, just in fairness, let me just play a short clip of Michele Bachmann's address. I know I'm skipping past the official Republican address. But we did speak about that earlier in the week. But for those who - because every network did not carry Michele Bachmann's address. So let me just play a short clip of it. Here it is.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money that we don't have. But instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt. It was unlike anything we've ever seen before in the history of the country.

MARTIN: Now, of course, a lot of people take issue with her facts on this. But there you go. Ron, I'm just interested in your thoughts on this as a, you know, a Republican...

Mr. CHRISTIE: As the Republican guy in the shop.

MARTIN: As a Republican strategist guy.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Well, I tell you, you know, first of all, I don't understand Meghan McCain. In the rest of that clip, Meghan McCain says that Michele Bachmann isn't a true leader. You know, the last time I checked, Michele Bachmann's actually run for Congress. She inspired constituents to vote for her, and she was elected in the office. Whereas Meghan McCain, the last time I checked, her popularity came from the fact that she has a very senior member of the Senate in her father.

Michele Bachmann represents the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party movement helped swell Republicans into the majority status in the House of Representatives. If she wants to have a take on the State of the Union and CNN wanted to air it, who cares? I think it's much ado about nothing. I didn't find her remarks particularly inspiring, but I think she inspires a lot of people.

MARTIN: OK. Let's move on to another relationship that arrived...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Can I just...

MARTIN: Go ahead, Ruben.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Can I chime in on that?

MARTIN: Sure.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Real quick. I agree with half of what Ron said about Meghan McCain being out of line for criticizing Michele Bachmann. But I'll tell you what: This was not much ado about nothing; this was really significant. It's a developing and very - now clear to the nation's schism within the Republican Party, between the establishment Republicans, who put forward Paul Ryan from Wisconsin to give their official response, and Michele Bachmann.

Now what love about this - and I think it's great. I think liberals like it because they like to see the opposition divided, but I like it for a different reason - because one of the things that's always appealed to me about the GOP and the Republicans is they preach competition, competition, competition. Well, this is competition. This is a chance for them to walk it like they talk it, and let me see competition between Bachmann and Ryan, between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. It is clear: This is just the beginning. This isn't the end; this is the beginning of that schism. And we're going to see a lot of friction between those factions coming into 2012.

MARTIN: Well, just to be fair, let me say I think Ryan's address was very well-delivered. But Ken Rudin, you had a thought. I opened the door now. All right. Everybody's going to walk through. Go ahead, Ken.

RUDIN: Yeah. Well, I was going to say I agree. I think the Republicans were angry with CNN because they basically showed that there is a schism in the Republican Party.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Right.

RUDIN: But I think the left was not so happy - is that you had two anti-Obama responses. So I mean, when do you ever have a response to the president coming from two, separate speeches? And that was kind of upsetting, too. The point is, CNN and the Tea Party are sponsoring a presidential debate on Labor Day in Tampa and basically CNN, I think, was just trying to curry favor with the Tea Party part of theirt relationship.

MARTIN: All right. Well, it's interesting. It's an interesting and ongoing story. So thank you all for those different views. I'm kind of looking at it in a different light.

If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're speaking with our guys: Jimi Izrael, Ron Christie, Ruben Navarrette and Ken Rudin. And back to you, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thank you, Michel. OK. And let's move on and talk about comedian-turned-relationship-guru Steve Harvey. Well, he's not laughing much these days. His ex-wife apparently posted three separate videos totaling 25 minutes, which she basically goes in on Steve Harvey and says he repeatedly cheated on her and tried to turn her son against her, Michel.

MARTIN: Well, I'll play a short clip of it, just so people know what we're talking about.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

MARTIN: And then I'll explain why we're talking about this. Here it is.

Ms. MARY HARVEY: When I intercepted the phone call and Marjorie, his present wife, was on the phone, that was when I realized that it had really crossed over into something else. When you have somebody calling your home, it's because they've gotten a green light. Steve and I had been together for - wow, 16 years. To come face-to-face with the reality of what that phone call did and the things it set into motion, that was really difficult for me.

Mr. IZRAEL: Wow.

MARTIN: Now, the reason that why we're talking about this is that Steve Harvey has become quite the media phenomenon - not as a comedian but as a relationship guru guy, you know, giving advice.

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: His best-selling - his books on relationships - Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man, Straight Talk, No Chaser - are best-sellers, and he was recently on NPR talking about he's trying to broaden his message beyond just the African-American community. So here he is, talking about fighting his publishers who wanted to put, you know, slang into his relationship books. Here it is.

Mr. STEVE HARVEY (Comedian; Author): They were convinced at Harper Collins that this was for black women. And when I sent the book in, they were putting stuff in it like, sisters, let me tell y'all, and black women got to stay together. Whoa, whoa, whoa. I didn't say that. No. No. Take all that out.

MARTIN: So there you go. Jimi, I know you're a fan, so I know you bought all of his books and you studied them closely, so.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. I mean, that's my homeboy; you know, he's by way of West Virginia. So, you know, but the thing is when you hop into the arena - thank you for that video clip - or that audio of the video clip, Michel. She sounds like she's doing a recitation of Millie Jackson.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: But thank you for that anyway. But it's like, you know, when you hold yourself up as a relationship guru, you know, this is what could happen. I mean, somebody could try to topple you. And - but in fairness, I don't think she's trying to topple him or take him out. What I really think she's trying to do, sincerely, is tell her side of the story. That's what I believe, that she's not hocking the book. You see, she doesn't really have a motivation beyond getting her story out there.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Well, she's hurt. She's hurt. She's obviously hurt. And she's letting it out.

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, yeah. I'm saying - and it sounds like beauty shop, you know, a confessional, is what it sounds like to me. But I mean, she's entitled to tell her side of the story. But, you know, they got lawyers for that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: OK. Well, all right. Before we go, you know, I have to ask you all about the Super Bowl.

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: It's just a week away, and then there's the back-story of Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And for those who don't remember - we talked about this on the program - he'll be suspended - he was suspended the first four games of the year for his involvement with the 20-year-old college student who then said that he imposed himself on her inappropriately while they were both drunk.

So I just, you know, I just figured, what do you all think? I don't know, Jimi, what do you think?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I think my folks in...

MARTIN: OK, Ruben.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I think my folks in Dallas - because I used to live in Dallas. I worked at Dallas for the Morning News - I think my folks in Dallas, where the game is going to be played - in Arlington - need to be careful with Ben. And they need to keep Ben out - the bars. OK? Keep him out of the bars after the game, before the game, during the game because we don't need another incident like that.

I think this is not necessarily a chance for him to redeem himself, but it's going to make for some good football and some - two hard-core teams from the old-school way. And it's a great season; it's turned out to be a great season. Very unexpected.

MARTIN: For some. Not for me.

Mr. CHRISTIE: You know, I think Ruben's right.

MARTIN: Go ahead, Ron.

Mr. CHRISTIE: And you know what? Go Aaron Rodgers. I mean, there's a guy who had to toil in ambiguity...

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

Mr. CHRISTIE: ...for years under Brett Favre. He came out from - out of his shadow. I think he's had a breakout season and, you know, I don't know so much about the redemption of Ben Roethlisberger, except for the emergence of Aaron Rodgers. Go Pack.

MARTIN: So who do you like? Who do you like? You like the Packers? Ron, you like the Packers? You liking the Packers?

Mr. CHRISTIE: I do. Love the Pack.

MARTIN: All right. Ken? Ken?

RUDIN: As somebody who enjoys being a guest on the show, I'm rooting for the Jets.

MARTIN: Aaw.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: That's my man, Ken.

RUDIN: I'm no fool.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: They've got long odds. I don't know if they're going to win.

RUDIN: Go Pack - now, go Packers.

MARTIN: Ken, you like the Packers?

RUDIN: Well, I don't know if they're going to win but I like - agree completely. I love the story of Aaron Rodgers emerging from Favre's shadow, and I still have problems with Rapethlisberger(sp).

MARTIN: They have two they have two - they're giving the Packers, the spread is giving the Packers the edge, which I'm confused by, given that the Steelers have more experience. I'm just confused by that.

RUDIN: Some of the Steelers are hurt as well, but yeah.

MARTIN: OK.

RUDIN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Jimi, who do you like?

RUDIN: Like Lynn Swann is out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CHRISTIE: Only by 20 or 30 years.

RUDIN: I loved her. I loved her. She was great.

MARTIN: Ruben, who are you liking? Who are you calling?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: I like the Packers for the same reason. I think the justice is amazing here. You know, here Brett Favre is going to spend the game home texting god knows what to god knows who and, you know, Aaron Rodgers, it's great.

RUDIN: And he's sending obscene pictures.

MARTIN: OK.

RUDIN: Yeah.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Yeah, it's great.

MARTIN: Jimi, who do you like?

Mr. IZRAEL: (Singing) Ji-Ji-Ji-Jimi's with the Jets.

MARTIN: Oh.

RUDIN: Oh, no.

Mr. IZRAEL: (Singing) Jimi, Jimi's with the Jets.

RUDIN: What a suck-up. My god.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Gee whiz. Gee whiz.

MARTIN: That's my guy. That's my guy. OK, we have like, 30 seconds left.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Embarrassing.

MARTIN: So what's the spread, since were going all the way there. What's the spread? Ken, you want to call it? You were my man originally, and I dig you too. So now that you've sided with me on the Jets, what's the spread?

RUDIN: I think Steelers by three and a half.

MARTIN: OK. Anybody else?

Mr. CHRISTIE: Pack by seven.

MARTIN: Oh, it's like that? It's like that?

Mr. CHRISTIE: It is like that.

MARTIN: Ruben, what about you? What's the spread?

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Could be bigger. Could be Pack by 10.

MARTIN: Oh, man. Don't invite him to the Christmas party next year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: And Jimi, what's the spread?

Mr. IZRAEL: Jets to the blowout. I don't know what the spread - it's going to be a blowout.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: No, no, I think it's going to be Timbuktu.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: OK.

Mr. CHRISTIE: You guys are something.

MARTIN: Let's go before this deteriorates further.

Jimi Izrael is author of the book "The Denzel Principle." He was with us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post Writers Group and CNN.com. He was with us from San Diego. Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor. He was here with us in our Washington, D.C., studio. And Ron Christie is a Republican strategist to former Vice President Dick Cheney and to President George W. Bush, and he was with us from our studios in New York.

Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Mr. CHRISTIE: Ciao, guys.

RUDIN: Go Yankees.

Mr. NAVARRETTE: Thanks.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yup-yup.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

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