'Shop Talk': Guys Hold Their Applause After Tiger Woods' Apology

In this week's installment of the Barbershop host Michel Martin talks with freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, Sports Illustrated reporter Pablo Torre and NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin. They discuss the Tiger Woods press conference today, which is his first public appearance since he admitted being unfaithful to his wife. The other topics include whether the Winter Olympics have been compelling or not and Sarah Palin lashing out at the cartoon comedy "The Family Guy" over an episode that seems to mock her son Trig who has Down syndrome.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

Im Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Its time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about whats in the news and whats on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael; civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, Sports Illustrated reporter Pablo Torre, and NPRs political editor, our political junkie, Ken Rudin. Everybody take it away, Jimi.

Mr. JIMI IZRAEL (Freelance Writer): Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellows, whats good?

Mr. ARSALAN IFTIKHAR (Civil Rights Attorney; Editor, Founder, MuslimGuy.com): Hey, hey, hey.

Mr. IZRAEL: Welcome to the Shop. How are you doing?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: How are you, Jimi?

Mr. IZRAEL: A-train. Pablo, Ken-dog. Whats up man?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PABLO TORRE (Reporter, Sports Illustrated): Read any good books lately? Well, check this out. You know what? Weve all been waiting for this. You know, the media, the blogosphere - weve all been kind of waiting with bated breath. You know, Tiger Woods broke his silence today. He apologized repeatedly, and he said, you know, hes seeking help - naturally, through a therapist. Michel, really?

MARTIN: You know, I dont know what it is that people were expecting. But, I think it was very affecting. I do. And I will be interested to hear what other people have to say. I just want to play it was a statement - people can see it on our Web site and, of course, all the news organizations will have it on their sites, if you want to see what he said in its entirety. He did not take questions, and only a select group was invited. I think that has to be said. In fact, a group of golf writers elected not to attend because they could not ask questions. But, Ill just play a short clip of what he had to say. Here it is.

(Soundbite of audio clip)

Mr. TIGER WOODS (Golfer): I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wifes family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me. Its now up to me to make amends, and that starts by never repeating the mistakes Ive made. Its up to me to start living a life of integrity.

MARTIN: There you go.

Mr. TORRE: Wowsers.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, it looks like he's eating well, if nothing else. And I...

(Soundbite of laughter)

You know, Pablo, did Tiger Woods do enough today to clear his name and start rebuilding his image?

Mr. TORRE: I dont think so. And its not even because of the fact that he didnt take questions. I just I mean, I have to disagree with Michel here. I just thought this speech was kind of - almost like a Mad Libs of awful. I mean, it was...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TORRE: Insert the religion.

MARTIN: Well, let me just say, my view is not the prevailing one around here, Pablo. So dont feel alone.

Mr. TORRE: Well, it was just like, you know, insert religion - or insert religious revelation here; insert media backlash here; insert dramatic pause, I mean, it was just so robotic. And the notion that he wrote that himself, and he wasnt coached for this, is absurd. And my main point, I guess, is that, you know, number one, he should have taken questions. I mean, I applaud the Golf Writers Association of America for standing up to this guy because he has ruled the press for so long. And maybe thats me as a journalist speaking, but I would like to see public figures beholden even if its an athlete - not a politician.

And number two, you know, I just felt like it came off so, so robotic and so emotionless. And maybe thats a flaw of the guy himself, and maybe we cant really fault him too much for that. But I just wasnt convinced, given the whole structure and the tone of what he was trying to say.

MARTIN: Oh, OK. Ken - well, Jimi - Jimi, then Ken. I don't know.

Mr. IZRAEL: I thought...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Why are you laughing, by the way? I dont understand what youre laughing about.

Mr. IZRAEL: I thought the whole bit was cowardly. Im laughing at the idea that, you know, that anybody could have been affected by this. I thought, you know, it was just a mess, you know, not having any of the mainstream - not allowing anybody to ask questions, not allowing journalists, certain journalists, to be there. You know, what a mess. You know, and this guy - he really needs if he is going to be this cowardly, he really just needs to just go ahead and move back into his moms house. And, you know, maybe move into the basement, just start playing Xbox all day.

MARTIN: OK.

Mr. IZRAEL: What a bad look on this guy.

MARTIN: OK. Ken, what do you think?

RUDIN: You know, the purpose of the Barbershop is that were all supposed to at least engage in dialogue and sometime disagree. But I dont disagree with anything Ive heard so far. I agree completely with Pablo and Jimi. And the fact is, this guy is scripted, hes controlled. He remains scripted and controlled. He doesnt have to do a Mark Sanford, where he confesses to every, you know, affair he's ever had and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. I mean, he confessed everything, you know. It was just amazing. You couldnt I dont know why his handlers didnt drag him off the set. But this was just so robotic.

It was almost like, drug-induced and remember - we did hear the clip. But earlier, he kept saying to the people in the room, his friends in the room: Ive let you down. I let down my fans. But it took awhile for him to even mention his family and his wife.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

RUDIN: So, it just seemed just so - ick.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah.

MARTIN: Well, you know - well, I don't know. I guess I'm reminded that we all want to be judged on our intention. But we judge other people on the result. And I guess I just - I don't remember people criticizing his play as being robotic, which it is, and his emotionlessness on the course. I mean, that's the way he is as an - that's how he presents himself in public. So, I don't know. I don't know. Maybe it's my gender. I don't know.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, I...

MARTIN: Maybe it's my religion. I don't - maybe it's my faith perspective on this, that forgiveness is a highly - is a value of my - I don't know. Arsalan, there's something I wanted to address, because this is something - I think - you raised when we've discussed this previously, which is this whole issue of why he behaved in the very - why he wasn't as forthcoming, either with law enforcement or the press, prior to this. And you were the one who raised this question of domestic violence, because Florida has very strict rules regarding mandatory reporting and...

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: ...also mandatory arrest. He has specifically addressed this question. I do want to play that clip, if I may, and then hear what you have to say. Here it is.

Mr. WOODS: Elin never hit me that night or any other night. There has never been an episode of domestic violence in our marriage, ever. Elin has shown enormous grace and poise throughout this ordeal.

MARTIN: I think he was very passionate about that.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah, he...

Mr. IZRAEL: What else was he going to say, though? What else is he going to say - you know, about my wife, like, hit me with a frying pan and, you know, although I'm not present charges..

RUDIN: A nine iron.

Mr. IZRAEL: ...you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: I mean, what else he is going to say?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Well, he didn't have to say anything. And I think, again, that brings up the whole domestic violence aspect of it. And as we talked about it in the Barbershop a few months ago, Florida does have a very strict liability law in terms of domestic violence, where it does not matter whether a person wants to press charges or not against their abusing spouse. If it is found out by investigators that he or she, you know, committed any act of domestic violence, that would be cause for an immediate arrest. And so I think that he was essentially trying to, you know, nip that, you know, the criminal aspect of it in the bud. But I think, you know...

MARTIN: Or it's true. Or he's telling the truth that it never happened.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right. Well, I mean, he could very well be telling the truth. But again, you know, since it's been many months now since the, you know, initial incident, you know, had there been some sort of proof that, you know, she, in fact, did hit him, I think it would have come out by now.

RUDIN: So we're disproving a rumor, though. I don't know if there was a big deal of it. The reason that he's lost his sponsorships, and the reason he's lost his fans, is not because of an alleged assault and battery between he and his wife.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right. Right. That's - right.

MARTIN: Because I think it - because people - I think we sometimes forget that these people are people, and they are hurt inside by what is said about them. I mean, you and I would be. I mean, if you found people saying awful things about you on Facebook..

RUDIN: But it's true.

MARTIN: ...how ridiculous it would...

RUDIN: Everything's true about me, though.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Oh, OK.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, good to know. But - I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

RUDIN: I'm not pleased about it. But it's just...

Mr. TORRE: And this is Pablo, just jumping in.

Mr. IZRAEL: Pablo.

MARTIN: Ken.

Mr. TORRE: I mean, I was just shocked. I mean, just looking at what Mark McGwire did and IMG, telling these - scripted both of these things on that agency, I just think there's almost a how-to guide, to how to connect with people as far as apology press conferences go. And what I - the sense I got from what Tiger Woods did was that he didn't so much care about that, that he didn't actually want to - you know, and what people wanted, just to clarify, is they want real contrition. They don't want it to be scripted. They want you to admit what you did. They want you to take questions. And they want it to be sooner than three months, you know, after the fact.

And the fact that he waited so long and did what he did and, again, shut out the media, it again just gives off the whiff that he thinks he's bigger than the public which watches him, and he thinks that he's somewhat invulnerable, which is really, you know, frustrating - and, I think, grating for a lot of people, golf fans or not golf fans.

MARTIN: Or he's not following the script.

Mr. TORRE: Well...

MARTIN: And this is really who he is.

Mr. TORRE: You know, that...

MARTIN: I mean, here's a radical thought: Maybe he's not taking the advice of his handlers. Maybe this is really what he wanted to say and the way he wanted to say it.

Mr. TORRE: And, you know, if that's the case then...

MARTIN: Since you're saying, Pablo, he didn't follow the Bible.

Mr. TORRE: Well, and by that I meant that there are certain things that people want out of public figures, as far as, you know, letting them know that they care that they're - that they have sort of reached a, you know, a character change, a crossroads, if you will. And if this was what Tiger's honest words were - which I don't believe for a second, to be quite honest. I don't think IMG would let him do that for a half a second. If that was the case, then I do give him a little more of a wide berth on that. But still, even if we judge on the merits and assume that he wrote everything he did - he wrote everything that he said, I still am pretty dissatisfied by it.

MARTIN: Well, I hear you. I hear you, and I credit everything you said - and trust me on this, I'm not a huge fan. But I'm just saying...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: ...I'm not a - I haven't been a fan of his prior to this for all kinds of reasons, which aren't that interesting to anybody but me. But I will say...

Mr. TORRE: Fair enough.

MARTIN: ...that, you know, if you've ever really done any - I don't know. I'm not in your business. But I'm just saying if you've ever done anything really profound that you needed to fix, three months is not a lot of time. And so the idea that he's going to be completely a different person in three months and reveal that to the public is as fake to me as, you know...

Mr. TORRE: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...a Budweiser commercial. Go ahead.

Mr. TORRE: That's fair enough.

MARTIN: I think Arsalan wanted to say something. Go ahead.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, I agree with what Pablo is saying. And just to push back a little bit on what Michel's saying, also, is that, you know, let's not forget, again, that this was a staged press conference, where only his people were allowed in. There were not - you know, he did not take any questions. If there was real contrition, you know, I would think that a person would do it 'til you drop - a press conference where he was saying that...

RUDIN: No. But Mark Sanford did that...

MARTIN: Who says?

RUDIN: ...and that was a big mistake. I mean, there's a limit to what...

MARTIN: Yeah, who says?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Honestly, I think after the shankapotomus that Tiger Woods did, you know, personally, I think he should have gone on Oprah the next day and cried it out. I think the American public would have had a lot more sympathy.

Mr. TORRE: Yeah, would've worked.

Mr. IZRAEL: That's exactly what we need. We need more Oprah in our lives.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Sure.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having a hug-in. We're talking about Tiger. We're talking with Jimi Izrael, Arsalan Iftikhar, Pablo Torre and Ken Rudin. Back to you, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Well, in other sports news, the Winter Games in Vancouver are just about over. And - surprise, surprise, surprise - the Americans have a pretty strong showing, currently winning in the overall medal count, Michel.

MARTIN: They're half over. And I can see why you're so fascinated. You think they're over just because you're so fascinated by it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, just about over, you know.

MARTIN: I don't know. Pablo, any surprises? I don't know. Does it...

Mr. TORRE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Are you into it?

Mr. TORRE: You know what? I am into it. And I think one of the criticisms that I've heard from really smart people out there is that the Winter Olympics, when you really boil them down, are a bunch of games for cold-weather countries and they're fairly inaccessible, and they're country club sports and they're prep school sports - you know, from skiing all the way down the line. And the reason I'm interested in it is just because I think it's fascinating to get a whole new set of characters - I mean, maybe it's me as a sports journalist - but a whole new set of characters to learn about.

There's an aspect of international relations in the Olympics that we don't get. There are subcultures around these individual sports. And I don't know if - you know, yes, these sports are waiting for a Tiger Woods, for example, to come along from a different background and completely blow the doors open. They're waiting for a Williams - sisters. They're waiting for any number of great athletes to come along and be the best skier in the world. If LeBron James wanted to ski, I'm sure he'd be awesome at it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh, my God.

Mr. TORRE: So, that...

MARTIN: Oh, my goodness.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, really.

Mr. TORRE: It's not the top and the cream of the crop as far as the world's athletic talent, from that macro perspective, but...

Mr. IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. TORRE: ...I also think that if we were going to use that as a standard, we'd watch basically only two sports: soccer and basketball. So I get into it for the all - the cultural and subcultural reasons associated with it.

MARTIN: That was an interesting..

Mr. IZRAEL: You know, what...

MARTIN: Go ahead, Jimi.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. IZRAEL: I mean, he brings up this kind of interesting point. I mean, you know, does anyone - especially people of color - really care about the Winter Olympics? Pablo...

Mr. TORRE: Mm-hmm.

Mr. IZRAEL: ...help me out. Come on, bro. Seriously?

Mr. TORRE: You know what? That's a good question. And, you know, it's funny. I guess there's the whole Jamaican bobsled theory where...

Mr. IZRAEL: Oh, I see...

Mr. TORRE: ...you don't want to reduce, you know, people of color and minorities to sort of a novelty, a punch line. But the bottom line is, these countries are welcome to participate, and there was - I mean, my favorite Olympian this year, I wouldn't even pronounce his last name, but his first name is Kwame, and he's from Ghana. And he's their first Winter Olympian ever. And he's a skier whose nickname is the Snow Leopard.

And, I mean, I just love that - the notion that a guy from Ghana can compete in the downhill slopes. So yes, there is a novelty value. And you wish there would be more participation, and you wish it wasn't so of a certain color that may be - like the color of snow. But at the same time, you sort of appreciate...

MARTIN: Well,

Mr. TORRE: You appreciate that.

MARTIN: Well, we had a piece yesterday - in fact, the editor of Foreign Policy magazine came and gave us a rundown of some of the unlikely Olympians, including the Snow Leopard and also a skier from Ethiopia...

Mr. TORRE: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: ...and an ice dancer from - ice-dancing siblings from Israel and a Turkish figure skater. So anyway, you can find the link on our site. But before we go, I did want to ask - Jimi, I know you wanted to ask about this, the...

Mr. IZRAEL: Hmm.

MARTIN: ...former vice presidential candidate and current Fox News analyst Sarah Palin, back in the news this week. She's mad. What's she mad about, Jimi?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: She's mad about an episode of the "Family Guy." This woman spends a lot of time watching television, anyway, you know, and she's kind of angry because they poked fun at her son for having Down's syndrome...

MARTIN: Well...

Mr. IZRAEL: ...which is a real problem.

Mr. TORRE: No, they didn't. No, they didn't. They did not.

MARTIN: Did they poke fun...

Mr. TORRE: I watched...

MARTIN: Ken...

Mr. TORRE: Go.

RUDIN: I mean, we all watched it, and the thing is, it was basically an obligatory slap at Sarah Palin, but it didn't - nothing made sense.

Mr. TORRE: Right.

RUDIN: I mean, they had this woman, this young woman who had Down's syndrome, and she says well, my mom is the former governor of Alaska.

MARTIN: I could play it. Do you want to hear it?

Mr. TORRE: Sure.

RUDIN: Yeah.

MARTIN: For people who didn't hear it? You want to hear it?

Mr. TORRE: Sure.

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah. Drop that.

MARTIN: OK, here it is.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Family Guy")

Mr. SETH GREEN (Actor): (As Chris) Well, I'm glad we're finally going out, Ellen. I've really liked you for a long time.

Ms. ANDREA FAY FRIEDMAN (Actor): (As Ellen) You're going to be this rude all evening? You haven't asked me anything about myself.

Mr. GREEN: (As Chris) Oh, um - so what do your parents do?

Ms. FRIEDMAN: (As Ellen) That's better. My dad's an accountant, and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.

MARTIN: Yeah, well...

Mr. IZRAEL: Yeah, I think it's a kind of a rude allusion. You know, I'm a big believer in good comedy and good comedy writing. And that show is just da bomb in that department. But you know what? Kids are civilians all day. Even alluding to them - not a good look. Sorry.

MARTIN: I don't know. Arsalan, you're a fan of the "Family Guy."

Mr. IFTIKHAR: I am. I watch it every weekend.

RUDIN: Me, too. Me, too.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Anybody who knows anything about the "Family Guy" and Seth MacFarlane know that he is, quote, an equal opportunity offender. He has offended every single person out there. Let's also not forget that Ellen - the character in the episode was played by an actress who has Down's syndrome, and also the fact that she was actually very empowered and a self-confident young -she was Chris Griffin's love interest throughout the whole thing.

And so, you know, for Sarah Palin to sort of cherry pick one aspect of it, I don't think - they obviously didn't take a swipe at her son, because it was a female character. I think it was - you know, I don't think Sarah Palin - you know, she loves a controversy whenever she can find one.

MARTIN: Well, Ken, do you watch this, too?

RUDIN: I do and...

MARTIN: I don't, I must say.

RUDIN: Sometimes they're over the top. I - look, they do offend, both sides, but they do make jokes about rape, and there's no such thing as a fun joke about rape.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Right.

RUDIN: So, sometimes they go way, way overboard.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm.

RUDIN: This wasn't even clever. I thought it was a just a little slap at Palin. And now - right now, Bill O'Reilly's going on - on, you know, the TV saying Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the show, is a hater. And all you have to do is rile up your O'Reilly supporters saying somebody's a hater, and then God knows what's going to happen.

Mr. TORRE: That's the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it?

Mr. IFTIKHAR: It's crazy.

RUDIN: Oh, by the way, I just found out that - one thing about the Olympics: Lindsey Vonn's medal was just taken away. Barack Obama's going downhill faster.

MARTIN: Oh, Ken.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TORRE: He's waiting - been waiting to use that all week. All week.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Oooh.

MARTIN: I did want to add a bit of information. The actress who played Ellen in the episode does have Down's syndrome, and her name is Andrea Fay Friedman. And her father, Harold, forwarded an email to the New York Times that he says is from Andrea and said that she thought that it was funny. And she says Governor Palin doesn't have a sense of humor. So, there you go. There you go. Sense of humor. Hmm.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZRAEL: Well, there's that. Yeah.

MARTIN: There is that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: So Jimi, you thought it was too far?

Mr. IZRAEL: I did. I did. You know, I - like in the past, when, you know, a comedian like Jeffrey - well, not Jeffrey. When Jamie Foxx took a swipe at Miley Cyrus, you know, and he accused her of all kinds sexual indiscretions, you know, I think you just have to - even any kind of allusion to anybody's kid - no, no man. Just leave the kids alone, because if you start coming after my kids, you're going to want a new address, seriously.

MARTIN: OK, we'll just pick on you. And there's a lot there to work with.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right. Yes, pick on me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: OK.

Mr. IZRAEL: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael's a freelance journalist. He's the author of the new book "The Denzel Principle." And he's our guest blogger today. You can check out what he has to say on our TELL ME MORE blog. He joined us from WCPN in Cleveland. Pablo Torre is a reporter for Sports Illustrated. He joined us from our bureau in New York. Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney, the founder of themuslimguy.com, and a legal fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. And Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor, our political junkie. And they were both here in our Washington, D.C., studios. Thank you all so much.

Mr. IFTIKHAR: Peace.

Mr. TORRE: See you.

RUDIN: See you later.

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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