Rupert Murdoch Responds To Outcry Over Cartoon An apology by New York Post Chairman Rupert Murdoch for his newspaper's controversial chimp cartoon, President Obama's prime-time address — and the response to the speech by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — are among the hot-button topics in this week's Barbershop.
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Rupert Murdoch Responds To Outcry Over Cartoon

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Rupert Murdoch Responds To Outcry Over Cartoon

Rupert Murdoch Responds To Outcry Over Cartoon

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KORVA COLEMAN, host:

I'm Korva Coleman, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Michel Martin is away. It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the gents talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. And sitting in the chairs this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, New York Post editorial writer and columnist Robert George, civil-rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, and syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette. I may have an opinion or two, but now, Jimi, take it away.

JIMI IZRAEL: KC, that's the way I like it. Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Yes.

ROBERT GEORGE: That was (unintelligible)...

IZRAEL: Everybody, gentlemen.

IFTIKHAR: Hey, hey.

IZRAEL: How we're living? Welcome to the Shop. How're we doing?

IFTIKHAR: What's popping?

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Hanging on, baby, just hanging on.

GEORGE: Great to be here, thank you.

IZRAEL: Aw, man, you know what? President Obama gave his We Shall Recover Speech on the economy this week. Man, you know what? Republican Ed Rollins wrote in his piece for CNN, Obama's speech was, quote, "about aspirations, not about plans or strategies or how we can get out of this mess. We as a nation are living a nightmare. He gave us an 'I Have a Dream Speech,'" end quote. You know what? And I have to co-sign that. Rob George, my man.

GEORGE: Hey.

IZRAEL: Welcome back. What do you think? What did you think of homeboy's speech?

GEORGE: That's Mr. Homeboy-in-Chief to you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GEORGE: I don't know if it's possible for Barack Obama to give a bad speech. I mean, his worst speech is better than any presidential speech we've heard, you know, going back, maybe, to some of Reagan's best. So, just in general, I mean, it was a great speech. I actually did think it was - I thought it was better, really, in - just in terms of mixing both kind of pragmatic concerns with oratory, better, actually, than his inaugural speech, which was a little bit more, I think, down-to-earth than people were expecting. As a conservative, you kind of look and think, all this sounds actually fantastic; how on Earth is he going to pay for this? Even counting in the tax increase that he's talking about and pulling out of Iraq and so forth, it is as ambitious a government speech as we've heard in at least, you know, 40 years, going back to Johnson. Whether he'll be able to pull it off, though, that's a big, big question.

IZRAEL: You know what? We've got some tape man. I know I was trying to tell you all about it, but I believe we have some tape. KC, am I right?

COLEMAN: You are. Let's roll.

(Soundbite of presidential address, February 25, 2009)

President BARACK OBAMA: The impact of this recession is real and it is everywhere. But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.

(Soundbite of applause)

IZRAEL: Thank you, KC. That sounds like a great t-shirt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: A-Train, your boy makes great speeches, man. But is his plan workable?

IFTIKHAR: I think it is workable. One of the things that I found remarkable about the speech was the positive tone that he had throughout the speech; you know, we are facing dire economic times as a society...

IZRAEL: Really?

(Soundbite of laughter)

IFTIKHAR: We're facing, you know, two wars, you know, with no end in sight right now. I think what he was trying to do is he was trying to convey his message to the American people. And I really liked the tone which he use in terms of the fact that, you know, American are known for our perseverance, that, you know, we will face any challenges of adversity that might come our way, and you know, we're going to keep a positive message moving forward so that we can ensure that, you know, we get out of this dark abyss.

GEORGE: Hey, he was...

IZRAEL: That's too much for a t-shirt, bro.

GEORGE: But he was actually...

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: Wait a second. Let Ruben chime in here. Go ahead, R.

NAVARRETTE: I'll give Obama high marks for the style and the delivery of the speech. This was a very well-written speech; it hit all the right notes; it was - the tone was right. You want to have a big, gigantic, hopeful, optimistic, aspirational(ph) speech, and he pulled that off. But in terms of the criticism about the substance, I think it's well-placed, because a lot of people were wondering, you know where you want to go. You've laid that out. How do we get there? Now, the catch is - and I remember many speeches that Bill Clinton gave that were laden - heavy, weighted down with details about the various programs he wanted to pull off. And you lose the audience that way. So, you're sort of damned if you do and damned if you don't. But speaking of Clinton, it was Clinton who said to Obama, look, pal, you've got to get back to optimism and hope here; I mean, you've got to lay out for people the fact that you really do think this country can rebound and that we'll be better in the long run. Obama was not doing enough of that. He was scaring the markets. Just since Obama was inaugurated, the Dow has dropped over 1,000. I mean, this is really a significant deal that's occurred...

COLEMAN: You really think that's him, though? Do you really think that's Mr. Obama?

NAVARRETTE: I don't think that Obama has had the corrective action that some hoped as quickly as he would have it. But I think that you have, as Clinton points out, to always be optimistic, and I think Obama did that in the speech. You see the difference between - Obama sort of answers your question for me by virtue of the speech he delivered. He went with an optimistic speech. If he had only gone down that darker road and told people how bad it was going to be and not left us with a sense of optimism for the future, I wouldn't have given him the A-plus.

IZRAEL: Mm. Rob G, you've been chopping at the bit, bro. Go ahead, man.

GEORGE: Well, no, I was agreeing with Ruben there. I mean, over the last couple of weeks, the guy who was the optimistic "Yes, We Can" guy from last year had been, like, turning into Debbie Downer. Really, I mean, he was just kind of - it was kind of a very bleak message coming from the president all the time, and I think the former president, the earlier president - President Clinton's advice to him was very good, you know, to, you know, try and kick off with more of a positive tone to it, and then, in a sense, say, well, this is the goal and this is how we need to get there; you know, come along and follow me. But people will follow you if they feel that, you know, that you're leading them in a direction that brings light to the end of the tunnel, not telling them that there's a train coming down at the other end.

IZRAEL: You know what? Republicans had an answer, a response, for President Obama's speech, and Governor Bobby Jindal, who kind of look like a - he looked like one of the Muppets to me -I'm sorry - but he was...

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: He was doing his thing - I kept looking for the strings. Yo, we've got some tape, right?

COLEMAN: We do.

IZRAEL: Let me hear it.

IFTIKHAR: Drop it.

(Soundbite of Republican Party presidential-address response, February 25, 2009)

Governor BOBBY JINDAL (Republican, Louisiana): Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope. But sometimes, seems like we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people.

GEORGE: (Singing) Looking for hope...

NAVARRETTE: Time out.

GEORGE: (Singing) In all the wrong places.

NAVARRETTE: I want to throw a flag on that, baby. I'm going to throw a flag...

IZRAEL: Oh, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, that's right.

IZRAEL: Ruben, go ahead.

NAVARRETTE: I almost heard...

IZRAEL: Go ahead.

NAVARRETTE: I almost heard Chris Matthews in the background going, oh, God.

COLEMAN: In fairness...

NAVARRETTE: No, no...

COLEMAN: Chris Matthews did apologize.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, well...

COLEMAN: He said he was referring to...

NAVARRETTE: Chris...

COLEMAN: You will recall the setting of the room before Mr. Jindal walked out; it's very ornate, very lavish.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

COLEMAN: And he observed the room and he said, oh, God.

IZRAEL: A-train.

IFTIKHAR: Jimi, the first thing that I thought after watching the Bobby Jindal response was, wow, Bobby Jindal just made Sarah Palin look really good. If President Obama's speech was a homerun, touchdown or three-pointer, Jindal's was a squeeze bunt, incomplete pass and three seconds in the lane.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IFTIKHAR: You know...

GEORGE: Very good.

IFTIKHAR: When you put, you know, Steve Urkel to go up against LeBron James in one on one, Urkel's going to get smoked, and he got smoked, you know? And what I find the most ironic was the fact that the one area where he focused on the horrible federal response was Katrina, which was a Republican failure.

COLEMAN: I was puzzled.

IFTIKHAR: I mean, I...

IZRAEL: Yeah, weird.

IFTIKHAR: I just scratched my head. I was like, is that really all you've got?

NAVARRETTE: This is Ruben. I watched a lot of the media's treatment of Jindal. It's not just the question of, you know, the Chris Matthews remark about, oh, God, or whatever else. I think there's a lot of discomfort on the part of some folks in the media because Jindal is not your father's Republican, the fact that he is...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

NAVARRETTE: The son of an Indian immigrant, the fact that he has an Oxford degree, the fact that he is incredibly bright and talented, and the fact that he's running against Republicans in Washington, as you guys point out, with Katrina, all makes him, I think, very noteworthy, and they would prefer to have just another white male Republican up there as usual.

IFTIKHAR: But Ruben...

GEORGE: But Ruben, in fairness, I mean, and I say this as a...

IZRAEL: Rob, go ahead.

GEORGE: As a Republican myself, you have to say, it is true that he is not quite your father's Republican, but if you didn't see the speech, if you were just listening to what we just heard...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

GEORGE: You heard a - I mean, he's got a very strong Southern accent and he sounds very much, not just in lyrics, but in the music of what the...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

GEORGE: Republicans and the conservatives have been offering for the last few years. Now, as a conservative, there are elements of what he said I agree with. As a response, though, to a really ambitious plan that the president...

NAVARRETTE: Right.

GEORGE: Is laying out, it's just kind of - it falls flat. It needed to be more visionary, and it just stayed way too down on the ground.

IFTIKHAR: I, well, I think...

COLEMAN: Well, hang on a second, gentlemen. If you are just joining us, you're listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. I'm speaking with writers Jimi Izrael, Robert George, Ruben Navarrette and Arsalan Iftikhar in the Barbershop. Arsalan?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. One other thing that, you know, that we also have to remember is the fact that, you know, this is supposed to be Jindal's coming-out party. You know, just like Barack had the 2004 DNC speech in Boston, this was supposed to, you know, catapult Jindal onto the national stage, and instead of bowling a strike, he threw a gutter ball.

COLEMAN: As Ruben pointed out, this is an educated man.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

IZRAEL: OK.

COLEMAN: This is a man with many degrees; this is a man who was accepted to medical school; this is a man who was accepted to law school and the Ivy League; and that's not the gentleman I think I saw.

IZRAEL: OK, well, let's keep it in motion because we're never - we're going to go around and 'round on this all day. You know, I've got to go see my bookie. So, check this out, you know, president...

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: You know, he's seated as new Commerce secretary, Gary Locke, you know, and Vegas will not give me odds on how long this dude is going to last.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IZRAEL: Now, we do need to say that he is the first Chinese-American governor in history. And you know, he doesn't mind traveling, because during his first two terms, between '97 through 2004, he led trade missions to China and opened up trade and boosted trade with Mexico. So, my boy - and Europe and other countries in Asia - so, my man doesn't mind rolling up his sleeves, but I would not give you odds on how long dude is going to last. A-train, you've got the last word on this.

IFTIKHAR: You know, I think one of the telling things about this is that, you know, if confirmed, Locke would become not only the first Chinese-American secretary of Commerce, but he'd also become the third Asian-American in President Obama's Cabinet, joining Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, the most in any administration in U.S. history, and so, I think that's something interesting to note.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

GEORGE: This is Robert again. Speaking of that, the diversity issue, he's been very diverse, actually, increasingly diverse, with his Commerce secretary nominees. His first one was a Latino-American governor...

NAVARRETTE: Well, it's because there've been so many of them; that's why.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GEORGE: Then you had a - then he had a white one, Judd Gregg. Now, he's got an Asian one.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

GEORGE: And depending on whether Locke makes it, I'm predicting the next one will be Native American, and then we'll...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GEORGE: Then maybe an African-American one down the road.

NAVARRETTE: Oh, yeah.

IZRAEL: I just got a text message from Obama, and it could be me. Go ahead, go ahead, Ruben.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NAVARRETTE: Listen, I - a couple of things. First, you know, jumping off on Arsalan's point, there's an irony here that, absolutely, I applaud the idea that we may have a historic number of Asian-Americans in this Cabinet. And Locke is the top-drawer guy. I've been watching him for a time; anybody who saw him in his role as governor of Washington understands this is a very impressive individual. But the irony is at the very beginning, it was Latinos who were going to have a historic number in this Cabinet.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

NAVARRETTE: It was - Richardson was going to be part of three, Hilda Solis and Ken Salazar, the other two, and now, it's flipped on its head, and now it's going to benefit Asians. But I tell you what, this Cabinet position is snake bit, because it wasn't just the three people that we're talking about who got this position and it didn't quite work out. But it was also before that, rumored before it ever went to Richardson, it was offered to Penny Pritzker, who is heir to the Hyatt fortune, who didn't want the job. So, this job has been...

GEORGE: Smart move.

NAVARRETTE: Passed all around town. It's an important job now, more than ever, with our economy, but this thing is cursed, baby. It's time to move off this thing...

GEORGE: Well, you know, and it...

IZRAEL: Oh, Obama - hold on.

GEORGE: This is Robert here. I just...

IZRAEL: Hold on just a...

GEORGE: Want to make a quick point. I just want to make that quick point.

IZRAEL: Go ahead make that quick point. Go ahead.

GEORGE: Very quick point here. I have to wonder if this is at partly a problem you have with a Democratic administration, because Republicans, you know, tend to put their friends who are in business in these positions and do it rather quickly, whereas Democrats don't quite have that relationship with the business community...

IZRAEL: Hmm...

GEORGE: And so, they end up having to start skirting around in different places.

IZRAEL: I'm not buying that.

NAVARRETTE: They're playing diversity game.

IZRAEL: I think they put all their friends in these positions so they have some friends to hang out when they all get indicted, you know, but that's just me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COLEMAN: Ugh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: So, we're going to keep it in motion. We're going to keep it in motion now. Wait a second, now, media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, he apologized for the chimp-shooting cartoon in his New York Post. And not a moment too soon, right? But my boy waited long enough to get an apology off, and you know what? Sharpton still isn't satisfied. I don't know what's going to satisfy him.

GEORGE: Well, look, Robert George...

COLEMAN: You know what?

GEORGE: Robert George here.

IZRAEL: Go ahead, Rob.

GEORGE: If I can put my little moment of personal privilege here. Mr. Murdock has apologized, and I'm not going to get into all the corporate questions that involved around that. I will say this: I personally didn't see it as a racist cartoon. I understand why a number of people did; I've got white friends and black friends who did see it as racist. I thought it was an awkwardly attempted way of showing that the stimulus bill could've put - been put together by a bunch of monkeys. And the cartoonist, obviously, fell flat in putting it that way...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

GEORGE: And so we've got what we've got. But Mr. Murdoch has apologized, and you know, I'm more than happy to move on. Reverend Sharpton, of course...

NAVARRETTE: Of course you are.

GEORGE: Doesn't want to, and I think he's got - I think he has his own issues as to why he does not want to move on from that. I think it has to...

IZRAEL: Lest we forget, Robert George is from the New York Post.

NAVARRETTE: The New York Post.

IZRAEL: Go, go ahead, Ruben.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NAVARRETTE: Listen, let's note this. Ruben Navarrette is not from the New York Post; I'm from Washington Post Writers Group. But I'll tell you this, I saw it exactly the same way. I didn't see this as a racial issue to begin with; I said so. But the point I made last week is still relevant: The fact that Al Sharpton and people like him who seize on these opportunities do so because of who the offender is, or the alleged offender. It was some certain joy to go after Rupert Murdoch, who doesn't just own the New York Post, but also owns Fox News...

COLEMAN: Exactly.

NAVARRETTE: The bane of liberals' existence. The fact - what ticks me off is - and as I said - mentioned last week - is that same people will give wide latitude to what they consider to be more liberal members of Congress, when they say dumb and racist things or liberal news outlets like CNN, where I do work, you know, when they do or say dumb racist things We ought to play this game by one set of rules. That's everybody I work for and everybody I don't work for.

COLEMAN: And - and - and...

IZRAEL: OK, well, you know what? My thing - I'm upset about all these, because, you know what? My point about Al Sharpton, I've beaten him up in the years, right, you know? But my whole thing is this, that, you know, when he's on, he's right on, but when he's off, he's so far off, and we're so far in it that we can't tell anymore when he's on or off now.

IFTIKHAR: Well...

IZRAEL: But clearly, clearly this time, he's off. In my opinion, he's off, and I'm - I have to co-sign Ruben on it. I think he's - the only reason he's in the mix because of the players in the mix, and he saw an opportunity for himself and for his - whatever interests he has in t-shirts and picket signs to start this kerfuffle, you know what I mean? And...

GEORGE: Robert, Robert George from the New York Post here.

IZRAEL: Yeah, Robert George.

GEORGE: And there's one other thing that's going on here. What have a number of people been saying over, you know, the last four or five months since Obama was elected? You know, what is going to be the role of people like Reverend Sharpton, of people like Jesse Jackson? What is going to be the role of the traditional civil-rights establishment in an era of Obama?

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

NAVARRETTE: It's questionable.

GEORGE: And I think Reverend Sharpton, who I've been friendly with in the past, I think he decided he was going to make this as a - his marker as to, you can't sleep on me; I'm still here and I can still make trouble for people if I have to, and I think he decided that this was an opportune moment to do that.

IZRAEL: Yo, A-train. You've got the last word on this.

IFTIKHAR: Jimi, you know, as I said on the Barbershop last week, I, you know, I agree with Ruben and Robert. I think it was a tone-deaf cartoon. I think it was as tone deaf as the New Yorker cover. You know, the chimpanzee is dead. I think we should bury it and finally have its funeral.

IZRAEL: All right, y'all. Well, you know what? I think it's about that time. It looks like a wrap. You know what I'm about to do. I'm going to do a little dance and make a little love.

COLEMAN: You know, you're not going to let go of this one, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GEORGE: Get down tonight.

IZRAEL: I'm going to get out of here.

NAVARRETTE: Get down tonight, baby.

GEORGE: Please don't go.

IZRAEL: I'm going to get out of here now.

GEORGE: Please don't go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

IZRAEL: Now, Michel's not here. But I am going to kick it.

COLEMAN: Go.

IZRAEL: To the lady in the house.

COLEMAN: You go, girl.

IZRAEL: Tonight.

COLEMAN: You go, girl.

IZRAEL: KC.

COLEMAN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist; he writes for TheRoot.com and TV1 Online. He was at member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com; he joined us from San Diego. Robert George is an editorial writer and columnist for the New York Post; he joined us from our New York bureau. And Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of TheMuslimGuy.com; he's also a civil-rights attorney, and he was right here with me in Washington. Thank you, gentlemen.

NAVARRETTE: Peace.

GEORGE: Thank you.

IFTIKHAR: Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yup, yup.

(Soundbite of music)

COLEMAN: And that's our program for today. Tell Me More is produced by Brakkton Booker, Monika Evstatieva, Jasmine Garsd, Arwa Gunja, Douglas Hopper, Lee Hill, Argin Hutchins, Jennifer Longmire, AC Valdez, Teshima Walker and Addy Whisenant. Our planning editor is Luis Clemens. Our line editor is Alicia Montgomery. This program is directed by Rob Sachs. Our technical director is Kimberly Jones, with assistance from Drew Reynolds and Melissa Marquis and Neil Tevault. Our theme music was composed by Underdog Entertainment, with additional arrangements by Ian Honeyman. The supervising senior producer is Walter Ray Watson. The executive producer is Marie Nelson. I'm Korva Coleman. Cheryl Corley will be sitting in next week. You've been listening to Tell Me More from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more on Monday.

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