Over the course of the Egypt crisis, it’s become clear that the Washington-centric cable talk show format is ill-equipped to handle a foreign revolution. The logical thing would have been to book experts on say, Egypt. Instead, shows like MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” and Fox’s “Hannity” often just rotated in their regular go-to guests, asking former politicians, political pundits, and at least one NASCAR driver to share their insights on the latest developments in the Middle East. Some of the answers were vague, some woefully uninformed, and others made no sense at all. Here, TNR has compiled a list of the worst examples.
Former Congressman Harold Ford, “Meet the Press,” January 30:
These are really local conditions driving this, as we saw even in Tunisia. You have poverty, you have issues of access, you have young professionals, middle class, educated people complaining bitterly about a lack of opportunity. So as you, as you look at the, the—not just the content of the protest, but the character of the protest, it's different, it's new. And, frankly, I think it's confusing the White House even more in terms of the kind of response that they should put forward.
Twice-convicted former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, on “Hannity,” January 28:
Well, you can look at the clips that are right on the TV right now and this is as Yogi Berra would say deja vu all over again, unfortunately … Mubarak has not exactly been—would not be the recipient of the Nobel Prize or the Jefferson Award or anything like that. The price of oil, what is going to happen?
Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, “Meet the Press,” February 6:
I think President Reagan, in general, would tend to approach Egypt with the thought and the conviction that America is the beacon of freedom, in some ways a teacher, an example of democracy and republican forms of government. I think he might be very specifically helpful in terms of information about how good things can happen in Egypt. However, I think he would also keep, obviously, a shrewd eye on America’s interests, for we do have interests, and we are a separate nation. I don’t think President Reagan would likely have confused himself thinking Egypt is ours. He would remember Egypt is the Egyptians’. The people there will order and choose their future.
Race car driver and former Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, on “Hannity,” January 25:
WALTRIP: You know, you have to be careful what you wish for. Sure, he’s like a friend. He's been an ally to our country. That region has been stable. I'm scared. I don't know what is going to happen. I don't think anyone does. It is unsettling, obviously. …
HANNITY: We’ll give Michael the last word tonight.
WALTRIP: I just hope you read my book. It tells a whole lot about NASCAR. I know a lot more about NASCAR than I do the Middle East. But I'm all about keeping that area stable.
Wall Street Journal columnist and former Bush adviser Karl Rove, on “Hannity,” January 26:
Egypt is not the run-of-the-mill Middle Eastern country that views itself exclusively or even primarily through an Islamic lens. This is a country that has a long and proud tradition where people view themselves not as simply followers of Muhammad, but they’re the people who are descended from Ramses and Cleopatra.
Rupert Murdoch, on “Your World with Neal Cavuto,” January 26:
I think we are going to be reading about the Middle East for a long time.
Comedian Larry the Cable Guy, on “Hannity,” January 25:
HANNITY: Have you been watching what is happening in Egypt?
LARRY THE CABLE GUY: You know I had a gig there last week, I had to cancel.
HANNITY: You did not.
LARRY THE CABLE GUY: They are big on me over there.
James Downie is a reporter-researcher at The New Republic.