For an hour after Sunday's Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump debate, cable news commentators critiqued the performances of the key players in an event in which the tawdry subject matter represented a new low in recent American politics.
The pundits analyzed which statements appealed to which base and, by and large dispassionately, whose style was more fitting—until it was Joy Reid's turn.
Reid, an MSNBC host who appeared from the debate site of Washington University in St. Louis, wasn't buying into the "it was a draw" or especially the "Trump won" talk from the studio panelists.
She talked about thuggery and what her father taught her. And about what can't be overlooked.
"My editor at the Daily Beast, John Avlon, coined the term 'thug politics,' " Reid told her colleagues. "And I thought about that a lot throughout this debate. Not to get too dramatic about it, but my father came to this country from the Democratic Republic of Congo. And we weren't that close, but we definitely talked about the Congo, and the politics there.
"We need to not speed past the point that an American candidate for president threatened to jail his political opponent. This is something that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International is investigating in the Democratic Republic of Congo right now.
"Right now, because as of this summer a political opponent of the current leader was put in jail on charges. This happens in Malaysia, this happens in Uganda, this does not happen in the United States of America.
"And when you combine the fact that somebody who admitted to being a serial sexual assaulter of women, then took people that he calls victims of sexual assault and harassment, brought them along to the debate, and even before the debate, held that conference, which I could have seen in a Third World country, this kind of thug-ocracy that Donald Trump essentially represented tonight started with that press conference, then moved over to the debate, where he spent an entire debate saying absolutely nothing about the issues he's asked about. No answers, meandering and wandering.
"But when he did get specific, he admitted to not paying federal taxes, essentially boasted about not paying federal taxes, even when confronted with the fact that that means that he did not contribute to funding our military, to funding our Veterans Administration, to funding roads and bridges and infrastructure and all of the rest, he essentially admitted to it. And so I think when you combine his lack of knowledge . . . it was really stunning. . . .
"There is no style point that you can award to somebody who did that combination of things. It was a stunning debate that would have been much more fitting in the Third World than it was in the United States of America."
Rachel Maddow, co-anchoring the broadcast, gave Reid her props. "By the way, you're not going to get out of St. Louis tonight without somebody buying you a beer, so prepare yourself," Maddow said.
"And I will take it!" Reid replied, laughing.
That response could have satisfied viewers who might have wondered exactly what are the criteria for "winning." "Why is 'winning' a debate divorced from whether you were actually truthful?" Twitter user Igor Volsky wrote after last week's vice presidential debate. "If you're lying, shouldn't we consider that an automatic loss?"
After this second Trump-Clinton debate, Greg Mitchell, former editor of Editor & Publisher magazine, tweeted, "Very telling that TV pundits scored debate even, then 45 minutes later suddenly recall horror of Trump threatening to lock up opponent."
Hearing Trump's threat, former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. tweeted, "So @realDonaldTrump will ORDER his AG to take certain actions — When Nixon tried that his AG courageously resigned. Trump is dangerous/unfit".
Yet media critic Howard Kurtz, on Fox News Channel, said the two candidates "battled back to a draw." Nia-Malika Henderson said on CNN, "I think it's basically a draw." She added, speaking of Trump, "It was a greatest hits reel for those who support him."
CNN's Van Jones and MSNBC's Eugene Robinson took greater note of Trump's threat, but did not elevate it to the level that Reid did. Jones called Trump's words "a new low in American democracy," and Robinson called the threat "shocking," citing it as one of three items that struck him about the debate.
The others were the discussion of moral character and the "visuals" transmitted by each candidate, such as Trump's menacing pacing. Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican national committee who was an MSNBC panelist, called the pacing part of the candidates' playing "psychological warfare with each other."
On social media and online Sunday, commentators of color found less to be dispassionate about. Where were the questions about policing and community relations? they asked. Why was Trump allowed to equate African Americans with poverty and inner cities? What about climate change and immigration? Trump's continued insistence of the guilt of the Central Park Five — black and brown men exonerated after serving time for a brutal rape in 1989 in New York's Central Park — why wasn't that issue elevated?
"How in the world could Trump and Clinton be 15 miles away from Ferguson and not ask a single question" about that? Roland Martin asked panelists Monday on TV One's "NewsOne Now."
Jamelle Bouie, writing for Slate, agreed with Reid's emphasis. "On Sunday, to an audience of tens of millions of Americans, Trump voiced his contempt for the norms that define and safeguard our democracy with a promise to jail his chief political opponent," he wrote.
"This, again, was the most important moment of the debate. Nothing else — not Clinton’s poor answers for her private speeches, nor Trump’s abject ignorance — comes close. And it’s all the more important given Trump’s larger platform.
"If elected, the Republican would use the force of the state against nonwhites and religious minorities, from forced deportations of unauthorized Hispanic immigrants to surveillance of Muslim Americans and a return to stop-and-frisk. Trump already promises an authoritarian state for millions of Americans. This statement — planned and strategically deployed — just shows the scope of his vision.
"In all of this, it’s worth noting the complicity of the GOP leadership. An hour after Trump promised to jail his opponent if elected president, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus praised his nominee’s performance. 'Hillary Clinton spent the night struggling to defend her failed record,' he said on Twitter. . . ."
Writing for NBC News Asian America, Mohamed Hassan reported on another community's frustration. "Many Muslims were disappointed by both candidates' rhetoric towards Muslims, often regarding them as tools in the war against terrorism, and took to Twitter to share those frustrations. . . ."
He rebutted Trump's declaration that "Muslims must do better to report when they see something going on. When they see hatred going on, they have to report it." Hassan wrote, "According to a Muslim Public Affairs Council policy report about post-9/11 terrorism incidents, Muslim communities helped U.S. security officials prevent nearly two out of every five al Qaeda plots threatening the U.S. since 9/11. . . ."
Sarah Pulliam Bailey reported for the Washington Post, "In response to Trump’s suggestion that Muslims report what’s going on, several Muslims began to follow his suggestion. First, the following tweet went viral:
"Then the hashtag #MuslimsReportStuff began to take off . . ."
Raul Reyes was part of a panel assembled by NBC News Latino to assess the faceoff. "Unfortunately, this debate disappointed on several levels," (scroll down) he wrote. "Latino voters cite the economy, health care, and education as their top priorities. But only health care merited substantive discussion, as Clinton reminded viewers of the ways in which she believes the Affordable Care Act has worked, while Trump simply promised 'great coverage' for everyone. And once again, there was no discussion of immigration reform.
". . . . In what can only be seen as another reason for Latinos not to vote for him, Trump stated that he would like to see a Supreme Court justice like Antonin Scalia — a justice who consistently voted against civil rights, affirmative action, and voting rights. Noted. . . ."
Viet Thanh Nguyen, an author who joined a New York Times panel on "What We Saw in the Second Debate," wrote of Clinton, "One could say that Mr. Trump has dragged her into a mud fight. But Mr. and Mrs. Clinton have helped to set up the crises we face domestically and internationally (scroll down). The debates, and Mr. Trump’s character, distract us from undiscussed issues ranging from mass incarceration to drone strikes. While both candidates praised America’s goodness and greatness, we should be concerned that the rest of the world — and many Americans — may not be persuaded by this rhetoric of American exceptionalism. As Mr. Trump says, 'It’s only words.'”
The big question of the night, of course, was how Trump would handle the release Friday of a 2005 videotape featuring him speaking of women in vulgar sexual terms and boasting of sexually predatory behavior. The tape, Trump's weak apology and the resulting denunciations by Republican leaders consumed most of the commentators' attention.
"Mr. Trump dismissed his boasting of sexually predatory behavior as 'locker room talk,' " as the Washington Post editorialized. "When that did not work, he dredged up accusations in Bill Clinton’s sordid past. . . ."
To CNN's Jones, "the worst thing for me going forward has been this idea that you can now dismiss it as 'locker room talk.' That is very dangerous because here’s the problem. There’s a culture that allows rape . . . sexual assault. If I grabbed Donald Trump's crotch and tried to kiss him, I would go to jail. . . ."
Later in the MSNBC discussion, Reid challenged Trump's debate statement, "If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse. Mine are words, and his was action."
She responded with the names Jill Harth and Temple Taggart.
Michael Barbaro and Patrick Healy wrote in the New York Times Saturday about Taggart.
"Temple Taggart was a 21-year-old beauty contestant when, she said, Mr. Trump kissed her on the lips, without invitation, at a pageant event. It was an unwanted advance she has turned over in her head for years.
"Watching him relive his sexual aggressions on the video, she said in an interview on Saturday, 'made me feel a lot better.'
“ 'It was like: "Thank you. Now no one can say I made this up," ' she added. . . ."
Daniel S. Levine of heavy.com described Harth Sunday as "a New York-based makeup artist who sued Donald Trump in April 1997, claiming that Trump displayed offensive sexual behavior around her between 1992 and 1997. A month after the lawsuit was filed though, she withdrew the suit. Trump has said that Harth’s allegations are false, but she has stood by them. . . . ."
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote Friday about Hart and her then-boyfriend, George Houraney.
"Talking to Harth and Houraney, and reviewing the lawsuits and depositions from the time, convinced me that they’re telling the truth," Kristof wrote. "It helps that many others have testified about Trump behavior that matches elements of the story — the stiffing of business partners, the sexual predation — and that he himself has promoted his own boorishness. . . ."
All Trump is doing is encouraging journalists to find other such victims, Reid told the MSNBC panelists.
As it turned out, CNN's poll of debate watchers did not show the faceoff to be a draw.
Yamiche Alcindor, New York Times: Level of Outrage Over Donald Trump Tape Is Linked to Another Issue: Race
Cooper Allen, USA Today: No talk of #BlackLivesMatter at debate, St. Louis mayor hopeful notes
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post: After Donald Trump’s remarks, Muslims light up Twitter with #MuslimsReportStuff
Rekha Basu, Des Moines Register: Being female is a Catch-22 for women in Trump's world
Zack Beauchamp, vox.com: Donald Trump’s threat to imprison Hillary Clinton is a threat to democracy
Kim Bellware, Huffington Post: Eric Holder Slams Donald Trump’s Chilling Debate Threat To Hillary Clinton
Zeba Blay, Huffington Post Black Voices: Why Does Trump Think ‘Inner City’ Is Synonymous With ‘Black People’?
Jamelle Bouie, Slate: Banana Republican
Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: Donald Trump Ditches Reporters En Route To 2nd Debate
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Three revealing Donald Trump moments in that hot mess of a town hall
Adrian Carrasquillo, BuzzFeed: As Trump Falters, Ana Navarro Is Having The Last Word
Chris D'Angelo, Huffington Post: Obama Blasts Trump: ‘He Pumps Himself Up By Putting Other People Down’
Chris D’Angelo, Huffington Post: A Whole Lot Of People Thought Trump’s Debate Performance Was A Disaster
Rosie Gray, BuzzFeed: RNC Didn’t Know About Trump Event With Clinton Accusers
Editorial, Los Angeles Times: Debate Round 2: Trump doesn't redeem himself
Editorial, New York Times: Donald Trump Goes Low
Editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: A debate unlikely to win voters over to Trump's side
Editorial, Washington Post: A new low, even for Donald Trump
Sheera Frenkel and Hayes Brown, BuzzFeed: Here Are Some People Who Actually Jailed Their Political Opponents Post-Election
Tim Hains, RealClearPolitics: MSNBC's Joy Reid: Threatening To Jail Political Opponents Happens In The Congo, Not USA
Mohamed Hassan, NBC News Asian America: Muslim Americans Express Disappointment Over Debate Rhetoric Tying Muslims to Terrorism
Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press: On Trump's divisive policies, Michigan GOP fails to lead
Carrie Johnson, NPR: Trump Wants A Special Prosecutor For Clinton. But They Can Be Political Weapons, Too (Sept. 1)
A.J. Katz, TVNewser: CBS Wins Debate Night By Significant Margin
Gregory Krieg, CNN: Trump threatens to jail Clinton if he wins election
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times: The Second Presidential Debate
Robin Annette Ladue, Native News Online: “When You Are a Star, You Can Do Anything You Want" — The Ugly Truths of Donald Trump
Paige Lavender, Huffington Post: Khizr Khan: The Only Thing Trump Sacrifices Is The Truth
Ben Mathis-Lilley, Slate: Hillary Should Not Respect Donald Trump Jr., Who Is a White Nationalist Stooge
Patricia Mazzei, Miami Herald: Ana Navarro has become the voice of the outraged Republican woman
Danielle Moodie-Mills, NBCBLK: No, Donald It’s Not Just 'Locker Room Talk'
Tim Murphy, Mother Jones: Trump’s Call to Imprison Hillary Clinton Was More Than a Year in the Making
Stephen A. Nuño, Victoria Defrancesco Soto and Raul Reyes, NBC News Latino: Latino Pulse: How Did Clinton, Trump Do in 2nd Presidential Debate?
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: If you need more proof of Trump’s racism, consider the Central Park Five
Jessica Roy, Los Angeles Times: Note to Trump: The 'inner city' and African Americans are not synonymous
Darren Sands, BuzzFeed: Giuliani: Trump Has A “Pretty Solid Basis” For Saying Central Park Five Are Guilty
Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald: ‘That Mexican thing?’ One more reason for Latinos to vote
Todd Spangler , Detroit Free Press: Clinton, Trump spar over Islamophobia, Syrian refugees
Liz Spayd, New York Times: Why’d You Do That? Printing Donald Trump’s Vulgarities
Tanzina Vega, CNN Money: America is outraged by Trump. People of color say, 'It's about time!'
Michael Weiss, Daily Beast: Everything Donald Trump Says About Syria Is Crazy, Wrong or Both
Will Wilkinson, Kevin Baker, Roxane Gay, Maureen Dowd, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Seth Masket, Wajahat Ali, Ioan Grillo, Mark Schmitt, Jennine Capó Crucet, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni, Jennifer Weiner, Susan Chira, Peter Wehner, New York Times: What We Saw in the Second Debate
Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly Sunday defended a segment in which a correspondent for his "O'Reilly Factor" conducted mocking interviews of Asian Americans in New York’s Chinatown. Asian American groups, meanwhile, met that afternoon to promote a better dialogue with media in response to the segments, but Fox News, though invited, did not appear on the panel.
Rob Hoell reported Sunday for New York's WPIX-TV, "The segment, 'Watters World,' showed Jesse Watters talking to residents in Chinatown and asking them their opinion on Donald Trump and the 2016 election. However, the 5-minute piece was piled on with stereotypes and remarks that many found offensive and racist. . . ."
"Many community members and leaders came to the town hall discussion. The media was also invited, but clearly missing from the panel was Fox News."
On "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace asked O'Reilly, "Well, do you think it was over the line? Do you regret it?"
O’Reilly replied, "I would have edited it a little bit differently than it was edited. But, no, it wasn't over the line. We ran that piece on Monday of last week. 5 million people, plus, saw it live-time. You know how many negative letters we got? Less than ten. You know how many phone calls came in to Fox News? Zero, as far as I know. We checked. It was 36 hours later that this outrage appeared. And where did it appear? Far-left websites, far-left precincts. I read every single one. They're all the same.
"So this is an attack on Fox News. That's what it is. It's happened before. I thought it was a gentle piece. There were a few things in there I felt were over the line. The old lady, I would have taken that out. I should have seen it before, but I'm so busy with the election that I didn't. But, [Jesse Watters] is a gentle satirist. He's worked very well for us. We're proud of him. This is an organized campaign. This is what they do. They've done it before. . . ."
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.