Bernard Goldberg on His Book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America: "If we are looking for people who have made the culture more contentious, a little nastier than it needs to be, these are 100 of those people."

Bestselling Author Bernard Goldberg Targets ‘100 People Who Are Screwing Up America

For almost an hour, Bernard Goldberg spoke with the Center for Individual Freedom’s Corporate Counsel, Renee Giachino, about his recent bestseller 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37).  Mr. Goldberg, a correspondent with CBS News from 1972 to 2000, is the author of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, and Arrogance: Saving America from the Media Elite.  His latest book targets people who are destroying American culture.

Mr. Goldberg appeared on “Your Turn — Meeting Nonsense with Common Sense,” which airs on WEBY 1330 AM Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio.  What follows are excerpts from the interview.

GIACHINO:  Please welcome back to the program Mr. Bernard Goldberg.  He’s been on the program before and was a wonderful guest, as I am sure he will be this afternoon.  He joins us today on “Your Turn” to talk about his latest New York Times bestseller, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37).  It is published by HarperCollins.

Welcome to the program, Mr. Goldberg.

GOLDBERG:  Renee, please call me Bernie.  Thanks for having me.

GIACHINO:  If I may first share with the listeners some of your accomplishments, which are remarkable.  Mr. Goldberg is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Bias and is widely seen as one of the most original writers and thinkers in broadcast journalism.  He has won six Emmy awards for his work as senior correspondent on the CBS News broadcast “48 Hours,” where he used to come into many of our homes.

Mr. Goldberg now reports for HBO’s acclaimed “Real Sports” and recently won his seventh and eighth Emmy.  In addition to Bias, Mr. Goldberg is the author of the national bestseller Arrogance, which he talked about with us last year, and has written multiple op-eds about baseball, manners and bias in the world of journalism for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Let’s now turn our attention to 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37).

Bernie, a primary point of your book is to show that the culture in America has become angry and uncivilized.  Do you think, however, that Americans are tired of it?  Do you think we can rid ourselves of it even if the media refuses to recognize it and do its part to change it?

GOLDBERG:  I think it is a message that is really resonating out there in America.  I think lots of people have noticed this.  I think the book is sort of catching up with all those people.  The very last paragraph in the book says “so what is it that so many ordinary Americans actually want?”  It is actually pretty simple.  We want a little more appreciation for the values that most of us — liberals as well as conservatives, Democrats as well as Republicans — used to take for granted.  Civility, mutual respect, some semblance of decency and, yes, a little old-fashioned love of country, too.  Is that asking too much?

That’s what the book is about.  I mean it was not that long ago when whether we agreed or disagreed with our neighbors we did not call them liars and fascists and Nazis.  That is a relatively new thing.  And, sorry if I offend anyone, but I think liberals are more to blame than conservatives.

GIACHINO:  Well, even if you did call them those names, you certainly did not do it on television like we see on reality shows today.

GOLDBERG:  Right.  One of the areas that I write about is the TV culture.  This book, unlike the other books which are about the media, this is about lots of different parts of our culture — whether it is the Hollywood people who equate conservatism with fascism, and once they do that, the conversation is over.  It’s about people who put on our TV shows — whether it is reality shows that are just mind-numbing or sitcoms — that you want to sit down and watch with your kids but they are one sex joke after another.  This book is about universities, which are run by the liberal elites, where they impose speech codes on people.  It is about lots of different parts of the culture and one of them is TV.

Look, I don’t want any laws against what is on TV.  I guess they can be as vulgar as they want to be.  I don’t want anybody arrested for it, but let’s not pretend that it is good for the culture.  Is pollution in a river good for the culture?  Well this is a kind of pollution.

You know, we care about the environment and we ought to care about the cultural environment, too.  And the people who seem to care the most about the environment, the ones who are always talking about all sorts of facets of the environment, they are the ones who seem to be the least concerned about the cultural environment.  They are the ones who tell me, personally, “I don’t think what happens in the culture much matters.”

I think it matters a lot.

GIACHINO:  In the book you name 100 people who you have put on the top of your list of people screwing up America.  They fall into a number of categories, which you lay out in the beginning of the book.  They range from specific types such as the Schlockmeisters, the Pinstripe Crooks, the Intellectual Thugs, the Hollywood Loudmouths, and then my favorite, the American Jackals which is a.k.a. the out-for-themselves, screw-everyone-else lawyers.

Let me ask you this: Since publishing the book have you received any angry letters or hate mail from any of these folks or their agents or supporters (if they have any)?

GOLDBERG:  Yes, I have heard from some of them indirectly in newspaper articles.  More interesting than any particular person — and some people on the list say they are proud to be on it — this is the very intelligent reaction that you get.  But what is troubling is that I was reading a column in a Northeastern liberal newspaper today — I don’t even want to give it any plug — anyway, the columnist is one of those smart-alecky type of columns, and he did not get anything at all about what the book is about.  He was making jokes, for instance, that a white guy like me, as he put it, would put gangster rappers in the book.

Well, forgive me for my language — I am going to use a word here that may offend some people, but the world of gangster rap is a dingy world in which women are either bitches or hos.  I am sure that if I went into this white columnist’s house — well, I will tell you that it is in Boston — and I said to his little daughter, “Oh, are you a bitch or a ho?” he would not find it the least bit amusing.  But some how he finds it okay that a bunch of black kids listen to this stuff.  Then I am being a prude for complaining about it.

That is the hypocrisy of the people on the Left these days — that somehow they do not want their kids exposed to certain things, but that if I write about other kids being exposed to it, well, then “Bernie Goldberg, you know he doesn’t get it.”  Well, I get it.  I get that the culture matters and that stuff that we hear in music matters and stuff that we watch on TV matters.

And lawyers — who you rightly say are just in it for themselves and just file insane lawsuits for people who eat fast food for 25 years, 5 days-a-week and get to be fat as a house and then file a lawsuit because their client got fat — yeah, I think all of this stuff matters.  It is the kind of America we want to live in, and if we have all of this gangster rap and this garbage on TV, which I don’t want laws against and I don’t want the morality police shutting down, I’m just saying that it is not helping the culture any.

GIACHINO:  Well, in the chapter on gangster rap, and I was not going to repeat the name on the air, but I am glad that you did, you aptly note that “when it comes to degradation in rap, even calls for unspeakably brutal acts, … the feminists avert their gaze.”

GOLDBERG:  Yes, this is something that I am especially fascinated by.  Feminists, who are always complaining about how language is being used.  So if you say that she is a freshman at the University of Florida or the University of Alabama, they say “freshman, you can’t say freshman, that has the letters M-A-N in it,” and they go crazy over silly things like that.  But somehow they do not utter a peep about gangster rap because it is a black art form.  And certain subjects are supposed to be off limits.  You know they do not want to be seen as bigots by criticizing a black art form.

Well, here is my take on it.  I know they don’t want to be judgmental, but I think we need to be more judgmental of what is going on in our culture, and when, by the way, did being judgmental of trash in the culture become a bad thing?  I’m sorry, gangster rap — it should be legal, they should be allowed to do it, they should be allowed to be as vile and nasty as they want to be — I’m just saying let’s just not pretend that it doesn’t matter.  Because if it doesn’t matter, then there are a whole bunch of other things that feminists should not be complaining about either.

GIACHINO:  Let me ask you this: You say that you don’t want laws governing our televisions.  But I think many Americans recognize that when it comes to issues of national security, for example, we are willing to accept that we need to give up some of our constitutional rights in the name of national security.  I’m afraid that we are going to have to give up some of our First Amendment rights — and I don’t believe in censorship, and I don’t think you believe in censorship — but I don’t know how there is going to be any other way that we can get the media to pay attention in order for us to take America back from what you have called an “angry and uncivilized group who is hogging the media”?

GOLDBERG:  But this is a very dangerous road, and you know it is a dangerous road because who is going to make the decisions about what we can say and what we cannot say?  I would rather live in a country where gangster rappers have free reign than in a country where we say “you cannot use that kind of language” because I worry about who is going to be in charge and making those kinds of decisions.

Having said that, we are going to have to pay the consequences for living in that kind of America.  And so, even though I criticize the gangster rappers and the Howard Sterns and the TV schlockmeisters who put this absolute crap on television, you know the only reason it is there is because there are people buying it.  That is the reason it is there.

You know a lot of conservatives are schizophrenic on this point — they don’t like it, but they watch it and their kids are listening to this kind of music.  What I am saying is that if we really care about this, then we are going to have to step up to the plate and say “we are not going to watch that and we are not going to listen to this and we are not going to take part in this.”

And we can do that.  It doesn’t take money and it doesn’t take legislation and it doesn’t take constructing a new building.  It’s just regular folks out there listening to us, and they need to say that they also think the culture is mean and nasty and vulgar.  And when I hear a kid walking down the street talking on his cell phone — and when I say “talking,” really people don’t talk, they yell on cell phones, dropping the “f” bomb every few seconds — I am going to say, “Hey, you want to do that in your own house, be my guest.  But this is a public street that you are on, so knock it off.”  If enough people do that, maybe we can take back America.

Of course, you run the risk of being called a prude if you feel this way.  I refuse to play defense.  I am not a prude.  I don’t care what people do privately.  I don’t care how they talk privately.  We are talking about the public square — the place where we all live.  It is common territory, and in those places we have a right to say “knock it off.”

GIACHINO:  We are talking with New York Times bestselling author Bernard Goldberg about his recent book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37).  It has been published by HarperCollins, and you can get it at any bookstore or online at Amazon.com.

I do want to take a call from a caller who has been waiting a long time and then I want to turn to some of the folks who made the list because it is fascinating.

If you don’t mind, Mr. Goldberg, we will go ahead and take a call?  Go ahead, it’s your turn.

CALLER:  Thank you, Renee.  Bernard, look I want to give you a quick synopsis of what I think the alphabet news is.  All it is is entertainment.  I mean, look even at Fox News, which opened up about what is going on in Aruba.  I wish I could get a good TV channel that tells me more about the U.N. scandals, the Constitution of our country being trampled, the Patriot Act, open borders, pork barrel projects, etc.  Those are just a few things.  And all I get is entertainment.  What do you think about every newscast being entertainment?

GOLDBERG:  I think you are right.  I think that cable is very good and it is very bad.  I think it is very good in that the kinds of conversations that the networks won’t let you have, you can have on cable.  When I wrote Bias, for instance, that is a book that changed a lot of things in America.  I could only talk about that on cable and talk radio.  I could not talk about it on the networks.

That’s the good part of cable; we can have a discussion like this on cable.  The bad part of cable is that, as tragic as the situation is with the teenage girl in Aruba — and it is totally tragic for the family, your heart goes out for the family — it is not a national news story that deserves the amount of time that they are giving it.

And neither were the 20 other things that they also have done over the past few years.  They have blurred the line between news and entertainment.  But why do you think they do it?  Because there are not a lot of people like you — well, there are a lot, but there are not enough people like you as there are people who want to find out what is the latest from Aruba.

You know what, we can blame Fox, we can blame MSNBC, we can blame whoever, but this is a free market country and people are tuning in for that stuff.  And you know what, their ratings go up when they do that kind of stuff.  So you know we have to put some of the blame where it belongs, and that is on the people who want to see this.

GIACHINO:  I want to make sure and make this point about the book.  This book — if you read Bias and you read Arrogance, I am sure that you enjoyed each of those books for what they are — but this book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37), is entirely different from those books.

This is not a book about the media, even though there are a lot of media folks who did make the list.  The thing that really impressed me is that we are talking about the majority of these 100 people who made Bernie Goldberg’s list of people who are screwing up America are every-day Americans.  These people, any one of them, could be living next door to most of us.  And that is kind of frightening to me.

I want to make sure that the listeners understand that.  Do you think that a lot of people don’t get that point?

GOLDBERG:  There is a certain smart-alecky Left-wing media that just dismisses the book.  Americans are not dismissing the book.  Next week the book will be #2 in the whole country — non-fiction.  That’s because the book is resonating with a lot of Americans.

But the smart-aleck faction of the liberal media just dismisses the book.  They dismiss it because “Barbra Streisand is screwing up America?”  Yes, Barbra Streisand is screwing up America in that she says things like, “George Bush is not just poisoning the air and the water, he is poisoning our political system.”  Well, that kind of talk does not do the culture any good.

You can disagree with President Bush.  You can disagree with him on a number of issues.  I do.  But to talk about how he is poisoning the air, he is poisoning the water, he is poisoning the political system — that is why Barbra Streisand is important.  She is representative of a kind of person in Hollywood that talks this way all the time.  And the Left-wing columnists out there don’t get it.  This is just like a dumb book to them.

I will put my confidence in the American people.  If they think it is a dumb book then I am just going to sit here wasting my time because no one is going to listen to me.  But the American people don’t think it’s a dumb book.

You know, these same people who dismiss the book, these same cultural elites, look down their nose at people who live in places like the Florida Panhandle because maybe they like to eat at Red Lobster, maybe they like to bowl, maybe they go to church on a regular basis and maybe they fly the flag on the Fourth of July.  That is what the cultural elitists are about — they look down their cultural elitist noses from cocoons like Manhattan and Hollywood at ordinary Americans.

That’s why even if I agree with them on any particular issue, I don’t want to be part of that group.  I don’t want to be on that team anymore.

GIACHINO:  I think there are a lot of them that the folks in the listening audience could guess are on that list.  You’ve got Al Franken in spot #37, and we can talk about why he maybe should be moved up higher, but for a lot of gobbledygook you put him there at #37.  You have to read the book to know why he is only at #37 and not trumping #1, Michael Moore.

But there are some on the list that a lot of people have probably never heard of.  I know I did not hear of them.  I want to point a couple out for the listeners.  Let me start with #51, a woman named Ann Pelo, and what she has said and done in an attempt to tarnish Pensacola’s hometown heroes — The Blue Angels.  I think that if you share the same respect that I do for the Blue Angels, you are going to be outraged when you read what she has written and said about them.  I’m not going to tell you what it is that she said because I think you will enjoy reading about it in the book.  Buy the book.  I am embarrassed to say that no matter how politically responsible I consider myself, I had never heard of this person.

Bernie, how long have you been doing research to come up with these 100 people?

GOLDBERG:  I worked on the whole book for a little less than a whole year.  I was researching while I was writing.  I was working as quickly as I could because, I will be honest with you, I hate writing.  I am a TV journalist by temperament and every day was torture so I just did it non-stop to get it done.

But, do you know what, I had to keep changing the list.  I would have a list of 100 and then somebody would go and do something and I would take them off the list and put somebody back on.

As a matter of fact, if I did not have to send the book to the printer when I did, Senator Durbin from Illinois would have made the list for comparing what is going on at Guantanamo with the Soviet Gulags and Pol Pot and the murderous regime in Cambodia and even the Holocaust.

I mean, look, I don’t like the excesses of what goes on.  I don’t think any guard should torture a prisoner or even mistreat a prisoner, but what’s going on in Guantanamo has nothing to do with what is going on with the Gulags in the Soviet Union.  It has nothing to do with how Pol Pot treated people in his country.

Nobody is on this list because they are a liberal Democrat.  They’re on the list because they are obscene in some cases.  And I think that what Dick Durbin said was insane.  He would have been on the list, but I had a deadline and what he did happened after the deadline.

GIACHINO:  I think that is true.  There are folks when you go through the list that fall on both sides of the aisle.

Let’s flip it around.  Since publishing the book, has anyone done or said anything reasonable enough to get them off the list so that Durbin can get on?  Has anybody paid a penance.

GOLDBERG:  Not anybody on that list.  But I will tell you this that I have heard from somebody who is in the top 5 — so this is a heavy hitter, and I got a message to call him and I did.  I was bracing for the battle.  He said he had just read what I wrote about him and he said it was absolutely fair.

Now, you cannot take someone off the list simply because they are a nice guy.  That would mean I am only putting people on the list who are not nice guys.

People are on the list for what they have done.  So this person will stay on the list.  But it was nice to get a call from somebody who was so high up on the list — and I am only not mentioning his name because this was a private conversation, but this was a heavy hitter in our culture — and he said he thought I was fair.  And he also said that he thinks we have to re-think how we portray ourselves to the American people because a lot of people do see us the way we are portrayed.

So that was nice.  That was a nice call.

GIACHINO:  Let me talk about another one that hit close to me.  As you know, our studio is in the panhandle of Florida and most recently we have been awarded the unwanted designation of “hurricane alley” so I would be remiss in not discussing with you Sheila Jackson Lee.

GOLDBERG:  Yes, that one people are going to think that I am sort of having fun with, but it is true, it is absolutely true.

She is a black Congresswoman from Texas, and she went to the bureaucrats at the federal weather service and said she thinks that we should have more African-American names, more black names.

You know I live in Florida, too.  I mean, I lived through Hurricane Andrew.  And there are black people named Andrew.  And last year we had Hurricane Charlie — there are black people named Charlie, right?  So she must have meant something else.  She must have meant that we should have some exclusively black names on the list.  And I am thinking, what would that be “Hurricane Shaniqua”?

Here’s a bulletin to Congressman Lee — hurricanes are bad.  Hurricanes cause damage.  Hurricanes kill people.  If you are a black Congresswoman you should argue that all hurricanes should be named Biff and Muffy and Skippy after white people to sort of like make up for past wrongs.

But to ask for hurricanes to be named after black people is just funny.

GIACHINO:  Yes, I want Ozzie and Harriett put in there.

GOLDBERG:  That’s right, Hurricane Ozzie and Hurricane Harriett.

GIACHINO:  Let’s turn the book around one more direction and can you give me a short list, say one or two people, who are doing it right for America?  Maybe it could be your next bestseller.

GOLDBERG:  Well, I talk about Bill Cosby in the book.  I think he is doing it right.  Nobody is going to listen to you or me lecturing black kids about a 70 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate, but Bill Cosby can do it.  So he is one of the good guys.

There are people who I quote in the book, there is a professor at NYU who talks about gangster rap, and he says, “Is it the end of civilization? No. But it is the end of civility.”  He is a professor at NYU.  And he is talking this way.  He is a good guy.

There are a couple of civil libertarians who have spoken out against speech codes on campus.  Liberals run our most elite universities and they are the ones imposing speech codes designed to make sure students aren’t offended by a joke or something like that.  Well, a few liberal brave souls, even from the ACLU, are speaking out against that.  And I give them credit for that.

So there are good people out there.  There are far more good people in America than there are bad people.  I am not suggesting that this list of 100 is the worst people in the country.  I am not suggesting that they are serial killers or terrorists or anything like that.  But if we are looking for people who have made the culture more contentious, a little nastier than it needs to be, these are 100 of those people.  But rest assured, America is filled with good, decent, fair-minded people and I am hoping that they speak up a little more than they have and realize that they can make a difference.  We can get back to a more civil America.

GIACHINO:  I want to make sure the listeners know they can get the book at any bookstore and they can order it online at Amazon.com.  They can also visit HarperCollins’ website to order the book.  When you buy the book, check out some of my favorites, like number 84 — when you talk about vicious celebrities like Alec Baldwin.

Check out number 82, I love this one, and there really is not just one number 82, I think there are lots of them.  Anyway, you write about a woman Lori David, who is the wife of Larry David, the comedy writer and actor who created “Seinfeld.”  You write about how she harasses (proudly) SUV drivers about ruining the ozone layer by driving these gas hogs.  Yet, you go on to note that she jets around the world in her private plane.

GOLDBERG:  She uses more fossil fuel on one trip, or she uses as much fossil fuel on one trip from Los Angeles to New York, one-way, than somebody driving an SUV uses in 12 months.

GIACHINO:  It’s frightening.

And I want people to pay attention to all of the different university professors who make the list.  As the parent of three children it frightens me to think about sending my kids to these liberal heartlands.  We’re going to need to make some changes on those campuses.

We are going to need to make some changes in our neighborhoods.  Take a look at numbers 74 and 73 — two women who I had never heard of before I read your book, but both of whom I would love to kick in the pants.  These are two women who want to get rid of patriotic symbols, like red, white and blue, and they are flag haters.

GOLDBERG:  This was right after September 11th.

GIACHINO:  I just don’t understand what is going on in America.  I think this book sheds a lot of light on that.

As we said, there are some media folks in here, but this is not a book about the media.  This is a book about 100 people who are screwing up America.  There are really lots more than 100.  And Mr. Goldberg invites you in the end of the book to send him your list.  He is interested in hearing what you have to say.

Have you heard from anyone?

GOLDBERG:  Yes, people are sending it to my website, BernardGoldberg.com.  They are throwing in a wide variety of suggestions and I am going to take them seriously if there is an update.

GIACHINO:  Well, that would be great.  And if there is an update I hope that you will join us again on the program.

Thank you very much for your time, I know that we have taken more than you allotted us.  We greatly appreciate it.

GOLDBERG:  Not a problem.  It is dinner time now.  I greatly appreciate your having me on.

GIACHINO:  Thank you very much, Bernard Goldberg.  Go out and buy his new book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37).  It is going to be the number two bestseller this week; let’s make it number one.  Go out and buy the book.

August 17, 2005
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