Winners and Losers: The Tiger Woods Edition

tiger_woods_2005_wife2It’s the weekend, which means it’s time to separate the chumps from the champs in Mediaite’s “Winners and Losers” — our scorecard of who rocked and who flopped in the week’s headlines.

I’d hoped something newsworthy — like an typhoon or solar flare or another boy-less balloon — might pop up midweek and eclipse the Tiger Woods saga as the world’s most-talked about story.

It didn’t. So, reluctantly, here are the winners and losers of the Tiger Woods car crash/cheating saga and subsequent media frenzy.


Tiger, who went from bland but beloved megastar to disgraced moral failure as quick as one can mangle a Cadillac.


TMZ — Celebrity scandals like this are the bread and butter of Harvey Levin’s rumor mill. And with no qualms about undisclosed sourcing, the gossip site easily scooped the traditional media on the most sordid details. But unlike when Jacko died, old media outlets were quick to quote TMZ’s Tiger tidbits as reputable news. The AP and ESPN even recycled their exclusive crash photos. And with that, TMZ  slips further into the mainstream.


Golf enthusiasts, who saw their world of perfectly pressed khakis and meticulously manicured greens tarnished by scandal and deceit. Because, as it turns out, the golf legend is not a saint. The Golf Channel is particularly heartbroken, lamenting the news as the “end of an era, the end of Tiger as heroic and untouchable. He is simply human now, like us.” Wow.


The Florida Highway Patrol, which may be the only party to emerge from this mess with any dignity. Contrary to wild speculation about search warrants and domestic violence charges, troopers handled this case by the book — Tiger didn’t want to talk, so cops took ‘no’ for an answer, issued a $164 careless driving citation and closed the case. If only that were the end of public fascination.


Harry Reid. Yes, the scandal is so pervasive, even the Senate Majority Leader is keeping tabs. According to CNN, Reid blew off reporters actually interested in Afghanistan, quipping “get the answers from Tiger Woods” as he darted out of a closed-door briefing. Maybe invoking the embattled athlete seemed like a good escape strategy, or maybe Reid was showing off his pop culture prowess? It was lame either way.


The New York Post – The pun-happy paper continues to cash in with fun, albeit deceptive, tabloid covers. The best: Tuesday’s “EXCLUSIVE” entitled “Tiger and Me: Beautiful ‘other woman’ reveals the truth about relationship with sports’ biggest star.” (You see, the cover craftily implies an admission from rumored mistress Rachel Uchitel. Inside: a full denial.) The second best: Wednesday’s Mad Magazine-like photoshop job and accompanying cheater/’cheetah’ wordplay.


Me, for perpetuating this stupid story.

MTV’s Jersey Shore: The Worst Best Show Of All Time

jersey_12-5bOne of the best reactions I’ve seen to MTV’s apocalyptic case study in guidodom known as Jersey Shore came from a high school friend of mine on Facebook: “Jersey Shore is bs. They are all from NY.”

No one wants to be associated with this – including the state of New Jersey as a whole. But it happened, and two hours of reality TV later, we now live in a world where this exists. Let’s spend an inordinate amount of time reliving the experience.

We live in a society now where everyone can become famous for nothing. You can be some pseudo-plumber who asks a question of a presidential candidate that gets a news-making response, and suddenly your own opinions on political issues is something deemed worthy of public consumption. You can be a reality star on a show about your tool of a boyfriend and sleep with billionaire golfers. Everyone can be famous for nothing – and that now includes, naturally, fake-tanned, uber-egocentric, unbelievably dense “guidos” and “guidettes.”

If you weren’t one of the 1.2 million people who had the pleasure of watching the television masterpiece trainwreck that was Jersey Shore, here are your cast members, in their own words (from their introductory interviews):

Pauly D. – “I don’t try to take a lot of guys girlfriends, but it just happens.” (He’s a DJ. He’s apparently “your girlfriend’s favorite DJ.” He’s also, inexplicably, from Rhode Island, and not Staten Island or Long Island.)

Snooki – “My ultimate dream is to move to Jersey, find a nice, juiced, hot, tan guy and live my life.” (Note: this is not just a dream. It’s her ultimate dream.)

Mike “The Situation” – “If I walked in the door and see myself, I’d probably grab my girl real quick.” (He’s called “The Situation” because his abs are so ripped, they are called “The Situation.” This doesn’t stop him from using the term “The Situation” at many non-ab situations.)

Sammi “Sweetheart” – “If you’re not a guido then you can get the fuck out of my face.” (Lovely. This is the “sweetheart” of the show.)

Vinny – “I went to school, graduated college. That doesn’t shy away from, say, I don’t have fun at night. I party and fist pump with the best of them.” (This is word-for-word what college-guy Vinny said. During the rest of this article, please note that MTV is making Vinny into the “smart” one of the group.)

Jenni “Jwoww” – “I’m like a praying mantis. After I have sex with a guy I will rip their heads off.” (She has a boyfriend. She is well aware she will cheat on him in Jersey.)

Ronnie – “Take your shirt off and they come to you. It’s like a fly comes to shit.” (This is actually a very deep quote. “It’s like a fly comes to shit” should be MTV’s tagline for the entire show, and it should be said by everyone before they view each episode.)

Angelina – “If he trusts me it’s going to be great. If he doesn’t I’m going to have to move on, you know?” (Angelina has no idea what she’s in for.)

Now you know our cast members, let’s talk about the two hour show.

>>>NEXT PAGE: Full, awful, amazing recap and video of the best two minutes.

Snopes’ 25 Hottest Urban Legends Gets Remarkably Political

If you have older relatives, and they have email accounts, I’d guess that you’re pretty familiar with It’s likely that, for the first few months of their sending you urgent messages about free Applebee’s dinners or gang members threatening people’s lives, you dutifully found rebuttals from Snopes to pass on, intending to limit occasion for embarrassment when they send such things to others.

Then you realized that embarrassment is an emotion powerless against the potency of sheer terror. That no matter how often you demonstrated the fraud behind these emails and ones exactly like them with different brands and new murder plots, still the emails kept coming. Perhaps you even flagged these relatives as junk mail. Important note to a core readership: no one in my family ever caused me to feel this way.

Snopes is the tireless and passive scold of the Internet, calmly assessing any and all madness regardless of provenance, and ensuring that the truth is told. It stands patiently in a corner of the Internet, a stationary Diogenes called into action primarily in moments of spite.

The offspring of a California couple with a penchant for urban folklore, the site originally focused on the sorts of nonsense mentioned above – rumors about people trying to give you free things or trying to rape you. As a result, that’s traditionally what was most common on the 25 Hottest Urban Legends page.

And then came Barack Obama.

As I write this, nearly a quarter of the hottest urban legends deal, in one form or another, with rumors disparaging the President. There’s the claim that a judge ordered Obama to prove his citizenship. The one about the size of Michelle’s staff. That the Fort Hood shooter was on Obama’s Homeland Security Task Force. The President didn’t salute at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A list of unpatriotic actions regular American Joes noticed. That Obama introduced a Muslim stamp.

That last one is a two-fer for hot topics. Two other rumors on the list bear the fingerprints of the Christian Right: one relating anti-Muslim sentiment in Australia, another claiming that atheists are trying to ban religious television. And, of course, there’s an extensive, vitriolic letter disparaging Nancy Pelosi – which, unfortunately, is legit.

That nearly all of these rumors are debunked by the site is not the point. The point is that these are the “hottest” topics – the things that site visitors care the most about. What also matters is how certain misinformation is deliberately skewed to stain Obama’s reputation. The stamp, for example, was a function of the Postal Service, but Obama is included to further link him to the Muslim faith. Likewise the Fort Hood shooter – he attended Homeland Security seminars, but under Bush.

A natural question, of course, is how these grass roots smears on the President stack up against his Polar opposite (capital intended). In a search of the site, which turns up only mentions of the name, “Obama” appears 196 times, “Palin,” 24. The name “Bush”, by contrast, which refers to either of the preceding Presidents, appears 338 times. (At his current pace, Obama will have nearly 500 rumors on the site by the end of his first term, if you figure that his 196 appeared in 2008 and 2009.)

The next argument from one seeking to diminish the impact of these numbers, then, might be to question why the site is so eager to defend the President – to ask, in essence, if it is biased. Wikipedia has the response:

Snopes receives more complaints that it is too liberal than that it is too conservative, but insists that it applies the same debunking standards to all political stories. FactCheck reviewed a sample of Snopes’ responses to political rumors regarding George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and found them to be free from bias in all cases. FactCheck noted that Barbara Mikkelson was a Canadian citizen (and thus unable to vote in American elections) and David Mikkelson was an independent who was once a registered Republican. “You’d be hard-pressed to find two more apolitical people,” David Mikkelson told them.

(The FactCheck piece is here.)

What is the takeaway? It’s hard to compare this Top 25 list with years gone by; among other reasons, is blocked from indexing the site. It’s clear, though, that there is an enormous amount of interest in misinformation about the President. This comes as little surprise to observers of our national political discourse. But one can’t help but feel disheartened.

The silver lining is this: at least people are asking if these rumors are legit. At least people are wandering into the unloved, neglected portion of the web where Snopes lingers to see if that hard-to-believe story they’ve heard about the Commander-in-Chief is accurate. For what it’s worth, at least the stories are debunked.

It likely does little good. Even in the world of those who blindly loathe Barack Obama, terror outweighs the embarrassment of being wrong. There’s little recourse for any of us besides marking the purveyors of these dishonest, inaccurate claims as junk, and hoping they don’t pop back into sight.

Where’s the “Junk Mail” button on my TV remote, again?

Oops, We Changed Our Mind: GLAAD Tosses ABC Under The Bus

Adam LambertA day after rushing to give cover to ABC for imposing a performance exile on Adam Lambert, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has shifted its position–again–and now says ABC should get the gay community’s scorn for its treatment of Lambert.

Yesterday, GLAAD was forced to issue a second press release to try to clarify why it was giving ABC a pass for banning Lambert from Jimmy Kimmel Live and ABC’s New Years Rockin’ Eve.  But now, after a day of endless criticism online, GLAAD has shifted its position and now thinks ABC does have a double standard after saying yesterday it didn’t.

“We appreciate ABC’s commitment to gay and transgender inclusion in other programming,” GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios said in the one paragraph statement. “However, let us be clear that GLAAD remains steadfast in our assertion that Adam Lambert is being subjected to a double standard by ABC as an openly gay performer. We do not support ABC cancelling Adam Lambert’s past and future performances. We urge the community to reach out to ABC and express their concerns that Adam Lambert is being subjected to a double standard.”

That’s a very different position than what GLAAD took just 24-hours earlier, when the group said “It would appear that the kiss between Adam Lambert and his keyboardist did not factor into ABC’s decision.”

So why the dithering?

GLAAD has long been criticized for being irrelevant and more interested in pleasing corporate donors–including ABC and the other networks–than advocating for LGBT issues.  Under former president Neil Giuliano, the organization’s mission and staff expanded but became less involved in entertainment advocacy. It also came under criticism for giving its seal of approval to I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

Under Barrios–who joined GLAAD in September after a career as  a former legislator in Massachusetts who went on to head Blue Cross Blue Shield foundation in the state–the organization continues to be unfocused.  Before Lambert, GLAAD spent November switching its positions on the “faggot” episode of South Park, first slamming the animated show before saying it changed its mind.

These flip-flops and lack of direction were the focus of criticisms the day after GLAAD approved ABC’s Lambert exile.

Gay activist and Sirius radio host Michelangelo Signorile tweeted that Barrios had turned own the opportunity to appear on his radio show.  Earlier in the day, Signorile tweeted “What is wrong with this group? We must stop them. GLAAD is useless most times, hurting us other times” and “U ask how can GLAAD back ABC re: Lambert? Easy: ABC buys tables @ their endless awards. Not media watchdog; more like puppy.”

At gay news and gossip site Queerty, the bloggers saidGLAAD’s involvement in the Lambert situation is actually harming the gay community. As our self-appointed representatives, GLAAD is telling America that ABC’s treatment of a gay man is just fine, nothing to see here, move along.”

There’s no question GLAAD is in a tough spot.  ABC does have a good record of featuring positive portrayals of LGBT people and programming doesn’t get much gayer than ABC’s hit Dancing With the Stars. But the network’s kneejerk reaction to Lambert’s antics on the American Music Awards has not been a profile in courage and GLAAD has only made the situation worse by shifting its position on ABC’s behavior on a daily basis.

While fans shouldn’t expect Lambert to gyrating with Ryan Seacrest on ABC this New Years Eve, the more interesting dance to watch may be how GLAAD recovers from its blunders.

Joe Scarborough and Chuck Todd are Totally In The Tank For Tim Tebow

dan picI spend more time and energy covering college football star Tim Tebow than anyone, and while Tebow has transcended traditional college football coverage to become one of the biggest stars in all of sports, today was a first: Tebow as discussion topic on “Morning Joe.”

Now, Joe Scarborough is an Alabama guy and, like all Bama natives, a huge college football fan — and presumably no fan of Florida, for whom Tebow stars. But tomorrow’s Florida-Alabama game — a de facto playoff game between two unbeaten teams, ranked 1 and 2 in the country, to determine which of the two teams will play for the national championship — is so big that Scarborough made Tebow, who is demonstrative in his display of values, a topic of discussion on this morning’s show.

From the Orlando Sentinel’s essential blog for Gator-watchers, Swamp Things, reporter Matt Humphrey captured the chatter this morning on “Joe” between Scarborough and Chuck Todd, another huge college football fan:

JS: “We’ve got [CBS college football analyst] Gary Danielson coming up to talk about the Christ child Tim Tebow. Do you have a question you’d like me to ask him?”
CT: “Where do I go … uh … this morning I woke up and saw a vision of Tim Tebow in my french toast. And I thought about putting it on eBay … and just let me know …

JS: “I’ll ask Gary.”

CT: “Do I save it? Do you think maybe it could be blessed in Gainesville in the holy chapel of Tebow?

JS: “This is what you don’t understand: You don’t save it. He will save you. That’s what Danielson says.

Hmm: Seems like Scarborough the Alabama fan is just bitter. Four years ago, Tebow picked Florida to attend over Joe’s Alabama, and last year, Tebow ruined the Crimson Tide’s season by leading the Gators to a dramatic win in the game the two teams are reprising tomorrow.

Dan Shanoff is the editor of, a hyper-topical news site dedicated to comprehensive — some might say “obsessive” — coverage of the phenomenon of Tim Tebow in sports and the culture at large.

Free Video! Public Domain Video Should Be Public

Carl Malamud, noted independent archivist and champion of making information from government agencies accessible, is sounding a call (wisely using the robust megaphone that is Boing Boing): public video should be public.

A veteran of many institutions you’ve heard of (MIT Media Lab, Mozilla Foundation, Center for American Progress) Malamud notes that to view public domain video produced by the government, you have two choices: watch only a two minute preview, or buy it from Amazon. So he’s developed a workaround – buying the DVDs from Amazon and, since it’s public domain, ripping the videos and posting them to YouTube.

The YouTube archive has a number of remarkable clips, including the too-perfect-to-not-be-staged report from the Navy above. You can see Nixon’s response about Watergate, a piece about the role of aircraft in World War II, the crash of the Hindenburg, or a CIA short about China’s progress, pre-Mao. I particularly enjoyed these films captured from Germany and Japan during the war; indecipherable spin in the opposite direction.

This latest set of videos bolsters an existing project of Malamud’s (which is down, likely because of traffic issues, at the time of writing). The organization was given 500 GB of public video by the United States Government, all of which is likewise available on YouTube, but also downloadable in whole (when the site is working) for use in whatever projects you wish.

It’s a shame Malamud has to work from the outside to provide something of so much value to the American people, and the world. Two weeks from now, Malamud will be testifying before Congress about increasing the ability of the National Archives and Records Administration (which I’ve discussed before) to make the point that the government should be doing this work. (He intends to use the view counts on these videos to make a point about demand, so go watch. I’ll wait.)

It’s particularly frustrating, because the government is not without creativity – in certain domains. Tomorrow, for example, DARPA is hosting a contest, with a $40,000 purse, for the first person to correct submit the GPS coordinates of 10 weather balloons stashed across the country. The utility of this contest is obvious, of course – gauge the ability of the public to provide critical information on short notice. The utility of having our nation’s records be quickly and easily accessible is less overt, but no less important.

Malamud’s work is important and innovative, but should be made redundant by the government without delay. No one would be more pleased if that happened, I suspect, than Carl himself.

Dear Alec Baldwin, Don’t Retire From Panels


Who: Alec Baldwin interviewed by Janet Maslin
What: TimesTalks’ “Live with Alec Baldwin”
Where: The Times Center
When: December 3, 2009
Thumbs: Up

After hearing Alec Baldwin talk about the state of Hollywood, it’s easy to understand why he wants out. He says that movies are largely driven by business and marketing today, and the days of great actors are well behind us. Every actor has to make the choice between acting in great, perhaps overlooked films, and blockbuster pictures that earn you lots of money. Fifteen years ago, Baldwin says he made the mistake of going after the money.

Baldwin was very forthcoming about his decisions and his career, just not when interviewer Janet Maslin requested it. In fact, the whole interview seemed like a long charade for Baldwin who alternated between regaling the audience with stories, cracking jokes, making analogies, and doing impressions. Through the chaos of Baldwin’s act and contradictions of his words — and his many asides, to the audience’s delight — Maslin somehow managed to keep the actor relatively on track.

What drew Baldwin back to the topic at hand was the opportunity to express his admiration for those who came before him on the big and little screens. For the upcoming It’s Complicated, a romantic comedy whose screened clips were raunchier than you’d expect from the aging actors, it was the chance to work with Meryl Streep. That seems to be consistent with Baldwin’s proclaimed agenda for his Academy Awards’ hosting duties in the spring when he’ll aim to combine the reverence of the biggest night in cinema with his antics on stage with longtime friend, Steve Martin.

Jack Donaghy, Baldwin’s character on “30 Rock,” appears to have grown to be more like Baldwin himself, though he claims he only contributes ideas, not lines. After word came out that Comcast was taking over a controlling stake at NBC Universal, Baldwin suggested Donaghy barricade himself in his office. He says that these kinds of meta-references have pleased General Electric’s executives, but not so much NBC’s people.

Maslin pointed out that earlier in his career, because he was so good looking, not many people credit Baldwin for being funny, despite his work on “Saturday Night Live.” Now, and maybe because of his declining looks, Baldwin wryly pointed out, everyone seems to give him credit – be it for his comedic ability, his environmental efforts, or a possible future run for political office.

Everyone, and we suspect Baldwin himself is with that group, is trying to figure out the same thing: What’s next for Alec Baldwin?

What They Said
“Movie audiences date you and TV audiences marry you.”
- Alec Baldwin is going to stop having affairs

“Public officials deserve a lot more scrutiny than public figures.”
- Alec Baldwin believes that the public has no right to know what he does in his personal life

“Comcast is in Philadelphia, G.E. is in Fairfield, and that’s all I know.”
– Alec Baldwin knows less than Jack Donaghy about the inner workings of NBC Universal

“It’s like ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ without the wit or charm.”
- Alec Baldwin insults “The Room,” but in a way that “The Room” fans would probably celebrate

What We Thought

  • We found Baldwin’s comments about the decline of modern movies fascinating. He claims that John Travolta was the last true movie star, someone whose persona could draw customers to his movies and then deliver on that stardom. Since then, Baldwin says actors are used more to get people into the seats, but it’s the technicians who have to do the real work on the product.
  • After drilling Baldwin on some more serious points, Maslin tried to lighten the mood by asking Baldwin a series of true-or-false questions based on what she read about him online. This Internet fact-check revealed that Baldwin once had a job as a waiter at Studio 54. It also left him wondering whether the audience came to hear him talk about that.

Some audience behavior seems to repeat itself panel after panel. We’ll be updating a running list of “PANEL RULES!” that will help ensure that you are not the dweeb of the Panel Nerds.

Panel Nerds don’t like…Reminiscers
It was nice of so many of Baldwin’s old neighborhood friends (and dentist) to come out and support the Westchester County native. But did they all have to make their ways to the microphone? The first time it was endearing, but by the third and fourth example we were wishing for strangers to bypass the memory keepers in the line. With limited time and access to Baldwin, we wanted to hear more questions and answers. Instead, we heard a series of anecdotes that didn’t lead to anything but self-indulgence. Let’s keep the focus on the celebrity panelist, not those who shared a backyard with him.