Joe The Plumber Does Damage Control, With The Help Of Breitbart And Hannity

Joe the Plumber, aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, is just a regular guy that tells it like it is. That’s why when the mainstream media takes quotes like “[John McCain] really screwed up my life” and “I don’t owe him s—” out of context, he feels it is his duty to set the record straight. His clarification tour has so far been short, sweet, and just in time for the five congressional primaries he has endorsed a candidate in so far, publishing an opinion piece on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and making a special appearance on last night’s edition of Hannity.

The article– his opening act– is fairly mild-mannered, though he never quite backs down from his words. Calling McCain an “honest-to- goodness, true blue American hero” and evoking the name of the Patron Saint of Conservatism, he explains that he regrets his wording:

“I broke Ronald Reagan’s “11th commandment” not to criticize fellow conservatives in public and the liberal mainstream media has had a field day with it. I regret that. I wish I had said it to his face and privately. I do honestly believe that John McCain’s service to our country as a courageous naval aviator and POW rightfully earned him nothing but respect. He has represented the epitome of honor, duty and unimaginable sacrifice. And for the record, he didn’t ruin my life. He and Barrack [sic] Obama sent me down a far different path than the one I was happily on–a new path that made me famous, notorious, sought after and vilified.”

“I wish I had said it to his face” isn’t exactly an apology, and his final zinger– “to fully answer the reporter who said that John McCain ‘made me’–I was made by my country, my faith and my family”– set the tone for his interview with Sean Hannity later that night, where he was on the offensive. Introduced by the host as “one of the McCain campaign’s deadliest weapons,” he clarified that the media had taken his quotes out of context by calling McCain “the lesser of two evils,” claiming he “doesn’t represent true conservatism,” and confirming that he doesn’t support him “at all.”

But, taking a page out of the Sarah Palin publicity handbook, the real villain in this story isn’t McCain– it’s the mainstream media. McCain didn’t “screw up” his life, he explains, but, rather, the media took away his livelihood. When he met Obama, he “was living the American dream,” but then “the media closed down [his] business for two months.” And, once again, the media takes the fall for spinning his words into their narrative, even though he doesn’t back down from them.

Hannity concludes the interview by getting Wurzelbacher to half-heartedly admit one of the most thinly veiled launches of a political career in recent memory: “You’re Joe the Plumber! Would you consider running [for office]?” Wurzelbacher admits he has considered it, creating a possible scenario that may outdo SNL’s interpretation of a Palin/Glenn Beck win in 2012.

Watch Joe the Plumber on Hannity below:

Kevin Eubanks Leaving Tonight Show (Eventually); John Melendez Out As Announcer

Jay Leno’s longtime bandleader and sidekick Kevin Eubanks will be leaving the Tonight Show, but will still be with the show when it returns March 1.

This story went through several incarnations over the past 24 hours – but it now appears more changes are on the way.

The article that got the most attention was EXTRA’s, which confirmed a report from But in the 2pmET hour on MSNBC, entertainment reporter Courtney Hazlett shot the story down, saying, “Kevin is happy, Jay is happy. They’ll be working together.”

And since it’s all under the NBCU umbrella, it sounded like the story was over. But later that day the story reemerged in several outlets, including the New York Times:

Mr. Eubanks has told colleagues on the show that he will definitely leave his post as leader of what will be a reconstituted “Tonight Show” band (after its brief run as the “Prime Time Band” on Mr. Leno’s 10 p.m. weeknight show) after an interim transition period starting March 1.

And there was a new NBC statement:

Kevin has expressed interest in pursuing personal touring and recording opportunities; however, he will be with the show when it returns.

While EXTRA floated Darius Rucker as a replacement (“Hootie” of Hootie and the Blowfish), while’s Ken Tucker is endorsing Randy Newman.

But that’s not all! James Hibberd is reporting John Melendez is ending his run as announcer, although staying on as writer. So pretty soon, there will be two new job openings. The new Tonight Show is shaping up to be more different from the old Tonight Show than The Jay Leno Show was.

And on that note – here’s the new Tonight Show logo circulating around the web today (one size fits all unfortunately so far). It’s dark, like the clouds above the new incarnation:

> Update: Variety’s Michael Schneider has more background on the logo.

» Follow Steve Krakauer on Twitter

HBO Go Is Nice, But It Won’t Help Cord Cutters

The new “HBO Go” site, which lets you watch some 600 hours of the pay cable service’s programming on the Web, looks nice.

And if you’re a Verizon (VZ) Fios TV subscriber and you pay for HBO, you’ll get access to it for free starting tomorrow. But if you don’t want to wait–and you’re both a Comcast (CMCSA) and HBO subscriber–you can go to Comcast’s and watch the same programming there. It’s all the same stuff.

So to be clear: HBO Go isn’t really a new service. It’s a new site and player*, which perches on top of the same “TV Everywhere” strategy parent company Time Warner (TWX) has been pushing for a year or so. Which you can boil down to: If you pay the cable guys to watch it on TV, they’ll let you watch it online, too.

You can debate the merits of this strategy and whether the programming guys would be better off selling their stuff directly to consumers and skipping the cable middlemen altogether all you want. But the cable-first strategy isn’t going to change anytime soon.

HBO’s aim is to be both “consumer friendly” and “affiliate friendly,” HBO co-president Eric Kessler explained today. Translation: The company wants to make sure it gets paid by the cable guys, who get paid by you and me.

But couldn’t there be some fee I could pay HBO to just go directly to the Web, even at a premium of the price for a regular TV subscription? Nope, says Kessler, who then repeats something you often hear from the cable TV industry:

“The scale of the audience that wants to watch HBO that isn’t buying television, it’s a very small audience.”

Meanwhile, HBO Go points out the difficulty would-be online competitors like Netflix (NFLX) and Apple (AAPL) et al will have providing consumers with what they want when they want it: A lot of the digital rights to the stuff they want are already locked up by the likes of HBO during various “windows.”

One other point: Networks like HBO and cable providers like Comcast both want to be the viewers’ gateway to online video, for obvious reasons. But viewers won’t care whether they’re watching “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO’s site or via Fancast; they just want to watch that episode where Marty Funkhouser tells Jerry Seinfeld a really dirty joke.

So someone–it could be the cable guys themselves or a start-up like Clicker–needs to build a comprehensive TV Guide for the Web. And then hope that they’re right about all those people who are happy to keep paying for TV.

*Because you now need to ask this with every consumer tech rollout: No, HBO Go won’t work on the iPad. Because the site’s player is built with Adobe’s (ADBE) Flash, and Apple wants nothing to do with Flash.

Panel Nerds: Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik’s Fireside Chat

nerdz Who: Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik
What: “Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell: ‘Surveying Mankind from China to Peru‘”
Where: 92nd St. Y
When: February 16, 2010
Thumbs: Up

Leave it to Malcolm Gladwell to come up with a reason why journalism – particularly magazine writing – will survive. Gladwell believes that even if a tiny percentage of people in the world value and subscribe to publications like the New Yorker then that actually translates into a large enough number to sustain the industry. But Gladwell also warned in his chat with his friend, colleague, and debating partner Adam Gopnik that it’s not often that his theories get substantiated by subsequent events.

The truth behind that reality may not lie in the fact that Gladwell’s frequently wrong but in the fact that his opinions often change. For instance, when the two sat down a decade ago for their first of these series of public conversations, Gladwell took a libertarian approach to handling American health care. Over time, however, he’s warmed up to a more nationalist view, thanks in part to Gopnik’s convincing. It also doesn’t hurt that the pair both hail from Canada.

In fact, Canada took on a central role to the debate as the two reminisced about Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and outlined reasons why Canadian culture excels above its American counterpart. President Obama, they said, could learn a thing or two from Trudeau about how to curry favor from his people by expressing contempt for political office. Gladwell also noted that if Americans don’t want Obama, Canada would be happy to take him.

Gopnik led the discussion brilliantly, tying together disparate subjects under larger rubrics like “autonomy.” He connected their conversations about health care and the NFL in Gladwellian ways. But it was Gopnik’s comments on the iPad that were particularly noteworthy. The telegraph should have logically been followed by something like the iPad. Technological innovation, Gopnik said, tends to make handheld versions of existing devices before moving on to new products. So the iPad should have been invented before the telephone.

They asked the audience to imagine how revolutionary the phone would have seemed had it been announced last month instead of the iPad. These types of thought exercises govern how Gladwell views the world.

What They Said
“Our shared motto’s ‘Have check, will argue.’”
- Adam Gopnik says he’s willing to sit down with Malcolm Gladwell any time, any place.

“Maybe what America is is just the idealized male world and the rest of the world if the idealized female world.”
– Malcolm Gladwell explains health care – and why we screw some other areas of the world

“He has the courage to stand up to those who say ‘No way’ and to say ‘Way.’”
- Malcolm Gladwell describes what he wants his tombstone to say, and he wants it written by “Wayne’s World”

“It’s a writing culture and a quick-take culture, but not a reading culture.”
– Adam Gopnik wonders if his teenage son can appreciate the longform magazine reading that his father does for a living

What We Thought

  • Despite leaving Canada, both Gopnik and Gladwell hold their home country in high regard. Gladwell says that part of evaluating a nation’s worth is recognizing who has also left the country. We liked this thinking, though we do question why someone would leave if it’s such a great place to live.
  • We were fascinated by the pair’s views on New York as a city that succeeds thanks to its hospitality to outsiders. If people worldwide were more accepting, New York wouldn’t welcome as many immigrants. The spread of global democracy, they say, will take its toll on New York. We wonder if New York is the model for what is possible or if it’s just a form of an orphanage.

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…Generalizers
Most of the questions, as you would imagine, were directed at Gladwell and his take on things. Some of the questions dealt directly with topics he’s discussed in his works, while others addressed new ideas. But one stood out as particularly outlandish. Someone asked Gladwell how he felt about values and “what can be done.” What values? Whose values? What circumstances involved? It wasn’t clear. Gladwell and Gopnik laughed off the question, saying they are in favor of values. Then they moved onto the next question. If you’re going to go broad with a question, you must eventually come in closer. Staying at a far distance won’t bring you the answers you seek.

Westminster Dog Show 2010: God Loves A Terrier

Congratulations, Sadie the Scottish Terrier! You won the 2010 Westminster Dog Show, an event that seems like it should probably be incredibly stressful for a dog but you seem to be a remarkably even-tempered little pup. So go you with your bright shiny black coat and gleaming white teeth. You’re like the terrier version of Megan Fox.

But really, who doesn’t love a terrier? They are what PetSugar calls “the most winningest group of all” in the (check out the ridiculous terrier dominance here), and as Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara pointed out in “Best In Show,” God loves them. Their terrier won, of course. But in keeping with the Canada-love of this month’s Vancouver Winter Olympics, let’s not forget the original ode to terrier-love: The Terrier Song, sung with gusto by Bruce McCulloch. Anyhow. It’s a day to celebrate terriers, so let’s do it!

Sadie the Terrier wins Westminster’s Best in Show – Fox News

“God Loves A Terrier” – Best In Show

“The Terrier Song” – Kids In The Hall*

But – we can’t forget the Weimaraners. Those are gorgeous dogs, too. And not nearly as high-strung as in Best in Show. How else would they have sat so patiently for photos like this?

Where’s The Busy Bee? – Best In Show (courtesy Phil Bump)


PHOTOS: Westminster Slide Show [NYT]
PHOTOS: Westminster Slide Show [NBC Sports]

Will Bob Balaban Convince Latinos To Stand and Be Counted? [Mediaite]

*”Uh, excuse me ladies — you’re scantily clad and have nothing to do with the narrative, therefore it’s sexist. Sorry.”
**Photo of Sadie the Terrier by Henny Ray Abrams/AP via MSNBC

The Other Ways We’re Watching the Olympics

I really do enjoy the Winter Olympics, and I think that most Americans do recognize them as the massive media event that they are billed as. It is  very different from the Summer games, though. None of us can run 100 yards in nine seconds, and the draw there is the unbelievable athleticism on display. But there’s something accessible about the snow and ice sports – I’ve sledded before, I’ve pushed a broom on ice, of course I can do that.

When the events and ceremonies kicked off this past weekend, fantastic numbers turned into the broadcasts (averaging 33 million and 68 million-strong overall, according to Nielsen). But despite NBC’s massive on-air Olympic investment, this time around plenty of people will get their Olympic fix without watching television at all. Today, there are more ways to interact with the content through digital video and more ways to talk about it through social networks than ever before.

In a column a few weeks ago, I hinted at the fact that there are several new media channels in our lives that may impact how information is shared around a global-scale sporting event like the Olympics. There were plenty of negatives in that shift, and a lot of them may be felt by broadcasting network when they are counting ad revenues and calculating investments. The positives, though, are how quickly must-watch moments rise in attention, and how we interact in response. Whether it’s an amazing 2 and a half minutes of the Gretzky Face or an exhilarating end to the Women’s Moguls, the online channel of social media is changing the way we watch. (Also: check out Geekosystem on an excellent way some of these Tweets are being displayed).

Whereas Beijing was just before the tipping point of the Twitter era, this Olympics falls smack in the middle of it, with both connectivity and media producers at an all time high.  NBC really has upped its game this time when it comes to pushing online video, and a lot of that is due to the evolution of Microsoft’s Silverlight. The application is being impressively used on to provide hundreds of hours of live video, buffer free, and at HD resolutions – with a few new features, too, including on demand controls for individual instant replay. It really does give you all the tools you’ll need to watch Curling from the comfort of your cubicle.

Also, it’s worth noting that some of the best moments from the ceremonies were shown in even greater detail, including an even more robust version of k.d. lang’s rendition of Hallelujah, an interesting foil to some of the initial backlash about NBC’s broadcast of her moment.

The other part that will be fascinating is the timeshifting effect that NBC won’t be able to control. Try as they might, videos will end up on YouTube, and the most impressive (or biggest flops) will find a way to be passed along. We’ll talk about the spills and thrills on Facebook and Twitter, and whereas that may have been a detriment if around in 2006 given the way the Torino games turned out for the big name athletes, it could easily be an audience driver, too.

Torch malfunctions are just one example; the tragedy of Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili certainly developed significant conversation as not only the news, but how NBC handled it, drove Twitter discussions on Friday. That awareness made the introduction of the Georgian delegation that much more noteworthy.

All of this in Vancouver may really be a warm-up, though, and the way digital video and social media play into the events may dictate some of the coverage of June’s World Cup. The Winter Olympics are a fringe event when compared to O Jogo Bonito, and the global scale will add an extra dimension to watch on whatever social network we have in four months. Add in new developments in digital video technology, and the computer screen may really become the most important home for broadcast media.

Disclosure: Microsoft and GE, NBC’s owner, are both clients of my employer; however, opinions contained within this piece are my own.

Dave Levy spends most of his day working on Edelman’s Digital Public Affairs team in Washington, DC. A media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek, he blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing social media world at State of the Fourth Estate. Follow Dave on Twitter here.

Photo above: Lee Sang-Hwa of South Korea and Jenny Wolf of Germany in women’s speed skating 500 m final, by Jamie Squire/Getty Images, via SBNation; “Gretzky Face” via Mediaite.

Rachel Maddow: Glenn Beck Fans The Ones Most Likely To Mail Me Death Threats

If this is the beginning of some sort of media match between Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow, then I think Maddow won the first round. Where to start. To begin, it looks like Glenn Beck is in trouble again for not remembering what he himself has said. This time with Rachel Maddow. However, unlike his last exchange with Arianna Huffington over his use of the word “slaughter,” Maddow actually packs a serious punch. Of all the media persons, critics, pseudo-critics, or comedians out there, Maddow is really the only one who I think stands a serious chance of taking Beck on (something that is in no small part due to her sense of humor).

You can watch the video below for an explanation of the entire back-and-forth (and I recommend that you do, because it’s long) but the short-ish version is that last week Maddow had on Bill Nye the Science Guy to talk climate change and he called the people on TV who were suggesting that the East Coast’s recent snowy deluge was a sign global warming was a hoax “unpatriotic.” Glenn Beck responded on his radio program asking “who has claimed that this snowstorm is proof that global warming doesn’t exist?” Turns out Beck has! A fact Maddow noted on a following show. Subsequently, Beck played back Maddow’s clip (please watch the video below for full black eye-band effect), but somehow edited out the part where she produces her evidence, essentially calling Maddow a liar. Last night, Maddow replayed the entire thing to illustrate Beck’s selective editing followed by more examples (I told you this was a long back and forth). She then had this to say (video below):

Mr. Beck is supposedly the best they got. Mr. Beck is this phenomenon who they’re keeping on for his ratings even as he’s lost so many sponsors. He’s supposedly the leader of a political movement, not just a TV host. I get hate mail from all sorts of conservatives all the time, I always have, but it is the hate mail from self-proclaimed fans of Mr. Beck that is mostly likely to contain death threats and threats of violence against me. Expressed as extensions of the frenzied devotion that his fans feel for him. They think he is the second coming.

And in conclusion:

Glenn Beck is telling his viewers that I’m a liar and a propagandist for pointing out his cockamamie claim that snowfall disproves global warming. He has, in fact, made that cockamamie claim. A lot. No matter how much he denies it…I commend Mr. Beck for his success. I wish his giant audience all the best. He has made a lot of people very afraid about a lot of things and that tried and true strategy has reaped big financial rewards for him and for Fox News. I think it’s between you and your God or you and your conscience as to how much you’re willing to stir up American’s fear and prejudice for profit. But it’s between you and me when you accuse me of lying. I didn’t lie. Back off.

BACK OFF. I’m not unconvinced that Maddow should not make fact-checking Beck at least a weekly part of her show, though, alas, I suspect she may feel it’s beneath her. In the meantime, we will have to wait and see whether Beck actually does “back off” (I suspect, no) and/or whether he takes this to the next level and addresses it on his television show in all his chalkboard glory (I think the remark about violent fan mail might get under his skin more than anything). One can dream. Video below.