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Sacha Baron Cohen’s Partner in Crime Seizes the Spotlight

Behind every great comedian, there’s a great writer. For Sacha Baron Cohen, that man is Dan Mazer.

The two met way back in primary school, at the Harberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree, a tiny village in Hertfordshire, England; performed in stand-up shows whilst attending Cambridge; began collaborating together professionally on The 11 O’Clock Show, a late-night comedy satire modeled after The Daily Show; and continued their creative partnership on Da Ali G Show, the Borat films, Brüno, and Who Is America?, earning three Emmy nods and two Oscar nominations along the way.

“We were just commenting last week how we’ve been working together for 23 years and are still enjoying it,” says Mazer. “What a crazy journey, from a school in Elstree to the Oscars.”

After years serving as a writer, producer, and director on various projects with his old pal, Mazer has a pair of anticipated projects all his own. First is The Exchange, a heartwarming new film (out July 30) directed by Mazer and written by The Simpsons’ Tim Long. It centers on Tim (Ed Oxenbould), a geeky high school teen in a small Canadian town who takes on a gregarious foreign exchange student from France, Stéphane (Avan Jogia). Stéphane helps the reticent Tim come out of his shell, while the pair force the closed-minded community to confront its prejudice—namely Gary (Justin Hartley), the school’s odious soccer coach who despises Stéphane because he’s “an Arab.”

“The fear of the outsider is the first refuge of a scared, conservative society,” explains Mazer. “It’s a timeless theme that’s very depressing.”

And next for Mazer is the Home Alone reboot, out later this year on Disney+. Boasting an all-star cast, including Jojo Rabbit’s Archie Yates, Rob Delaney, Ellie Kemper, Kenan Thompson, and a cameo from Macaulay Culkin, reprising his role as Kevin McCallister, Mazer says it’s a “clever reimagining” of the original that’s focused more on the adults breaking into the home (Delaney and Kemper) than the child defending it (Yates).

In a wide-ranging chat, I spoke with Mazer about his comedy journey—and the prank so disturbing that he and Sacha Baron Cohen had to hand over their footage to the FBI.

I’m sorry for your team’s recent loss in the Euro final.

[Laughs] Thank you very much. I appreciate your sympathy. I’m still reeling. It hit me very hard. But I’m going to grow and be a stronger person as a result.

I was pulling for you guys. I’ve been rooting against the Italian team ever since Zidane had to headbutt that guy for saying terrible stuff to him on the pitch—and there’s a nod to that headbutt in The Exchange.

The Zidane headbutt! You’re right—an absolute nod to it. I grew up in a relatively small town in slightly more suburban England, and the script resonated with me because I felt I had a very similar childhood experience to Tim Long, where I was slightly the outsider for having weird music taste, reading books, and watching David Lynch films while everyone else was watching Porky’s or Revenge of the Nerds. Whether it’s England, or small-town Canada, or small-town America, I think the themes are pretty universal. I had a French exchange partner myself, and had previously toyed with doing an exchange comedy myself.

Tim (Ed Oxenbould) and Stéphane (Avan Jogia) in The Exchange

Quiver Distribution

It is a heartwarming film and also a far cry from the way exchange students were portrayed in ’80s and ’90s teen comedies, which tended to treat them as caricatures.

That’s what I loved about the film as well. I think the themes—and its message—are more important now than ever. It’s weird that we’re still asking the same questions and facing the same dilemmas as we did in the ’80s, and society hasn’t really moved on when it comes to the way we treat strangers, outsiders, immigration, all that sort of stuff. The themes that I tried to examine in the stuff that I’ve done with Sacha also funnels through to this, because there is a beauty in using comedy to highlight issues. Laugh first, think second, but go home still thinking.

I grew up with films like American Pie, and it’s hard to even fathom now, but the finale of that film consists of a group of American teenage boys secretly broadcasting the female foreign exchange student undressing and masturbating to the entire community. That was played for laughs.

Right. It’s “the funny foreigner.” The stuff we’ve done with Borat definitely plays with the perception of what a “foreigner” is. That’s part of the satire of Bruno—people see him with his accent and funny suit and behave differently because they think he’s a rube from another country. That feeds through to what I love about The Exchange, albeit in a more grounded and authentic way.

Stephane is also of Arab descent, and there’s a scene where he’s bullied by some white students who tape his face over a newspaper clipping of a terrorist. It reminded me a bit of the atmosphere in post-9/11 America, where anyone Arab-looking was ruthlessly bullied.

I remember we were shooting Borat in 2005 or 2006, and there’s a bit in the film where Sacha has a mustache and realtively dark skin, and the guy who’s running the rodeo tells him to shave his mustache. First he goes, “You’re Muslim?” and Sacha in character goes, “No.” So then he says, “If you’re gonna get on in this country, you’ve gotta shave that mustache because people are gonna think you’re a Muslim, and we don’t like Muslims around here.” That’s an extraordinary thing to say to a guy who isn’t a Muslim and just is walking around with a mustache. I think that was a very common reaction post-9/11.

You mentioned the rodeo sequence in Borat, and I heard that director Todd Phillips quit after that sequence. Just walked off the set.

He did. Yeah. Almost immediately.

Why did he quit after shooting that sequence? Was he offended?

No. I shouldn’t really go into it, but… it just wasn’t necessarily the best fit. It was nothing related to the rodeo, Todd and Sacha were just not the best creative fit for each other.

I read that you met Sacha at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School when you were both quite young.

Yes. I was 11, and he was the year above me at school, so we weren’t best friends or anything, but always knew each other. He was a large presence even then. Everybody knew about Sacha. We moved in similar circles, and then went to university at the same time and became friendly at university, hung out a bit more, and when we got out of university stayed friends. He was running stand-up clubs and I would do these stand-up spots, as well as writing, and it evolved where I was working on a show called The 11 O’Clock Show, which was sort of like The Daily Show, and he started working on it. We started working together on Ali G segments, and writing and producing those, and we didn’t stop after that point. We were just commenting last week how we’ve been working together for 23 years and are still enjoying it. What a crazy journey, from a school in Elstree to the Oscars.

Twenty-three years. That’s incredible. You mentioned that you were more like the character of Tim in The Exchange, and that Sacha was “a large presence.” I’m curious what you two were like as kids in boys’ school.

[Laughs] Sacha, to his great credit, has not changed since he was 11 years old. He’s always been the life of the party and the center of attention, and instead of the school playground being his forum it’s the world, and the Oscars. I definitely wasn’t a shrinking violet. I was lively and loquacious and garrulous and all those sorts of things, and I performed and did stand-up. He’s definitely more extroverted than I was. Certainly now. We were too afraid of authority to do anything too dangerous and prank-y. Our idea of a prank is, my best friend to this very day is a guy called Chris, and I just remember going round and what I’d do every morning is write on every whiteboard and blackboard, “I love Depeche Mode,” and sign it “Chris Little.” He didn’t even like Depeche Mode, and he would constantly get in trouble for it every day. He knew I was doing it but couldn’t prove it.

I really enjoyed Who Is America? And it was just in the news that a judge tossed Roy Moore’s $95 million defamation suit against Sacha and the show.

[Laughs] Exactly. For that amazing reputation he was trying to protect. Nobody ever thought anything bad of him until he came along!

$95 million. Talk about an inflated sense of self-worth.

[Laughs] Who knew that Roy Moore had an inflated sense of self-worth? Who Is America? was bloody great.

I thought the character of Israeli military expert Erran Morad, in particular, was just brilliant. It was such a clever play on America’s fealty to Israel.

That’s why Roy Moore essentially agreed to the interview. I think he wanted to be a friend of Israel, and so he decided to follow through with our request because thought it would reflect well on his loyalty to the Israeli government.

There was a Who Is America? bit that I heard you had to cut related to Harvey Weinstein. You were apparently doing a sketch with a concierge in Las Vegas and asked him about molesting children, and Sacha had coaxed a semi-confession from the guy about how to cover up pedophilia, and you cut it from the show because you all found it to be too disturbing.

Oh yes, it was much too dark. The story went that we were at this suite in Las Vegas—the same suite we interviewed O.J. in—and found this Las Vegas fixer. The Gio character said that he’d gotten in trouble the night before with a young boy, and could this guy clean it up for him and make sure nobody found out—and at the same time, asked him if there were any other young boys that he knew of, specifying that “around bar mitzvah age would be perfect.” And he went on to go, “Well, yeah, what would you like? How young? What’s the oldest you’d go? What’s the youngest you’d go? How can I sort it out for you?” It was mind-blowingly dark, and certainly not side-splittingly funny, and consequently as a result we felt it was too dark to put in this TV show. But it’s amazing that this world exists and that we could expose it in some way, and ultimately, we passed on all the details to the FBI and told them what was going on. As an actual crime hadn’t been committed by him, there was nothing that they could do.

And he went on to go, “Well, yeah, what would you like? How young? What’s the oldest you’d go? What’s the youngest you’d go? How can I sort it out for you?” It was mind-blowingly dark…

Was that the only time that you and Sacha had done an interview that was so fucked up that you had to pass information on to the FBI?

Definitely to pass on information to the FBI. We’ve had other disturbing interviews where you think, “This is too dark and revolting to put on air.” I remember doing an interview with Ali G and David Duke back in the day. We thought it was a steal and that we were going to expose him, but the thing with David Duke is: you’re not exposing anything because he’s not shy about his opinions of how “Jews are inferior” and “white people and non-white people shouldn’t mate because of eugenics and skull sizes” and disgusting things like that. We didn’t put it out, because it was too reprehensible to give him the platform.

When we were doing the interview—and we usually try to keep the room empty, because advisers would step in and try to stop it—what I would have to do is, if there were PR people or an assistant there, is distract them by talking to them. David Duke brought his head of press, who holds similar views, and for the two-hour-long interview, I had to sit with his PR person and distract him, and in order to do so I had to pretend to be a card-carrying racist. He would be talking about “filthy Jews controlling the media” and I would have to be like, “The Jews are the worst!” in order to keep the conversation going and keep them on our side. It was the most skin-crawling two hours of my life, dealing with this revolting individual. I remember being in the car afterwards and both of us feeling dirty about the whole exercise. We couldn’t even broadcast it and we’d been in the company of monsters.

It’s always interesting to me how these white supremacists tend to look more like David Duke than, say, Chris Hemsworth.

[Laughs] That’s true. I think it speaks to a bigger thing where it’s often a reaction to people who don’t have the best outlook on life, and if you’re born a winner and you look gorgeous, you usually don’t need hate to justify your own existence.

Sacha Baron Cohen (as Ali G) and Olivia Wilde speak onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016, in Hollywood, California.

Kevin Winter/Getty

Could you talk about the genesis of the Ali G character? And do you think Ali G could even be on the air today?

I’m not sure broadcasters would be brave enough to put Ali G on air today if we’d invented him today. I think that’s probably true. There are too many red flags and controversies and difficulties associated with that for anybody to be brave enough to do that. But the inspiration behind it is still as prevalent and timely today as it was when we created it in the late ’90s. There are Ali Gs that exist all over the world, and it’s a funny comedy character. It’s still as relevant, and funny, and lively, and stupid, and watchable as it ever was. We always loved writing for Ali G, and above all else, he’s just a sort of idiot. And it’s fun writing for idiots.

As a head writer on The Ali G Show were you the one who was tasked with hiring a very young Seth Rogen? What was he… a teenager back then?

Yeah! He was a little bit older than that, but it was Seth and Evan [Goldberg]. We hired both of them together for the HBO show, and they’d come on the road with us and share a room with each other—because they didn’t want to use too much of our budget, and we didn’t want to use too much of our budget paying for them. They were great, and even then, palpably brilliant, disruptive, radical, and brilliant. And on Brüno, we wrote with Jonah Hill for ages. He came on in the writers’ room for us. That’s something not that many people know about, but he was very funny and super clever.

And there was of course the infamous Trump prank on The Ali G Show. Trump tried to claim that he caught on to the ruse quick and walked right out of the interview, whereas Sacha claimed it was BS and that he’d sat there for seven minutes.

It was more than that, actually. He sat there and tolerated it. He’s an impatient man, so 10 minutes of his time is a bit like two hours of somebody else’s time. He definitely sat there and fell for it. It wasn’t the best bit we’ve ever done, but he definitely bought it. The ice-cream glove!

Trump has seemed to harbor a grudge toward Sacha and you guys ever since. I remember when Sacha was dressed as The Dictator and poured ashes on Ryan Seacrest while walking the Oscars’ red carpet, Trump made a Vine video from his desk whining about how much of a “lowlife” Sacha was for the prank.

Almost more than anybody I’ve ever witnessed, he’s clearly a man devoid of any sort of sense of humor or self-referential anything. To me, the weirdest thing is that Donald Trump was the subject of a Comedy Central Roast. Not even HBO! The president of America went on a Comedy Central Roast, let comedians go on these diatribes about him, and three years later he was president of America. That is such an extraordinary cultural moment that’s been passed over. I can’t quite comprehend it.

Oh, I remember that roast. My favorite joke from it was probably by Anthony Jeselnik, who told Trump, “The only difference between you and Michael Douglas from the movie Wall Street is that nobody is going to be sad when you get cancer.”

[Laughs] I could listen to Anthony Jeselnik all day. His one-liners kill.

I also wanted to talk to you about Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, because it came out months into the pandemic—October 2020—and people really needed it. Did you buy Rudy Giuliani’s excuse of tucking in his shirt?

[Laughs] He seemed to really be enjoying tucking in his shirt is all I would say. He was very diligent to make sure it was absolutely tucked in, making sure that there was no chance of that shirt ever coming out. He wasn’t the brightest legal brain of Trump’s regime, and it wasn’t exactly the greatest alibi ever created. No, he was not tucking.

I’m curious what it’s like to write on a project like Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. With something like the Giuliani sequence, are you sort of framing the scenario?

It’s really interesting writing those things, because it’s a mixture of the creative and the logistical. It’s like planning a bank robbery—but making the bank robbery hilarious and entertaining. Not only do we have to work out whether we can make a really funny scene—in terms of the lines, the comedy, and how it fits into the narrative—but we also have to figure out how we’re going to do this. So, it’s two distinct halves of the brain that we’re using that combine to create this scene. That’s the amazing challenge, and it’s slightly underestimated as well.

I write with Sacha and write ordinary scripted narrative comedy films as well, and it’s insane the amount of effort you put into writing a scene for an “orthodox” movie. You’ll do 20 drafts of it, spend two days filming it with 40 different setups, lighting, camera, costumes, and then go edit it. We have to do it in one take with one camera—sometimes two cameras—with at least one person in the scene who doesn’t know they’re in the scene, and we have to make it as satisfying creatively as a scene in any other movie. When you add to that that it’s someone of the stature of Rudy Giuliani that you have to get on his own, in the middle of a pandemic, and make sure he doesn’t suspect anything, it’s just an absolute tightrope. You’ve put so much into it, you only have one shot at it, and you know it has to be brilliant.

And you’re directing the new Home Alone reboot, which is exciting.

This will be put in the pantheon of 1 and 2 rather than 3, 4, 5 and 6 as far as its scale, ambition, and hopefully, enjoyment.

How will yours stand apart from the OG Christopher Columbus/John Hughes version?

But this film is more about the people breaking in than it is about the kids defending. We have Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney playing the parents, who are essentially fulfilling the role of the Wet Bandits, although we’re rooting for what they want to do. So, it was a very clever reimagining of the concept by the two brilliant writers, Mikey [Day] and Streeter [Seidell], who are two of the head writers on SNL. I approached it with a degree of skepticism when they first put it my way, but the script is brilliant, fresh, and a totally new perspective, and I just fell in love with it.

What’s next after Home Alone? I see you have a few projects up on the IMDb, although I know the IMDb lies.

I’m still finishing up Home Alone, and then I really don’t know. I know I want to stay being funny and making comedies, and the world of the R-rated comedy is fast-diminishing and disappearing but it’s the world I love, and most of my favorite movies are in that genre, so I would hate to see it disappear and would love to keep that going somehow.

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Simone Biles Training ‘Turn by Turn’ at Undisclosed Gym to Get Back Into Games, but Time Is Against Her

Somewhere in Tokyo, in a gym full of big, super-soft landing mats, Simone Biles is trying to get her Olympics back on track, working “day by day, turn by turn” to chase away the “twisties.”

But America’s greatest gymnast appears to be running out of time if she wants to compete again in Japan.

Biles, the four-time Olympic champion, has been the most talked-about athlete of the Tokyo Games after dropping out of the team competition after the opening vault and then deciding not to defend her all-around title from Rio.

On Thursday night she spoke directly to her 6.1 million fans on Instagram to explain what the problem was and what she’s been doing to overcome it. Typically, for the woman who led the fight against the abuse of young female gymnasts, she gave herself nowhere to hide.

The now-deleted post on Instagram Stories featured a couple of training videos in which Biles showed herself trying, and failing, to land exercises on the uneven bars during training Thursday. She annotated the videos herself, explaining what’s going wrong, how she’s no longer in control of her twists, and has no idea how she is going to land when she is in the air.

“For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit. My mind and body are simply not in sync,” she wrote.

Biles’ problems at the Olympics, which she says really began after the Tokyo preliminaries, have been a huge talking point both in Japan and back home in the U.S. As critics accused her of abandoning her team, fellow gymnasts swung behind her to insist that she had made the only possible decision. They said “the twisties”—when a gymnast loses her air sense—is not really equivalent to a golfer’s “yips”; given the inherent risks of the sport, it can be catastrophic.

After inviting questions from her 6.1 million Instagram followers, Biles said suffering from twisties was “the strangest & weirdest thing.”

“Literally cannot tell up from down,” she said. “It’s the craziest feeling ever. Literally not having an inch of control over your body.

“What’s even scarier is since I have no idea where I am in the air I also have NO idea how I’m going to land or what I’m going to land on, head/hands/feet/back…”

The 24-year-old could still take part in Tokyo’s individual events, which start Sunday, but she said she needed special facilities—pits full of thick, soft mats—to be able to train safely. “There is a place in Japan that has been so sweet to open their doors for me to train,” she wrote, not naming the gym in question but promising to thank them when the Games are over.

Time is not on her side. Biles said that she has previously suffered from the twisties, on the floor and vault rather than in all four disciplines, and it had taken her some time to recover.

“Typically for me it’s usually two or more weeks when I’ve had them before,” she wrote. “Honestly no telling… time frame something you have take literally day by day, turn by turn.”

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Biden’s Confusing the Shit Out of America

What we have here is failure to communicate.

I’m talking about the Biden administration’s tendency to issue confusing statements and then walk them back and clarify what they really meant. One minor, but recent, example involves the wearing of masks. As David Leonhardt writes in The New York Times, “The White House added to the confusion” on Tuesday by emailing staffers and telling them they would have to again wear masks. “The email explained that the C.D.C. had recently upgraded Washington, D.C., to having ‘substantial’ transmission, from ‘moderate,’” the article continues. However, “The online C.D.C. map… still showed the city as yellow, meaning it had only modest transmission.”

Did the White House get it wrong? Was the CDC map simply out of date? Does the email hint at vaccine mandates for all federal workers? It’s not clear—and that’s my point. “Clear messaging is one of the most powerful tools that public health officials have,” Leonhardt writes, “but only when they use it. And the CDC and the Biden administration did not do so.”

My guess is that Biden will eventually clarify this, as he so often does or has his spokespeople do for him. But clarifying things is one way of cleaning up a mess, which means there was a mess to begin with—as we saw again on Thursday when Biden stepped on his own vaccine announcement for a confusing argument with a reporter as he walked away at the end of his event. We have enough existing messes to clean up without manufacturing new ones. This president loves to say “let me be clear” but he’s often anything but clear—including on critical matters of public health.

It has gotten to the point that even those of us predisposed to want to “follow the science” are often left confused and demoralized, like someone who just ran their first 26.2-mile marathon, only to be told there are a couple of miles left to go.

Just imagine the toll this takes on people who were already predisposed to distrust the experts on things like, I don’t know, whether to get vaccinated. The point is, anything that introduces doubt—anything that portrays experts as incompetent, inept, impotent, or corrupt—greatly damages the moral authority needed to wage a health campaign of this magnitude. There is little room for error, and our president and the experts he’s relying on have not pitched a perfect game. Far from it.

Let me be clear: It’s clear that the Biden administration is a tightly disciplined messaging operation headed by a guy who can’t keep his shit together. This is not necessarily about age: Biden has always been a gaffe machine, and Republicans cynically using every slip of the tongue to groundlessly suggest that the president is senile aren’t just poisoning the waters, they are inoculating Biden from legitimate criticism in the process.

Donald Trump said worse. Maybe just not being Trump will continue to be enough to sustain the support of Biden’s base. But if, like me, you believe that words matter, and that a leader’s ability to communicate eloquently is a significant part of the job, then it’s clear that Biden isn’t just missing opportunities to solve problems (such as our polarization), and isn’t just wasting time and energy on damage control. He is, at times, creating needless new problems.

And these issues extend beyond the virus. In recent weeks, Biden has walked back comments saying that Facebook is “killing people.” It took him three days to clarify that statement. “[I]nstead of taking it personally,” Biden said that he hopes the company will do a better job of policing misinformation about COVID-19. He ended up making a pretty defensible point, and people seem to be grateful for his willingness to clarify.

But if you thought Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip rhetoric about his adversaries was dangerous, promiscuous, and provocative, then Biden’s comments would certainly qualify as being in the same category. Is it wrong to expect a president to be more prudent and careful with his language?

Biden also famously walked back deal-breaking comments saying that the bipartisan infrastructure deal was linked to the reconciliation plan—and he seems to have gotten away with that explanation, too. He’s lucky. What Biden did was to seemingly pull the rug out from under Republicans who were already putting their careers on the line by working across the aisle with him. In so doing, he risked undermining his own landmark legislation. As CNN’s Stephen Collinson noted, “Joe Biden’s cherished bipartisan infrastructure plan was nearly destroyed by a few of his own ill-chosen words…”

A White House press release at the time said that “President Biden believes that we are at [an] inflection point between democracy and autocracy. At this moment in our history, President Biden believes we must demonstrate to the world that American democracy can deliver for the American people.” That’s a lot of pressure to put on an infrastructure deal, but with stakes that high, you’d think he would be a little more careful.

And a few weeks ago, in response to a question about Afghanistan, he called a reporter’s inquiry a “negative” question, before immediately changing it to the word “legitimate.” But he still ducked a serious question about a policy that could likely lead to Taliban forces retaking the country (among other negative consequences). “I want to talk about happy things, man,” he said, waving away the question. “Look, it’s Fourth of July.”

But let’s be honest: if Trump did this, people would be all over him.

My guess is that many Americans and nearly all of the press corps have decided that Biden is as good as it gets. “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time,” in the words of the late Donald Rumsfeld. But that’s a sad commentary on the state of our country.

Imagine if we had confronted the COVID-19 crisis with a leader who had the moral authority and the rhetorical eloquence to lead and communicate. Winston Churchill, it is said, “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” Is it asking too much for America to have a president who isn’t evil and can also string together a few sentences without having to “clarify” them a few days later?

I hope not, but, like the movie says, “some men, you just can’t reach.”

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Houston for Tourists? If You Think That’s a Joke, the Joke’s on You

Have you ever been somewhere that was simply enjoyable? Good food, memorable attractions, a culture different from your own, and people who generally seemed happy to be living there?

Houston as a leisure tourist destination might not sound convincing to most, but after spending a handful of days there at the start of summer, I can heartily attest that it’s a place that was, quite simply, fun.

And so, it’s the latest selection for our twice-a-month series on underrated destinations, It’s Still a Big World.

Don’t get me wrong—for me Houston remains a place impossible to comprehend, and as I set out to write about it, I find it nearly impossible to firmly grasp a coherent vision of the place. After all, it’s huge. It’s also, arguably, America’s most diverse major city—racially, politically, socioeconomically, culturally—and so what follows is admittedly the tiniest sliver of a tiny sliver of experiencing America’s fourth largest city.

The tenor of the visit was created by my first stop and home for my stay—the recently restored, expanded, and reopened La Colombe d’Or. Named after the famed French spot, it’s located in Montrose (a neighborhood once known for its countercultural vibe) and housed in the 1920s mansion of a Texas oil tycoon. Over the past couple years, the Zimmerman family has added the bungalows in the back and now a luxury high-rise.

While it can be a trap to rely on the views of Uber drivers for one’s impression of a city, since they have no reason to prevaricate (not knowing what I do), it’s often insightful. And every time one realized they were dropping me back off at La Colombe they made a remark along the lines of being excited for its reopening or that they’d heard that it was, a sign of the property as a community touchstone of sorts.

The suites in the original house are spacious and appointed with care. Those in the tower have a more globalist modern aesthetic, while those in the bungalows are quirky. The gym (shared with the tower residence) is one you wouldn’t mind being a member of and the pool looks out over the metastasizing expanse of Houston.

The Bar at La Colombe d’Or

Tarick Foteh

The real allure, and why you should swing by even if staying elsewhere, are the public spaces. The dining rooms and bar are beautifully decorated and there is art everywhere. And not guy from down the street art. Raoul Dufy, Man Ray, a Picasso lithograph, Dorothy Hood, etc. And all in places that seem a little too exposed to a diner’s potential splatter!

And, gosh, was the food good. I love a good hotel breakfast, and the Colombe’s will make it incredibly difficult to want to try other options in Houston. And the drinks were representative of something I found everywhere I went in Houston—they were made by people who enjoy drinking.

Houston for tourism may not be convincing (yet), but its culinary scene has been anything but underrated in the last decade. My experience dipping a toe into a tiny portion of that scene matched those expectations. The three restaurants where I ate dinner—Squable, Bludorn, and MAD—were all fantastic with very different experiences.

I just want to walk into a home every day filled with the smell of the short rib from Squable, and the waitress there told me to get the sourdough to soak up the broth and I’m forever glad she did. Bludorn is happening. If you want excellent people watching in a restaurant where the food is great and the buzz of conversation from people dressed up to go out to dinner is more cacophony than hum, this is your spot. A slice of Houston I won’t soon forget. And MAD is just nuts—one of those restaurants where they do things like make desserts look like sunny-side-up eggs and the interior is a total mindfuck. Plus, it’s in the swanky new River Oaks District shopping village, so, more people watching.

One of the best parts about visiting Houston as a tourist is you’re mostly competing with Houstonians, and most of the restaurants, bars, and attractions haven’t been altered by the need to placate the tourist gaze.

For instance the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH), Houston’s main art museum housed in buildings by the likes of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Rafael Moneo, has 83 percent of its visitors from a 40 mile radius. Which is wild since the collection is superb—Canaletto, Kishi Ganku, Pissaro, Monet, Worth gowns, the Mackay silver Tiffany butterfly napkin clips (worth a visit themselves), Van Gogh, Berni, and a new personal favorite, Grupo Mondongo. And it’s always one of the destinations on the museum circuit for blockbuster exhibitions. (Also the cafe at the MFAH is delicious and reasonably priced.)

The MFAH isn’t the only cultural powerhouse, as Houston is home to the Menil Collection. Created by the wealthy French immigrants who plopped down in Texas in the mid-20th century and seriously collected art, it’s also nowadays a template for many private art museums like the Glenstone outside D.C. Inside the Renzo Piano-designed complex are lots of Rothko and medieval art and Matisse, but truly the most unforgettable is the Cy Twombly gallery.

Twombly is the American painter who some might recognize most for the paintings that look like somebody scribbled on a canvas, but if you needed convincing of his genius this is the place to go. Walking the rooms (particularly the one with the green painted canvases) was sublime.

Just down the street is another contribution from a Menil family member, the Rothko Chapel. Inside this brown brick hut is a large atrium with giant black paintings by Rothko ringing the room. (Sadly, the Turrell Skyspace was closed when I was in town).

But there’s also a new entry into the art scene—the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Created out of the former drinking water reservoir under the ever growing park that slices through the middle of Houston, it’s a cavernous space primed for the kind of installation art pieces such as the one currently on display by Albanian artist Anri Sala titled Time No Longer. It’s got video, blackouts, creepy audio and all set among the thin concrete columns reflected off the thin layer of water remaining.

The park is one of a number that have help rehabilitate the reputation of Houston as an endless sprawl of highways and parking lots (don’t get me wrong, it has plenty of those still). While in the Museum District, swing through the free Hermann Park, which despite getting knocked back by the recent freeze still has plenty to make it worth the stroll.

If nothing I’ve talked about, whether it be cultural curiosity about a mega-city likely very different from your home or food or art, has convinced you to go to Houston, two house museums operated by the MFAH should do the trick.

The first is, I’m sorry, everything you imagined Houston money might have done.

The Rienzi is housed in a pink stucco manse in the city’s famed River Oaks District (just grab a car and cruise around it, you’ll be glad). The collection of decorative objects and art mainly from Europe is actually lovely, with a number of pieces you’ll find intriguing. But the rooms they are displayed in are a weird Frankenstein fusion of historicist and 50s modern. And the backside seems intent on reminding you it’s a backside. BUT, but, but, do not miss it. It’s such a capsule of an era and a way of living that it’s actually delightful even if it’s not your taste.

Just across the bayou, however, is a house almost guaranteed to please. Built by Ima Hogg (yup, you read that right) in a sort of Southern Regency style, it was actually designed by the same architect as Rienzi, John Staub. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the house is a dream. But inside it houses one of the best (if not the best) early American decorative arts collections. Hogg built the rooms in the house as period sets to showcase her magnificent collection, starting from the early colonial era up through the mid-19th century, and even has one on early Texas design with a cattle horn chair from San Antonio. While that is fun, and so too are the Greek Revival and messy Victorian Clutter rooms, the show-stopper, undoubtedly, is the Federal-style dining room. It is truly elegance made manifest.

I’m a firm believer in experiencing places for what they are. Only New York City is New York City, and only the Cyclades are the Cyclades. Houston will not be a city you find as interesting as I did if you go in expecting it to be something other than what it is. It’s the great American city of the 21st century in some ways and not slowing down—so you might as well check it out.

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The Real-Life Superheroes Rescuing ISIS Sex Slaves

Documentaries can be informative, enlightening, enraging, intriguing, and inspiring—but they are rarely edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. Not so with Sabaya. Detailing the work of a few male and female activists who rescue enslaved Yazidi women from the clutches of ISIS in war-torn Syria, writer/director/editor/cinematographer Hogir Hirori’s film boasts a proximity to its action that’s nail-bitingly extreme. From early imagery shot from the POV of a woman wearing a niqab (i.e. an all-encompassing veil) as she walks through a camp’s dusty marketplace streets, her identity as an interloper concealed only by the black garment covering her from head to toe, it’s an anxiety-inducing portrait of courage and suffering.

In select theaters July 30 (followed by a nationwide expansion and virtual-cinema rollout on Aug. 6), Sabaya concerns the Yazidis, a Kurdish ethnic and religious minority from the northern Iraq province of Sinjar, which was attacked seven years ago by ISIS, here referred to by their Arabic acronym Daesh. During this attack, thousands of women and girls were kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and turned into sex slaves to be passed around amongst the Daesh ranks, who beat and raped them with impunity. Those Yazidi victims are known as “sabaya,” and though Daesh’s fortunes have lately taken a turn for the worse, they’ve yet to relinquish their captives, many of whom have been hidden at al-Hol camp, an overcrowded Syrian outpost comprised of makeshift UNICEF tents and populated by children as well as women whose faces (and identities) are wholly obscured by their mandated niqabs.

Given that al-Hol is guarded by Daesh soldiers, and that abducted Yazidi women are hard to properly ID, any attempted rescue missions are fraught with peril. Nonetheless, the nominal focus of Sabaya, Mahmud, is committed to carrying out such snatch-and-grab operations on a near-nightly basis. To do this, he recruits former sabaya to be infiltrators—i.e. undercover agents who can locate targets from within the al-Hol camp, and then relay their whereabouts to him and his accomplice, Shejk Ziyad, the founder of the non-profit Yazidi Home Center where both men reside with their families. In scene after scene, Mahmud tries with great difficulty to communicate with these infiltrators via cellphone, and the fact that his calls routinely drop out due to bad service proves a fitting metaphor for his struggle to reach those in mortal danger.

Except for a few text cards that contextualize its fly-on-the-wall material, Sabaya is an immersive experience. Amidst panoramas of this desolate desert milieu, Hirori’s camera stays fixed on Mahmud as he and his cohorts drive into the al-Hol camp, guns drawn, under the shadow of night, searching urgently and methodically for imprisoned Yazidi women. In those instances, the film achieves an almost unbearable level of tension, since life and death really do hang in the balance. On these trips, Mahmud repeatedly encounters Daesh women who claim ignorance about the individuals he seeks, and it’s only through no-nonsense cajoling and persistence that Mahmud finds who he’s looking for. Even then, though, things remain at a fever pitch—highlighted by one mission that concludes with Mahmud and Shejk being pursued on a remote road by a truck full of Daesh fighters who honk menacingly at them before opening fire.

The threat of doom looms over virtually every second of Sabaya, which accompanies Mahmud on many journeys into this heart of darkness. A balding man with a narrow face decorated by a pedestrian mustache, Mahmud doesn’t resemble the sort of action-movie badass that puts life and limb on the line on behalf of the innocent and persecuted. The impression of him as an ordinary nobody compelled by morality and circumstance to do something extraordinary is amplified by those quiet daytime moments when, in between spotty phone calls with his infiltrators, he lounges about with his son, cooks in the kitchen, and is gently berated by his wife for not being around for his own clan. Mahmud and Shejk’s nondescript appearances and comportment only underscore their amazing valor.

Alongside the duo as they weave their way through maze-like al-Hol, or pressed up against rear windshields or the front seats of their minivan—a getaway car that’s as ramshackle as the Yazidi Home Center itself, and thus a further testament to their limited-resources bravery—Hirori’s camera provides stunning up-close-and-personal views of its subjects. That also goes for the successfully rescued sabaya, whose gratitude for being liberated is hardly enough to overshadow the unthinkable trauma they’ve endured. Having lost all her relatives to Daesh, one woman, Leila, confesses, “I hate this world. Everything is black… Soon, you will hear I committed suicide.” For her and others, including 7-year-old Mitra, the psychological and emotional torment inflicted by Daesh will never fully disappear, even after their safety has been secured and their niqabs have been burned (as Mahmud’s wife does, in a practical and symbolic act).

Having lost all her relatives to Daesh, one woman, Leila, confesses, “I hate this world. Everything is black… Soon, you will hear I committed suicide.”

In one heartbreaking example of this nightmare’s complexity, a rescued sabaya is forced, before departing to reunite with her family, to abandon her child, because the tyke was the byproduct of rape by her Daesh husband, and thus won’t be accepted by other Yazidi. It’s clear from Sabaya’s wrenching drama that, no matter how many kidnapped victims Mahmud retrieves—in a coda, the film reveals that the Yazidi Home Center has saved 206 women and girls to date—pain and misery will continue to flourish, in one form or another. Yet Mahmud and his infiltrators persevere, determined to do the right thing at tremendous personal risk, which only increases when Mahmud visits a prison to try to obtain intel about sabaya captives from incarcerated Daesh soldiers, and later, Turkey’s military involves itself in this already combustible situation.

Sabaya’s intimacy elicits intense admiration for these freedom fighters, and compassion for the women they extricate from the figurative jaws of hell. What lingers long after Hirori’s harrowing film ends, however, is bone-deep despondency over the ugliness of so much of the world, and the arduousness—and often futility—of striving to make any significant difference in the face of overwhelming evil. Mahmud is a hero, but it’s hard to shake the gnawing fear that the great deeds he’s accomplished (and is hopefully still accomplishing) are merely tiny drops in the bucket.

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The Creepy Far-Right Plot to Bring John McAfee Back from the Dead

Bombastic software pioneer and sometimes-yacht-based fugitive John McAfee has been dead for more than a month. His widow, his lawyer, and the government of Spain, where McAfee died in a jail cell, all confirm that he has passed away.

Just don’t tell that to the more than 130,000 people who have followed a series of newly created Telegram accounts purporting to belong to a still-alive McAfee.

In life, McAfee was an anti-virus software entrepreneur who would later become involved in failed presidential bids on the Libertarian Party line, cryptocurrency evangelism, conspiracy theories, high-seas living, New Age healing, murder and sexual-assault allegations (he was not charged) and, according to prosecutors, millions of dollars in tax evasion. He died in a Spanish jail cell on June 23, of apparent suicide, while awaiting extradition to the U.S. on tax charges.

McAfee’s larger-than-life persona and some of his fringe stances made him a folk hero of conspiracy movements like QAnon, which McAfee even referenced during his life. Shortly after McAfee’s death, in fact, his Instagram account—which had been run by other people while he was in jail—posted a large “Q” image, sparking a frenzy of conspiratorial chatter.

The Instagram account was later removed. But beginning in mid-July, a trio of accounts on the Telegram platform have emerged, all purporting to be very-much-dead McAfee. Since then, those accounts have racked up followers by pushing QAnon-like ramblings and providing a countdown clock for revelations that—shockingly—never materialized. Now the fake McAfee accounts are sowing discord in the QAnon world, elbowing in on the audience of longer-running QAnon influencers.

McAfee’s former lawyer, Andrew Gordon, confirmed that the accounts were not legitimate.

“I have been in close contact with John’s widow, Janice McAfee, who identified the body some weeks ago,” Gordon told The Daily Beast. “There is no reason to suspect John might still be alive, and certainly not that he would be running any Telegram channels which he did not open prior to his death.”

Janice McAfee, widow of John McAfee, flanked by her lawyer Javier Villalba, leaves the prison where her husband was found dead.

Albert Gea/Reuters

But the accounts, which launched between July 18 and July 22, have gone to lengths to pose as McAfee, even preemptively attacking Gordon.

On July 20, the largest account (currently more than 125,000 subscribers) authored an introductory post claiming that, “I Would Describe Myself As Quite Sane and Lucid, Which is Why I’m Still Alive. John McAfee.”

It then posted several of McAfee’s personal documents, and a short screed against Gordon, whom it accused of profiting from McAfee. The other, smaller fake McAfee accounts (including one that launched two days before the largest channel) copy-pasted the same message.

In fact, those supposedly identifying documents, including a scan of McAfee’s gun license from 2012, were easy to obtain online. A multi-media documentary group, for instance, is trying to sell versions of the documents as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a form of digital art. The McAfee Telegram channels appeared to copy McAfee documents straight from the documentary group’s online listings, even going so far as to urge people to join the documentary group’s chat room.

Administrators of the Telegram channels are not listed on the platform, and so could not be reached for comment for this story. But when reached for comment, an administrator for the documentary group’s chat room told The Daily Beast that his organization had nothing to do with the McAfee imposters, and that they had been flummoxed by claims that the subject of their project was still alive.

“We are not associated with that Telegram, and have no idea who is or who is pushing such conspiracy theories,” the administrator said. “To the best of our knowledge John David McAfee is indeed dead and not alive. The same goes for Elvis and Tupak. [sic] We are documentarians, perhaps the guys at ghost hunters can help out.”

The Telegram accounts, however, appear well-versed in McAfee-related conspiracy theories.

John McAfee on his yacht anchored at the Marina Hemingway in Havana in 2019.

Adalberto Roque/Getty

In July 2019, internet sleuths postulated that McAfee ran a YouTube channel that uploaded drone footage of pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s island. (The Daily Dot questioned the theory at the time, noting that some of the uploads appeared to have taken place while McAfee was in jail.) That YouTube account went silent approximately a year ago, then resumed posting pro-Trump conspiracy videos in early July. The McAfee Telegram accounts have linked to the account’s new videos multiple times.

Not all of the Telegram references are conspiratorial throw-backs. Shortly after their launch, the accounts began posting cryptic messages in the style of the QAnon conspiracy theory. In garbled messages, the posts claimed an imminent release of information on Donald Trump’s foes. Despite a countdown clock included in some of the messages, the prophesied moment (early last Friday morning) came and went without any revelations. In replies to the fake McAfee posts, fans tried to “decode” the messages, asking each other if they knew how to access “the dark web” for more information.

QAnon fans are no strangers to disappointment, of course. “Q,” their theory’s anonymous progenitor, assured followers for years that Hillary Clinton or her allies were on the verge of arrest, or that Trump was about to reveal a child sex-trafficking plot by his political foes. Those prophecies never materialized, and Q has since stopped posting.

In Q’s absence, a network of conspiratorial influencers have tried adopting the movement’s followers. Some of those B-league paranoiacs have appeared to take issue with the fake McAfee accounts, which represent a new would-be prophet muscling in on their turf.

“I usually never call out people,” one of those large accounts told its 145,000-plus followers on Monday. “But this one here needs to be called [FAKE] [INFILTRATION].” The account went on to implicate the fake McAfees in a conspiracy theory about China.

Ron Watkins, another prominent QAnon influencer, also denounced the McAfees as dupes. Watkins is a former administrator of the site where “Q” used to post, and was the subject of a documentary series accusing him of personally controlling the “Q” account. (Watkins denies the allegation.)

On Sunday, Watkins warned followers of the McAfee account co-opting QAnon fandom. (He could not be reached for comment.)

“The John McAfee telegram account didnt [sic] announce anything at the end of the countdown,” he wrote. “None of the alleged 31 terabytes of deadman’s switch data has materialized. Now his account is posting Q-style drops and signing them as McAfee. Be careful.”

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Dear Reality Dating Shows: Fat People Fuck, Too

As a trash TV connoisseur, I have to say: There’s never been a better time to love reality dating shows. The Bachelor might be in a bit of a tailspin, but over the past couple of years, several series have taken the genre in fun, fascinating, often inventively vapid directions. Netflix’s Dating Around ushered in a lower-key approach in 2019, the same year that MTV debuted a deliciously messy, loud, and completely queer season of its long-running show Are You the One? And HBO Max just launched FBoy Island, a deliciously shallow Bachelor in ParadiseLove Island mash-up from former Bach producer Elan Gale.

But each new twist on this old formula highlights the one pernicious flaw everyone still refuses to touch. In their pursuit of freshness, producers will strand horny influencers on a remote island and “challenge” them not to have sex with one another for 30 days; they will dress models up in full prosthetics and send them on blind dates as demons and dolphins, and they will force them to get engaged without ever seeing one another. But they still won’t let anyone above a size 2 fall in love on screen.

As of 2016, the average American woman is between a size 16 and 18—both of which are nonetheless considered plus-sized. (America’s cult of thinness is apparently powerful enough to make us forget basic statistical comprehension.) Reality dating shows, meanwhile, remain glorified advertisements for the diet industry. Influencers have become a go-to casting pool; they often go on to parlay their TV fame into sponcon deals for products like laxative “detox” teas. Reality producer Mike Darnell once acknowledged that the average reality contestant is around a size 2.

This fixation on slender bodies can be easy to dismiss; reality fans know better than anyone that realism is rarely these shows’ actual goal. But the continued lack of interest in people who actually look like the general population perpetuates the discrimination fat people face every day—while dating, at the doctor’s office, and pretty much everywhere else. (As a cusp-sized woman, I use the term “fat” in this piece as a neutral descriptor in light of its reclamation by the community itself.)

In the nearly two decades The Bachelor has been on air, only one “plus sized” contestant has ever appeared—and she went home on Night One. Bo Stanley, a former pro surfer and plus-sized model, battled for “Prince Farming” Chris Soules’ heart in 2015 but did not receive a rose.

Apart from their introduction, The Bachelor included only one moment between Stanley and Soules—when he told her that his farm produces high-quality pork and beef, and she replied, “Oh, shoot, I would love to try that out. I’m a plus-sized model so I’ve got to keep up my curves!” The episode didn’t bother to include Stanley’s exit.

It’s not surprising that The Bachelor, a franchise that has never excelled at diversity, would include only an athletic plus-sized model who really appears to fall into a nebulous in-between category called “cusp-sized”—or that she went home on Night One. But even dating shows that claim to be about personality seem allergic to anyone whose body might actually resemble the average audience member.

Love Is Blind, Netflix’s explosive phone-booth-based dating show, went viral when it premiered last February. But critics observed that its purported goal seemed like a farce, given that everyone on the show was conventionally attractive and, once again, not just straight-sized but generally thin. This “social experiment” was never an experiment at all because the series already knew the answer to its own question—an answer programs like these routinely create by refusing to acknowledge that, yes, fat people can be hot, fall in love, and be horny and messy, too.

When Too Hot to Handle debuted last spring, it was therefore no surprise to find that all of the “hotties” seemed to share the same build: slender and toned. One contestant’s description of his “type” during the premiere could have doubled as the show’s credo: “I like model-looking girls,” he said. “Skinny.” Charming!

But the absurdity peaked with Netflix’s newly released Sexy Beasts—which dares to put conventional hotties in furry costumes to finally answer the question, “Could you fall in love with someone based on personality alone?” Never mind that the first subject is a literal model, and that everyone who comes afterward satisfies all the same norms.

The continual disinterest in people who actually look like the general population perpetuates the discrimination fat people face every day.

One might fairly wonder how well such methods could ever test Sexy Beasts’ purported hypothesis—but once again, that would require believing that the premise is sincere to begin with.

Reality TV as a genre has made a lot of money by stigmatizing fat people. The Biggest Loser, which debuted on NBC and still airs new episodes on the Peacock-owned USA, encourages viewers to gawk as contestants adopt punishing and legitimately dangerous health regimes that have left contestants with long-term health issues. And TLC has essentially built a cottage industry of these shows, with programs including The 650-Pound Virgin and Honey, We’re Killing the Kids.

Reality television might not be a bastion of empathy, but just as Black contestants’ absence from The Bachelor reflects a systemic issue, the constant erasure of fat people in reality dating speaks to another prejudice. America’s hatred of fat people is ingrained in every aspect of our daily life—fat jokes still permeate our media, airlines still refuse to make seats big enough for all passengers, and retailers still work overtime to make finding decent clothing even for average-sized bodies impossible. Fat people have been found to earn less money on average, and doctors’ dismissive attitudes toward patients deemed overweight is also well documented.

But curvy contestants’ absence from the reality dating scene might be a mercy compared to watching them navigate these shallow, often exploitative environments. It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which fat shaming does not follow—and there’s already plenty of that to go around in entertainment.

And as we’ve seen before, shows created specifically to highlight fat people’s love lives reliably offend more than they illuminate. Consider, for instance, Fox’s More to Love, which premiered in 2017. (The show’s original title? The Fatchelor.) Although the women on the show were all beautiful, fat activist Mariane Kirby noted in a review for The Daily Beast, the show also made a cruel joke of their size with frequent, lingering close-up shots of food.

“Does every fat woman have a story about the date invite that was actually a humiliating joke? What about the one where the fat girl strikes up a conversation with the cute guy at the bar… and he asks for her thin friend’s phone number? I try to remember that meeting a good partner is a challenge for everyone, but it’s hard in the face of these stories not to feel like the show’s producers are conflating ‘fat women’ with ‘pathetic, sad women’ and leaving it at that,” Kirby wrote.

In 2019 TLC released a trailer for Hot and Heavy, a reality program centered on “mixed-weight” couples. In all three couples, it was the women who were plus-sized. Viewers were not amused, and called for the series to be canceled before it aired in 2020. The three episodes premiered in January anyway.

To really subvert these failures, fat people need to be in the driver’s seat—behind the camera and in front. We don’t need The Fatchelor; we need even just one dating show that treats size like the non-issue it is. We need even just one project that acknowledges that fat people are hot, go on dates, and have sex. (And not awkward, timid sex, either.) Instead of folding a plus-sized model or two into The Bachelor as competitors, we need to see a diverse cast vying for their affection. Until we do, the only thing these “social experiments” prove is how much a large swath of this country hates itself.

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Meghan McCain Weighs in on Nepotism, Says ‘My Work Ethic Speaks for Itself’

Quickly approaching her last day on The View, Meghan McCain defended the role nepotism has had on her career on Thursday, stating that she “no longer cares” what people think because her “work ethic speaks for itself.”

Regular viewers of The View are well aware that McCain’s father is the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as she has not been shy about dropping his name and repeatedly mentioning how she is “John McCain’s daughter.” At the same time, the conservative host has been sensitive about charges of nepotism, even as she relentlessly trades on her family name.

In one of the last “Hot Topics” she would debate with her soon-to-be ex-colleagues, McCain weighed in on the criticism actor Ben Stiller has received for denying that nepotism is rampant in Hollywood. After news broke that a slew of children of famous parents were working on a film project, Stiller (himself the son of two famed comedians) said, in his experience, that show business “ultimately is a meritocracy.”

“What do you think, Meghan? You come from notable stock,” co-host Whoopi Goldberg asked McCain. “Can you relate to this at all?”

After McCain said that all of the View’s hosts’ children will “have this same problem” because they’re all well-known, she went on to then offer up her own personal viewpoint.

“Look, I can only speak for myself,” she said. “But every single door I’ve ever walked in my entire life, people automatically assume you’re going to be a lazy, spoiled brat that won’t contribute anything because you have famous parents, and it’s something I have dealt with my entire life.”

McCain continued: “I no longer care. I think my work and my work ethic speaks for itself, but I think people think when you have a famous family or a famous parent, everything is just given to you and things are really easy.”

She went on to use Hunter Biden as an example of a child of famous parents who has “shared his struggles so publicly and vulnerably,” adding that she knows many other people from prominent families who’ve “struggled with very serious demons” because they’re constantly compared to their parents.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for a person with famous parents, but it really isn’t always what people think,” McCain concluded. “In fact, it almost never is, and yeah, I feel bad for these kids trying to just—just trying to make a movie and I’m sure they got help because of who their parents are. If the movie is crap, it’s crap, and we will see how it ends up being.”

Co-host Joy Behar, McCain’s longtime sparring partner, had a slightly different take on the subject.

Noting that her own father was a working-class truck driver, the veteran comedian said there was “no discussion” over the fact that nepotism helps people get a head start.

“If you have a connection, you get a foot in the door,” she declared. “But that doesn’t mean that you will be able to succeed at it.”

Behar added: “You know, I could name names of famous people whose children did not make a dent, and they tried very hard, and it didn’t work, and others, like Jane Fonda, who’s brilliantly talented and did very well. Who’s even to know that if her father wasn’t Henry Fonda she would be the famous movie actress and talent that she is?”

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MyPillow Pulling Ads From Fox, Says It’s Because They Won’t Run Election Fraud Commercial

Trump-boosting pillow magnate Mike Lindell, whose company MyPillow is one of Fox News’ largest advertisers, said on Thursday night that he is pulling his commercials from the network because they won’t run a commercial pushing baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on Lindell’s decision.

“Shame on Fox News! Shame on them,” Lindell told The Daily Beast. “When I was told they wouldn’t run the ad, I said to cut off advertising on Fox immediately and indefinitely.”

In response to Lindell’s claim that he was immediately pulling his ads, Fox News said in a statement: “It’s unfortunate Mr. Lindell has chosen to pause his commercial time on FOX News given the level of success he’s experienced in building his brand through advertising on the number one cable news network,” Fox News said in a statement.

Over the past few months, Lindell has increasingly voiced his displeasure with Fox News for not promoting or even mentioning his fruitless efforts to “prove” that Donald Trump lost the election through voter machine manipulation. President Joe Biden, in fact, decisively won the election. According to countless election officials and courts, there has been no evidence that widespread fraud was responsible for Trump’s electoral loss.

Lindell had become particularly incensed these past few weeks that the network wasn’t planning to cover his upcoming “cyber symposium,” which he’s long hyped would finally unveil incontrovertible evidence proving that Trump won the election. He’s even gone so far as to say recently that the data he would unveil about voting machine fraud would be so compelling that the Supreme Court would reinstate Trump next month with a unanimous ruling.

With the 72-hour symposium scheduled to live stream next month on his website, Lindell told Salon last week that he planned to run ads on the network promoting the Sioux Falls event since they were ignoring it.

“Fox [News] does not talk about anything with the election,” Lindell told Salon. “So I’m going to make ads that will talk about — at least advertising for — that we’re going to be televising this [cyber symposium] for 72 hours straight.”

According to Lindell, however, Fox News had declined to run the commercial promoting the symposium, prompting him to tell his ad buyer to immediately cancel all his other ads on the network. Fox, meanwhile, did not say whether they refused to run the ad in question.

“They won’t even run an ad for directions for where people can watch the symposium online? Give me a break,” he added to The Daily Beast. “Things change, but right now I have no plans to ever advertise on Fox News again.”

While Fox News has rejected the ad, Lindell told Salon that the network’s far-right competitors Newsmax and OAN have agreed to air the symposium commercial. OAN has previously aired Lindell’s “docu-movies” that supposedly revealed “absolute proof” of election fraud, albeit with a hefty disclaimer distancing the channel from his claims.

Lindell also said that the commercial didn’t specifically make any election fraud claims. At the same time, he has said that the symposium will conclusively prove that Trump won the election.

The pillow salesman added that he spent over $50 million on Fox News ads last year and has dropped another $19 million so far this year. According to the advertising analysis site, MyPillow ranks among the network’s top five advertisers.

Lindell has found himself embroiled in legal hot water over his wild and groundless allegations that corrupt voting machine software flipped millions of Trump votes to Biden. Voting machine manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, for instance, filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Lindell and his company. Lindell followed with a bizarre countersuit, claiming Dominion engaged in a racketeering conspiracy.

Dominion and voting software firm Smartmatic have also both filed lawsuits against Fox News, alleging the network’s hosts and guests made defamatory remarks and falsely accused the companies of defrauding the election. Fox News has filed motions to dismiss both cases, insisting that its coverage of the election fraud claims was both newsworthy and covered by the First Amendment.

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Another Terrible Week for Terrible Human Being Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson’s truly terrible week began with a person turning the tables and calling out Fox News’ star propagandist on camera, and ended with possibly his biggest remaining advertiser deciding to leave Fox News altogether.

It started in a bait shop in Livingston, Montana, where Tucker encountered a man, Dan Bailey, who calmly told him that he was “the worst human being known to mankind.” Tucker was all smiles on camera, but later Fox News released a statement implying the TV host was less than thrilled with the exchange: “No public figure should be accosted regardless of their political persuasion or beliefs simply due to the intolerance of another point of view.”

The irony is that it was just a few months ago that Tucker had instructed viewers of his show that if they saw a masked child outside they should “Call the police immediately. Contact child protective services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, it’s child abuse, and you’re morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.” And Carlson is famous for using his show to target young female journalists, including former Beast Brandy Zadrozny and Taylor Lorenz, but I guess Fox News has different rules for its own hosts, those delicate little snowflakes. Their previous top-rated monster, Bill O’Reilly, made ambushing and harassing people on the street a regular feature, one that launched the career of Tucker wannabe Jesse Watters.