PBS Plans to Give Us a Progressive Talk Show, Too, Right?

We all know the sad saga of public television bending over backwards to appease right-wing interests and dull the Republican desire to put Big Bird in a skillet, but this is beyond ridiculous:

As the Donald Trump administration mulls whacking its funding for PBS, the pubcaster said today that it is launching a conservative talk show. In Principle will be hosted by Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and Amy M. Holmes, formerly of Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV and a cable news contributor.

In Principle launches on the triskaidekaphobic Friday, April 13. PBS will make a call about its future after an initial eight-week run. The series producer is Grace Cutler, who recently was the Managing Editor of News for Sinclair-owned Circa.com. Sinclair has been in the news on its own lately as it tries to buy Tribune Media and expand its right-leaning footprint to 70% of U.S. homes.

The hosts plan to interview two guests each show, hoping for an in-depth discussion on issues and their formative political experiences. No guests have been announced yet, but Gerson said he’d like to discuss issues including race, gun control and whether conservatism is the right message for the working class.

This column will be delayed for a few moments while I vomit.

Surely, fairness demands that PBS also produce a progressive talk show featuring one representative of the “Democratic establishment” and one representative of the “progressive revolution”; surely a left-leaning show hosted by, say, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Cenk Uygur would be far more interesting than the tepid talk Holmes and Gerson will provide. Of course, because PBS doesn’t fear peeved progressives, and cowers in fear at the thought of cantankerous conservatives, we will never see such a show hit the airwaves.

I shudder at the thought of these two mediocrities discussing climate change, to the point that I pray that they never broach the topic. Yes, Gerson has grudgingly acknowledged the need for Republicans to knock it off, once and for all, with climate-change denial, but Holmes’s pedigree—her past affiliation with Beck, who led the ideological jihad against Obama clean-energy advisor Van Jones nearly a decade ago—guarantees that she would spew Scott Pruitt-style denialism. Why bother watching that, when we can hear the same climate covfefe on Fox News?

PBS has been surrendering to the right almost since its founding. On page 143 of his 1996 autobiography Life is Not a Rehearsal, the late libertarian talk-radio host David Brudnoy noted that fear of Republican wrath motivated prominent Boston PBS affiliate WGBH to hire him as a commentator:

By the end of 1971 I was beginning to appear on television in Boston at the public TV station, WGBH, as the token conservative. I learned later from a producer at the station that Vice President Spiro Agnew’s criticism of the liberal bias in the media had sufficiently alarmed the station’s honchos that they thought they should throw a bone to the right.

Later, of course, WGBH would welcome David Koch onto its board of trustees (he left the board in 2016 after nearly two decades). Anyone think the Kochs will come in for any criticism on the Holmes-Gerson program?

Remember how infamously low the ratings for Vince McMahon’s XFL were in 2001? Look for In Principle to break that record. Who in their right (or left) mind would watch such a program? Personally, I’d rather go parasailing with Sarah Palin than subject myself to such nonsense. However, give PBS credit for innovation: they’ve created a show guaranteed to be even worse than MSNBC’s old experiments with Alan Keyes and Michael Savage.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.