Friday, May 25, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Shortly after he became president in February of 2009, in the unlikely venue of Elkhart, Ind., Barack Obama threw this Bombay into Oscar Goodman’s Sapphire:
“You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime,” Obama said, referring to trips made by companies who had received government bailouts.
Then-Mayor Goodman, as I’m sure you’ll recall, all but spit out his olive, sputtered for the media and didn’t stop for the next two-plus years. When the president made other Vegas-centric remarks almost exactly a year later — “When times are tough, you don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college” — even those who saw his 2009 comments as reasonable had a “fool me twice” moment.
But now, with one of the more appalling national television moments this week about Las Vegas, as we suffer through a terrible recession, I am wondering why The Family Goodman is not outraged, threatening to whack people, standing up for the city’s honor and grabbing all the cable TV time Mayor Carolyn Goodman (and maybe the city’s first man) can.
In case you missed the latest in a neverending list of slights national figures have administered to poor, stigmatized and traumatized Sin City, Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” delivered one of the most shockingly idiotic and insulting pieces I’ve seen about Las Vegas. The piece that aired Wednesday evening was a travesty of journalism and contained one of the more offensive statements I’ve seen about Las Vegas from O’Reilly producer Jesse Watters.
The segment was hyped on foxnewsinsider.com with this headline: “‘O’Reilly Factor’ Producer Finds Out Why Las Vegas’ Unemployment Rate Is Skyrocketing.”
Hmm, I optimistically mused to myself, maybe this will illuminate for the country just how devastating the recession has been here, perhaps delving into why so many people are unemployed and perhaps looking at the housing crisis. (I wasn’t too concerned with the inaccuracy of the headline — the unemployment rate here actually is dropping — because I know a little, or my producer does, about grabbing viewers’ attention.)
Alas, no. When the taped piece began with the painfully clichéd strains of “Viva Las Vegas” and the first interview was with Robin Leach, I knew what path we were going down — and it was not paved with good intentions. Leach, to his credit, told Watters that Vegas is “a tale of two cities,” but Watters was only interested in one — the unreal one on Las Vegas Boulevard South.
Watters then interviewed a mélange of tourists, who, shockingly, told him about partying and shopping on the Strip. This was better than Edward R. Murrow on a rooftop in London. Groundbreaking stuff.
Mindlessly intercut between the interviews were movie clips, which had no obvious nexus to the piece (but perhaps they went over my head with Watters’ artistry).
And then the segment turned positively Fox-y.
Watters found someone who lamented that after “Obama said Las Vegas isn’t the place to be, it died for three or four years.” Bingo. Then he played the 2010 Obama clip about Vegas and found a guy to trash the president.
Ridiculously bad journalism. But a great in-kind for the Romney campaign.
After that grating three minutes, complete with faux cleverness and quick editing, Watters appeared back in the studio. That’s where it really disintegrated into a parody and you could see what Ailes Fox. This part, I can’t paraphrase:
O’Reilly: “So who’s not working?”
Watters: “There’s about half a million population in Vegas (not quite, and he was in the county, whose population is four times that), but 40 million visit Vegas each year, so it’s a trickle-down economics situation.”
What? Get me David Stockman, please.
More Watters: “Conservative tycoons run the Strip. You have Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn, and they compete to see who can build bigger fiefdoms here.” Or in Macau? And there are no other companies? Breathtaking insight from The Factor.
O’Reilly: “Can’t you get a job there (on the Strip)? Don’t they need service people here?”
Watters: “They’re hiring, but it’s not like big-time jobs. You’re getting small jobs, menial labor, a lot of illegal immigrants. We saw a lot of illegal immigrants on the street passing out strip club cards, people doing menial labor.”
Finally, some news! No jobs in Vegas except those held by illegal immigrants! So next would be O’Reilly pouncing on Watters, asking him how he knew they were illegal immigrants, right?
But ... no. That wrapped it up. Maybe Watters knew they were illegal because he grilled them. Or maybe he knew because he was told. Or maybe because they, um, didn’t speak English. We’ll never know.
And people say journalism is dead.
One question, though: Where’s the outrage from the Family Goodman. Or the LVCVA? Or the chamber?