Fox News throws tantrum over late night's treatment of Harvey Weinstein

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Seth Meyers (Photo: NBC)

On Monday night, the late night hosts attacked Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein for the awful things he’s allegedly done to women, as laid out in a New York Times story that broke late last Thursday afternoon. On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert had to set up the jokes, because until last week not many people knew who Weinstein is: Colbert referred to him as the producer of “The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, and other movies your mom liked in the ’90s.” Colbert described Weinstein’s “monstrous behavior,” which included “masturbating into a potted plant” in the presence of a woman. Colbert’s joke: “Pro tip: If you have dinner at the Weinsteins, avoid the fresh basil.”

On Late Night, Seth Meyers brought out three female staff writers to deliver their disgust and ridicule of Weinstein in a segment that was so pointed it barely signified as humor, which seemed to be the point. The potted plant-as-receptacle incident was also mentioned, the punch line here being, “The plant got a three-picture deal.”

On Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host made a mediocre pun, joking, “What’s the difference between Harvey Weinstein and the Pillsbury Doughboy? When the Doughboy offers you a roll, he doesn’t ask you to watch him take a shower first.” Get it? Roll? Role?

Kimmel also brought up the subtext of all this: Both the Trump family and Fox News manufactured instant, phony rage at these hosts for not making such jokes sooner. All weekend, and all day and night Monday, Fox hosts excoriated “liberal silence”; they were echoed by Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted about the lack of late night Weinstein jokes, specifically jabbing at Kimmel. The Trump outrage was pretty rich, given the irony that this was the one-year anniversary of the release of the Access Hollywood tape on which Donald Trump delineated his sexually predatory preferences to Billy Bush. Kimmel and Colbert made sure to point this out on Monday.

What was Fox News’s point in all this? That Weinstein is a liberal who has donated to Democratic campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s, and so the “silence” of “liberal” late night hosts is horrible and hypocritical. This is, of course, malarkey. The Weinstein story broke on Thursday afternoon. The late night shows tape around 6 p.m., and Colbert and Fallon tape their Friday shows on Thursday. Kimmel and Meyers don’t do fresh Friday shows. So the time frame to write jokes during an already crammed news day (remember the president’s “calm before the storm” warnings late last week?) was pretty slim. As it was, John Oliver did a chunk of anti-Weinstein material on his Sunday HBO show, and Colbert and Kimmel tweeted anti-Weinstein jokes on Friday.

So Fox News is now in the business of policing what jokes ought to be made in late night, and when they should be delivered. Hop to it, Colbert — a bit lazy today, aren’t we? On Monday, Kimmel joked about this specifically, saying he was part of the “biased left-wing media propaganda machine.” His audience laughed at how over-the-top this sounds, but earlier on Monday night, there was Sean Hannity inveighing against the “liberal, destroy-Trump media” and its pro-Weinstein history.

Fox hosts usually scream about political correctness that forces anyone to express culturally approved sentiments, yet here was Fox demanding that late night express certain sentiments, with Hannity whining that his viewers have been “victimized by liberal cultural hypocrisy.” Poor babies. Hannity actually said that Hollywood’s “praise” of Weinstein “for 30 years by the left, by liberals, by Hollywood, and Democrats” is worse than anything Weinstein may have done to numerous women. Such misplaced anger.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on NBC. Jimmy Kimmel Live airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on ABC. Late Night With Seth Meyers airs weeknights at 12:35 a.m. on NBC. Hannity airs weeknights at 9 p.m. on Fox News. 

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