Tony Kornheiser and Tom Cotton: And I’m turning the dial

chris graham radioTony Kornheiser has always offered listeners the opportunity to turn the dial if you don’t like what you’re hearing.

Never thought I’d want to turn the dial, but I am.

The PTI star and podcast host had as an in-studio guest on Monday the Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, himself a Loyal Little who revealed in a recent interview with “Meet the Press” host and “Tony Kornheiser Show” regular Chuck Todd of his aspirations to be a guest one day.

No harm, no foul there, even as the show appeals by and large to a decidedly more liberal listener base, if only judging from the regular riffs from Kornheiser and a cast of co-hosts that includes the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman.

The timing of the appearance by Cotton wasn’t ideal, on the first weekday workday following a wild weekend in U.S. politics in the wake of the executive order from President Trump temporarily banning refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Kornheiser famously doesn’t book athletes on his shows because he doesn’t think they have anything substantive to offer about the games they play, and probably should have followed the same line of thinking when it came to booking Cotton, who sidestepped the few policy questions from Kornheiser with talking points akin to a player talking about “giving it 110 percent” and “just taking things one game at a time.”

Listening to the show, for which Cotton was in studio for its entirety, as a guest co-host, was awkward, and I anticipated some backlash to the Jimmy Fallon-style faux interview, but otherwise didn’t think anything of it.

Until Tuesday’s show, when Kornheiser decided that doubling down on the awkwardness was the best course of action, lecturing the legion of listeners who had taken to Twitter to express their displeasure with Monday’s show to the effect that they needed to get out of their echo chambers and listen to the perspectives of those on the other side.

Which is a fine message, if misguided, because reading through the Twitter comments, the criticisms weren’t so much of the nature that folks didn’t want to hear from the other side, but rather that Kornheiser had softballed the interview.

Me, personally, I’d had the same thoughts, as I’d mentioned above, and was more than willing to write it off as just a bad call by Kornheiser and his staff, and maybe a chance for a lesson learned.

The doubling down was what turned me off as a listener. The appeal of Kornheiser is as the anti-authority guy, who does a sports show that doesn’t book athletes and talks movies and ‘60s music as much as or more than the games, who isn’t afraid to tell ESPN and Daniel Snyder that he is taking his ball and going home.

The segments with Cotton came across as the jock-sniffing that Kornheiser positions himself as otherwise studiously avoiding; the doubling down comes across as a concession that, OK, hey, yeah, I don’t take myself too seriously, but this guy is a U.S. senator, give me a break.

Which is what I’m doing. Getting lectured by one orange TV star about what it means to be an American is about all I can handle right now.

Column by Chris Graham



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