Larry King hosted his last edition of “Larry King Live” on CNN this week, and the Monitor can only say Good Riddance.
King built a reputation and made a fortune as the master of the soft toss interview, which was fine for interviewing entertainers but made for cringe-inducing television whenever the subject at hand required a tad more seriousness.
Back in 2000, King perfectly described the airy, passionless approach he brought to his job to Tucker Carlson, a young colleague at CNN who would go on to co-host the network’s “Crossfire” program.
“Let me tell you something about this business,” King told Carlson. “The trick is to care, but not too much. Give a [expletive] – but not really.”
One of the Monitor’s favorite examples of King’s unparalleled insipidness is the following exchange he had in January 2002 with the famously iconoclastic comedian Bill Maher.
No doubt surprisingly for those unacquainted with his views on the Middle East, Maher, whose politics generally lean left, made a case for Israel rarely heard in the mainstream media. Larry King, alas, was Larry King: a genial simpleton asking the most pedestrian questions and then abruptly – inanely – changing subjects the moment it became obvious his store of knowledge had been depleted.
King: What do you think of the Israeli situation, the Palestinian .
Maher: This again, you know, I’m like the only guy on TV who defends Israel. The media is so biased.
King: You think they’re anti-Israel?
Maher: Of course they are. They don’t – because they don’t understand what happened in that area of the world throughout the last century. They’re “occupied.” That’s a term that’s just used on all newscasts. That territory is not occupied, OK? The term “occupied” refers to a country that used to be a country. There was no Palestinian Arab country, ever.
King: There was a Palestine, though.
Maher: Palestine. Do you know that at the 1939 World’s Fair, there was a Palestinian exhibit? It was Jewish. It was a Zionist exhibit. The term Palestinian only refers to people who live in that part of the world. They are both Arab and Jew….
King: They are cousins, too.
Maher: They are cousins…. But when that land was partitioned in 1947 and the UN said, OK, fellows, you are going to have to share it. The Jews said OK, and the Arabs said, “No, we’d rather try to wipe you out.” And right now, we live in a situation where the Jews could wipe out the Arabs in two seconds if they wanted. They have the means…. Do you think if the Arabs, you think if they had the atom bomb, that the state of Israel would last? How long would it last?
King: But America should try to broker something here, right?
Maher: They should. And it’s not that Israel is blameless. They shouldn’t be building settlements and lots of stuff. But basically, that situation is not presented in the American media.
King: Why do you think the media would be anti-Israel?
Maher: They’re not anti-Israel, they just don’t know what happened there. And it’s a lot easier to take the side of the underdog. You know? I saw a report on the news just the other day, a Palestinian girl who said, you know, “I can’t get through the checkpoint, and I only have my books, and the Israeli soldiers are so mean.” Well, yeah, but that’s because a lot of your brothers are blowing up their pizza parlors.
King: So you think – because for a long time, Israel and the media in the United States had a relationship like they were intertwined. Palestinians had almost no voice in American media in the ’60s and ’70s.
King: It changed.
Maher: It changed. It changed. And what I think people forget is that it is also the only democracy…. It’s a democracy, Israel, it’s the only one in that part of the world, by the way. And we’ve never sent a soldier to defend Israel. We’ve sent our troops and our planes and our bombs to defend Muslims in Bosnia and in Somalia, and we certainly freed a country called Afghanistan recently.
King: Couple of other quick things. Where is Al Gore, do you think?