“The Tonight Show” has abruptly cancelled an appearance this week by Norm Macdonald, who is promoting his new talk show on Netflix, because of comments he made during an interview with the Hollywood Reporter regarding the Me Too movement.
Macdonald has this to say about the movement as a whole:
I’m happy the #MeToo movement has slowed down a little bit. It used to be, ‘One hundred women can’t be lying.’ And then it became, ‘One woman can’t lie.’ And that became, ‘I believe all women.’ And then you’re like, ‘What?’ Like, that Chris Hardwick guy I really thought got the blunt end of the stick there.
He went on to discuss the heavy toll felt by Roseanne Barr and Louis CK, both longtime friends of his, for their comments and actions:
But she was just so broken and just crying constantly. There are very few people that have gone through what they have, losing everything in a day. Of course, people will go, ‘What about the victims?’ But you know what? The victims didn’t have to go through that.
Later Macdonald apologized on Twitter, saying he’s “deeply sorry” if he sounded like he was minimizing the pain their victims feel.
Roseanne and Louis have both been very good friends of mine for many years. They both made terrible mistakes and I would never defend their actions. If my words sounded like I was minimizing the pain that their victims feel to this day, I am deeply sorry.
— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) September 11, 2018
Macdonald’s comments were no doubt controversial, but far from outside of the mainstream. In fact, last December The New York Times ran an op-ed by Bret Stephens titled, “When #Me Too Goes Too Far,” dealing with very similar concerns about how the movement can paint with too broad a brush and condemn actions too quickly, and without enough facts.
Arguably the most damning of Macdonald’s quotes is the one he apologized for, saying that the victims of CK and Barr did not have their lives destroyed in a single day. In CK’s case, depending on the level of trauma his victims felt, this may or may not be true, but Macdonald is talking about good friends of his. Is he supposed to say that they are awful human beings who deserve to have their lives destroyed?
NBC announced that same day his appearance on “The Tonight Show” was cancelled, “out of sensitivity to our audience.” The announcement followed his apology.
This decision is cowardly and counterproductive. Nothing Macdonald said should be considered out of bounds in a serious conversation about sexual assault or harassment. And to the extent that his opinions may have caused pain to anyone, he apologized. That was a nice gesture, perhaps one meant to stem the tide of resentment he knew was coming, but we can’t just avoid saying anything that may cause some people pain — there would be nothing left to say except, “Hello.” Maybe.
Though not exactly a conservative, Macdonald is often perceived as one because these days anyone who doesn’t immediately kowtow to the new rules as they go passing by is perceived as one. And he does have a following among conservatives, who find his openness to exploring controversial ideas refreshing. Once again, it is only controversial ideas that seem to be from the right that earns a disinvitation. And this is from NBC, whose news division is embroiled in a scandal for covering up allegations of abuse.
There is no doubt that progressives will jump on the back of “The Tonight Show’s” terrible decision to put pressure on Netflix to cancel Macdonald’s upcoming show. This would be a disastrous decision. After all, Netflix is the network that treated viewers to a 4th of July celebration of abortion, so it is no stranger to controversy.
Conservatives need to have Macdonald’s back on this. If these comments, for which he immediately apologized are enough to silence an entertainer, then the hegemonic progressive echo chamber of Hollywood will never change, and that isn’t just bad for conservatives, its bad for a country that is increasingly divided and unwilling to even listen to the other side.
By cancelling this appearance, “The Tonight Show” and Jimmy Fallon are succumbing to a censorious and cackling left that will brook no opinion but their own and will attempt to punish those who do. Conservatives are not immune to this, either. The absurd spectacle of people burning their Nike gear because of an ad they disagree with is of a piece with “The Tonight Show” folding on Macdonald.
In the United States people say things that other people disagree with. The correct response to this is to say, “That’s wrong, and here’s why.” It is not to destroy sports apparel or deny a comedian a chance to promote his show. The irony of course is that Macdonald regularly pokes both sides, which these days may be the worst sin of all. Don’t let this be the beginning of the end of Norm Macdonald’s new show. His show just might be the very one we need.