BRIAN BASHAM, HOST: Good morning!
Now that the me-too shoe is on the other ideological foot with Joe Biden, should the news media give him the Brett Kavanaugh treatment?
NICK EICHER, HOST: Right, or is enough enough? That’s ahead on Culture Friday.
Also today the creator of Downton Abbey has a new show set in Victorian England.
And WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky offers some reading recommendations.
BASHAM: It’s Friday, May 1st. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Brian Basham.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BASHAM: Now Kent Covington has today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: 3.8 million Americans filed jobless claims last week » Another 3.8 million American workers filed jobless claims last week as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the global economy.
The U.S. unemployment rate is now estimated at about 18-and-a-half percent.
With some states beginning to slowly reopen, the question remains—how long will the economic pain last?
At the White House Thursday, President Trump said he’s optimistic.
TRUMP: Well I think we’re going to have a great third quarter. It’s going to be a transition, so when I say great, I think the transition’s going to be really terrific. And we’re going to take it into the fourth, and I think we’re going to have potentially a great fourth quarter.
The president also predicted a strong economy in 2021.
Confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases pass 1 million, but officials cite progress » The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States passed 1 million this week. But overall, the number of new cases is on the decline.
And health officials celebrated good news this week with a successful study of the drug remdesivir as a treatment for the virus.
Also pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said it’s making rapid progress on a possible vaccine. And it could even be ready for emergency use by the fall.
But that is a best-case scenario. Only a small percentage of new vaccines pass all of the tests necessary to make it to market.
White House health advisers maintain that a coronavirus vaccine is likely at least a year away.
U.S. intel community: coronavirus not manmade, origin still unclear » U.S. intelligence agencies have officially determined that the coronavirus was not the result of any biological weapons program. That according to a statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
It said the intel community—quote—“concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”
But the statement added that intel agencies are still trying to determine whether the outbreak resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab in Wuhan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that in any event, there’s no question the Chinese government engaged in a coverup.
POMPEO: There will come a time when not only the United States, but I think the entire world, will come to understand what took place. And I think in the end the Chinese Communist Party will ultimately be held accountable for what they did.
He added, “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers—that China hasn’t shared the answers—I think is very, very telling.”
Pompeo also pressed China to let outside experts into the lab “so that we can determine precisely where this virus began.” The Chinese government has so far refused.
Unsealed FBI documents raise new questions about probe of Michael Flynn » Newly unsealed FBI documents reveal that Peter Strzok kept open an investigation into then national security adviser Michael Flynn. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg has that story.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The documents show that before Strzok intervened, the operation was slated to close because it found no wrongdoing by Flynn.
Peter Strzok is the former head of FBI counterintelligence. He became the center of a big controversy during the Russia probe after anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with his mistress, Lisa Page, went public. Page was an FBI attorney at the time.
The unsealed documents show Strzok asked the investigating agent not to close the case. A short time later, he texted Page to let her know the probe was still open.
In one text, he admitted to editing notes from a 2017 interview with Flynn. He said—quote—“I was trying to completely rewrite the thing.”
Documents unsealed this week also revealed that top FBI officials discussed their motivation for questioning Flynn. And they openly asked if their goal was “to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”
Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to Strzok and another agent.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
White House remarks could signal future pardon for Flynn » President Trump reacted Thursday to the latest revelations in the Flynn case. He tweeted—quote—“What happened to General Michael Flynn, a war hero, should never be allowed to happen to a citizen of the United States again!”
In a Thursday interview, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway wouldn’t say if the president plans to pardon Flynn, but she told Fox News…
CONWAY: This man was set up from the beginning. He probably thought they were coming in to be helpful, since we had been on the job for four days. The president has made clear for all three years that Michael Flynn was treated very unfairly. Now we know it was probably criminal, what was done to him.
But if Fynn’s attorneys get their way, a possible pardon would be a moot point. They are lobbying to withdraw his guilty plea, citing “egregious” misconduct by the FBI.
Biden, Sanders strike deal for convention delegates » Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden struck a deal this week with former rival Bernie Sanders. It will allow Sanders to keep hundreds of delegates … giving the socialist senator more sway over the direction of the party. WORLD’s Anna Johansen reports.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The deal lets the Vermont senator keep a little more than 300 delegates that, under party rules, he forfeited when he suspended his campaign.
Sanders delegates will get seats on key convention committees that will draft the party’s platform. That gives Sanders and his supporters more influence to push the party further to the left.
Biden benefits by avoiding the bitter feelings that clouded Hillary Clinton’s nomination four years ago when many Sanders supporters refused to back her.
Separately, Biden aides remain in negotiations with Sanders and progressive groups on a range of policy matters. Biden has noted for months that his policy slate already is to the left of previous nominees, including Clinton and Barack Obama.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: accusations of sexual misconduct against Joe Biden.
Plus, Marvin Olasky answers your questions about what to read.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: It’s Friday the 1st of May, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
BRIAN BASHAM: And I’m Brian Basham. It’s Culture Friday.
For a few weeks now, accusations have been swirling around presidential candidate Joe Biden. A woman named Tara Reade says Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 while she was working as his Senate staffer.
Now a former neighbor of Reade’s has come forward to corroborate her story.
The woman, who describes herself as a Biden supporter, is the third person to support Reade’s claims on the record.
Major media outlets for the most part declined to cover the story. That is, until last week.
That’s when a 1993 call to Larry King’s CNN show came to light. On the call, reportedly: Reade’s mother, who has since died. The call came shortly after Reade left her job in Biden’s office.
Here’s that call.
READE: Yes, hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him. In other words, she had a story to tell but, but out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it? That’s true.
Biden has yet to answer questions directly about Reade’s allegations, though his campaign released a statement denying them.
EICHER: It’s Culture Friday and time to welcome John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning!
JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning.
EICHER: So, John, to say that mainstream papers and networks are taking a different approach to Joe Biden than the treatment they gave Brett Kavanaugh would be to understate the term understatement.
Just a quick example, probably the most risible one of the week: A Washington Post headline on people coming forward to support Tara Reade’s story. Try to untangle this one, “Developments in allegations against Biden amplify efforts to question his behavior.”
I could read that slowly and you still wouldn’t get it because this isn’t mere semantic gymnastics. This is hot yoga.
So why all this effort?
I mean, to its credit, The New York Times has done some pretty careful, non-sensational work, and put it out there to let readers judge the truth of it.
What executive editor Dean Baquet said about his team’s reporting is worth quoting at some length. Here’s some of it:
“What I think readers should take away from this is that this is a serious allegation made by somebody who has some standing. It is denied strenuously by [Biden’s] campaign. …
“Sometimes I think it is OK to tell readers they have to make their own judgment. I understand that people want simple answers, but in my experience editing stories like this, sometimes there aren’t simple answers and sometimes you just have to figure that the reader is sophisticated, thoughtful, will read it, weigh it, and make his or her own judgment. And I think in this case, that’s the best we could offer.”
Hey, y’know what? I didn’t think I would ever say this: I agree with Dean Baquet.
These things are hard to know. Of course, it’d have been nice if that was the approach the media took to the Kavanaugh case, but there it is, opportunity missed.
Here’s a question: Now that the me-too shoe is on the other ideological foot, is it possible, might this be a preview of things to come—better reporting, less sensationalism?
STONESTREET: No, I don’t think it is and I think the reason why is, good heavens, if a virus can’t be reported on and left alone and let the readers and the listeners and the viewers be sophisticated enough, than you’re not going to get it when it comes to an affair or an act of sexual abuse or some sort of accusation of this kind of moral gravity from someone who’s actually a political player. Look, if anything should be neutral, it should be a virus and it’s not. It’s being loaded up this same way.
And, honestly, I think part of this is politically motivated and I think part of this is not just politically motivated but driven by the media. The medium itself, this is, again, going back as we’ve done dozens and dozens and dozens of times here to Neil Postman’s idea of amusing ourselves to death where the forces that create the “if it bleeds it leads” and the agenda of wanting to go beyond reporting to commentating and, you know, the worldview underpinnings of how things are reported to us and so on and so on and so on, that’s just part of the structure of this thing. We don’t have a missed opportunity now when it comes to these stories. We have a broken structure from the top to the bottom that is built around and motivated by and actually kind of structured with some of these fundamental problems of truth-telling and agenda advancing.
Because, look, like it or not, we have two things that work. You’ve got what Alexander Soltenitzen said in his World Apart speech at Harvard, which is “the lack of great statesmen in the American context right now” and, on the other hand, you have got an ideologically driven press, which, for the record, is something else he talked about in that speech. So, maybe the answer to all this is let’s go back and read some more Soltzenitzen.
BASHAM: You know, John, I worked in the mainstream media for a long time. And these are the kinds of stories that can create endless news cycles, right? Discussing how campaigns will respond to them, what impact they’ll have on messaging and strategy. But at the end of the day they don’t seem to move the needle when it comes time to vote. And that’s not new.
Paula Jones didn’t stop Bill Clinton from getting elected. The Access Hollywood tape didn’t stop Donald Trump from getting elected.
So if I had to guess, I’d say this probably isn’t going to hurt Biden much.
It seems to me it’s the #MeToo movement that really stands to lose here because of the way some of its leaders are brushing off Tara Reade.
What do you think the Church should be saying to young women who are watching this play out and might be feeling really discouraged?
STONESTREET: Well, you know, it’s interesting to see what hurts what. At the end of the day, is it going to hurt Biden much? I actually think it probably will just because the power scenarios here are very different. I think that you certainly have Hollywood folks now running from a Biden endorsement. I think you’ll probably also end up with the choice at least on the left seeing their choice as many people on the right saw, which is the lesser of two evils, right? And I think that’s a real question.
But your question was different, which is what should the church be doing and saying and so on and that is the church really can’t say much more until the church does more. And that is that we have to handle the skeletons in the closet better than we see anybody else do it. Look, our worldview says that the fall is not out there, the fall is in here. And yet we oftentimes are still trying to protect our own people and we’re trying to disbelieve accusations because of the power of the people that are in charge. Look, we bring I think additional, the Christian worldview brings additional context and contours to this, namely that it’s not just the accused perpetrator that is a sinner and always capable of doing what is accused, but the accuser also has a capability as well. And that maybe complicates it, but it also means that we have a bigger, broader vision of human sin and human dignity than mainstream media outlets, or political parties and so we have to do better. And we can’t talk better. We have to do better.
So, look, let repentance begin with the house of the Lord. Let’s sweep up our own room first.
EICHER: Turning to the other dominant story right now, some states like Georgia, Texas, and Florida are allowing more businesses to reopen.
Everyone has an opinion about that, and everyone’s opinion is backed up by their preferred experts and data.
So I don’t want to talk about how or whether states should reopen, John. I want to talk about how some Christians are treating one another over it. On one side I’m seeing people accusing those who want to open their businesses of being reckless and greedy. Putting stocks over lives I saw one person say uncharitably on social media.
On the other I see sneers about cowardice and not valuing the liberty our forefathers died for.
And I just kind of sit here thinking, it’s fine to have opinions about what should happen. I have them.
But when did it become okay to attack and shame each other over choices that are really complicated, where the right thing isn’t clear cut?
STONESTREET: It goes back awhile. I mean, good heavens, we saw in 2016, right, when people of deeply held conviction about the president one way or the other, who shared all the other views—religious views, pro-life views, religious convictions and so on—came down on different sides and saw it as a mark of the other person’s orthodoxy. It’s bizarre to see it in this category when you’re talking about something like this. Mainly because I think—and maybe this is the only time I’ve agreed with Governor Cuomo of New York at any point in this whole thing, but everyone’s been wrong on this all the time. No one’s gotten this one right. No one’s gotten the death estimates right. No one’s done this before. No one’s bringing an experience to this that’s going to help us make the right decision. We’re literally all making this up as we go. And without that sort of humble starting point, both as elected officials and as pastors and as pundits, listen, the truest thing that I’ve heard about this is the Facebook meme which said, “Wow, that’s odd. Just three weeks ago, all of my friends on Facebook were political scientists and now they’re all immunologists.” Nobody knows what they’re doing. And so that needs to give us at least some grace with each other as we try to start this back up. The fact of the matter is we have two things to be concerned about: lives and livelihoods. And because livelihoods are connected with lives, it’s a legitimate question to ask when we start wrestling with when should we reopen? And what does it mean to reopen? And should we make policy in North Dakota based on New York numbers? These are legitimate things and at the same time to remember that every life is infinitely valuable, worthy, made in the image and likeness of God, including elderly people and the compromised people in our churches and communities who are further at risk. And, you know what, we should absolutely have on the front of our concern, too, that the government oftentimes takes rights and rarely gives them back. It’s not OK and it shouldn’t be OK and we should have a robust conversation and do whatever we can to help each other and give each other a little bit of grace.
EICHER: John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Thank you!
STONESTREET: Thank you guys.
BRIAN BASHAM: Hey, came across a story from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
NICK EICHER: Oh, man, my absolute favorite place. Taking the family there in July!
BASHAM: Yah, should be fun—so beautiful and quiet.
AUDIO: Ohhh! [scream]
Haha, except when you happen across an alligator in the backyard. This is in Hilton Head’s Sea Pines residential neighborhood.
Animal control had just tried to lasso this enormous gator they named “Big George.”
They did get Big George, finally, and dragged him outta there. Dragged him out into the street … and good for the gator he’s thick-skinned. Looking at this video, if it were you or me, that’d be some serious road rash.
Animal control took him to a nearby lagoon and set him free. I’m sure the neighbors hope that’s the last they hear of Big George.
It’s The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER: Today is Friday, May 1st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
BRIAN BASHAM: And I’m Brian Basham.
EICHER: Hey, Big Bash, that last bit may have just ruined Hilton Head for my daughter, getting her thinking about gators, y’know.
BASHAM: Haha, guess we should hold off on the shark stories, too!
The video was something to see, and speaking of that, you can see that video this morning on our new video news offering for teens, WORLD Watch News in 3.
EICHER: Yes! A couple weeks ago, you were on the program and we were introducing you as the new kid in town. And meantime we’ve been busy together with the WORLD News for Kids team, cooking up a video news offering.
Today being May first, we’re rolling it out at worldwatch.news—and we’ll put a link as well on today’s transcript at worldandeverything.org, if that’s easier for you. But worldwatch.news seems plenty easy.
BASHAM: Yes, it’s all part of a 10-minute daily we’re making available as a subscription-based curriculum supplement for schools and homeschools, and that will debut in August.
But just as a free service right now, with everyone sort of stuck at home and socially distanced, we had the idea to roll out a three-minute daily news feature for free from now until the big show is ready in August.
EICHER: It’s really excellent, and I’ll tell you, my wife enjoyed looking at the pilot shows we’ve done the last few weeks, and even my college-age son, who’s stuck at home here, looked in with interest. So it’s a terrific video news offering, and the price is right: zero. Check it out and you’ll see the potential for the longer version with more features and biblical worldview for kids: worldwatch.news.
BASHAM: All right, well, coming next on The World and Everything in It: a new show for Anglophiles who may be missing the Crawley family. Here’s WORLD’s reviewer I’m very fond of, Megan Basham.
MEGAN BASHAM, REVIEWER: If there’s one show I wish I could erase from memory to watch anew in this moment made for bingeing, it would, of course, be Downton Abbey. I bet a lot of you would join me in that. But while we can’t meet the Crawleys, Mr. Carson, and the rest of the gang for the first time all over again, we can introduce ourselves to Belgravia. It’s the new show by Downton creator Julian Fellowes.
CLIP: They were building the London Institution in Finsbury Circus when they met Mr. Trenchard. I remember the institution being opened. We find it magnificent. After that they worked on Tavistock Square and various other ventures. Until they built Belgravia, this spangled city for the rich. Where we all live now. Well, what a story. You are a woman of the new age, Mrs. Trenchard.
Fans of Downton won’t need any legal definitions smuggled into the dialogue this time around. By now, we’re all familiar with arcane inheritance terms like “entail” and “primogeniture.” We know perfectly well why the lovely but undistinguished Miss Sophia Trenchard is an unsuitable match for dashing Lord Edmund, the only son of the Earl of Brockenhurst. And we understand what it means when young Edmund is killed fighting Napoleon in the Battle of Quatre Bras.
CLIP: My mother is coming to break us apart. Why is she so against me? She’s convinced nothing good can come of it. Well, then we shall prove her wrong.
The plot is vintage Fellowes. Once again we have an esteemed aristocratic house left without an heir. We have a family trying to solidify its place in a changing world. And we have servants who, far from being background props to the drama, have their own motivations and roles to play in the intrigue.
CLIP: So you like the idea that Sophia should be remembered as a harlot? I would ask her to keep the secret. Of course I couldn’t force her. But do we have the right to hide from her that she has a grandson? We’ve hidden it for more than a quarter of a century. I forbid it. I will not have the memory of our daughter defaced. Certainly not by her own mother.
From a historical perspective, it’s helpful to look at Belgravia as a precursor to Downton. It explores the beginnings of societal shifts in the 19th century that transformed the class system of the early 20th. Edwardian era peers like Lord Grantham wondered what their place was in a brave new world of commercial manufacturing. Here, Victorian merchants like the Trenchard family are unsure if they belong in high society drawing rooms, however much new money they’ve brought with them.
CLIP: What a chance it is. The Duke himself will be there. Two dukes, for that matter. My commander and our hostess’s husband. Reigning princes too. James Trenchard who started with a stall in Covent Garden must get himself ready to dance with a princess. You will do no such thing. You would embarrass us both. We’ll see. I mean it. It’s bad enough that you encourage Sophia.
The key difference is Belgravia takes place over six self-contained, hour-long episodes. Once it’s over, it’s over. So the action moves along at a much brisker and more straightforward pace.
This tidy, linear approach to the storytelling is a bit of a shame as it robs the characters of much of the nuance and development we’ve come to appreciate from Fellowes. Not that it’s completely absent, but for the most part the villains stay villains. And, a few lapses in judgment notwithstanding, the upright stay mostly upright. There’s no time for the subtle grace notes that made Downton, however sudsy it could get at times, something more than a soap opera in period costumes.
Only one character in Belgravia represents the moral theme that dominated Downton: the nobility of serving others’ well, whatever one’s station. Here we see the great gears of the industrial revolution clanking along, changing the social classes. But there’s never a moment that matches the personal poignancy of heir apparent Matthew Crawley finally allowing his butler, Mosely, to straighten his tie and select his cufflinks. Nothing where we see the dignity of work so beautifully honored.
Still, while Belgravia is much lighter fare, it does offer some wonderful performances, particularly from Harriet Walter as Countess of Brockenhurst. Jane Austen lovers may remember Walter best as the greedy Fanny Dashwood from 1995’s Sense and Sensibility.
CLIP: Tell me, why were you at the ball? Did you know my sister and her husband? No, not really. I’d always heard of you both as the Duke of Wellington’s victualler and his wife. Seeing you here today, I wonder if I was misinformed?
Epix is offering a 30-day free trial or you can add a subscription to an Amazon prime account for just under six bucks for the month. Not a bad bargain even if Belgravia is all you watch on the network.
It may not be the most nourishing viewing option. But given that the only concerning element is an adulterous affair that’s implied via tangled sheets rather than shown, Belgravia is better than most other new shows available right now. And it will tide over all us stuck-at-home Anglophiles until the next Downton movie … already rumored to be in the works.
I’m Megan Basham.
BRIAN BASHAM: Today is Friday, May 1st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Brian Basham.
NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Next up: WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky with some reading recommendations.
MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: I received many letters in April about books. Here’s a typical one: “Hi. What are a few good books on the Great Depression? Would you recommend Studs Terkel’s Hard Times?”
I could answer that one easily, since I’ve read Hard Times. My response: “Terkel is good to get a personal sense of the hardships. The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes is a terrific overall history.”
You can send questions of that kind to this email address: [email protected]. If I can answer without doing a lot of research, I will. If I cannot, I won’t respond. But that doesn’t mean you are without resources. WORLD has a fountain of book suggestions.
First, during coronavirus time we’ve produced four feature stories to help you choose excellent reading. Our April 11 issue recommended 40 recently published history books. The April 25 issue gave young parents brief descriptions of 36 picture books published since 2000 and listed 84 more from the 20th century.
Our issue dated May 9 reviews 52 books about 21st-century China, starting point for the Wuhan virus. And the issue that goes to press next Wednesday, God willing, looks at three books by pro-abortion authors that include useful insights for pro-lifers.
Second, at the top of WORLD’s website landing page you can click “Special Sections” and see a pull-down menu with the words “Books of the Year.” From there you are one click away from our annual books issues going back more than two decades—to 1999. The 2007 and 2014 issues include my personal lists of the best books I had reviewed during the preceding seven years.
The “Special Sections” pull-down menu at wng.org also has a listing of “Marvin Olasky books.” The complete texts of 16 are there for free downloading.
Third, please make use of the WORLD archives search engine. For example, if you type in “young adult” with quotations, the search results will also list writer names on the left. Click on the top writer name and the top category, Culture & Arts. Then you can access 17 of Janey Cheaney’s reviews of YA (young adult) books.
Usually in February we review children’s books of the past year and also books about African American history, since February is Black History Month. At the end of June we recommend books for beach reading—but stay at least six feet apart.
Fourth, thousands of books are available online at no charge at Project Gutenberg and many other websites. If you click “free books online” you’ll find many worth exploring. If you have a public library card, you can paste libby.app into your browser and borrow digital books or audiobooks for free from your local library. To stream movies owned by public libraries, type kanopy (with a k).
We’ll list all the websites I’ve mentioned at worldandeverything.org.
I’m Marvin Olasky.
NICK EICHER: It’s time to thank our team members for their diligent work this week to bring you the program each day: Ryan Bomberger, Paul Butler, Janie B. Cheaney, Kent Covington, Jamie Dean, Kristen Flavin, Anna Johansen, Leigh Jones, Onize Ohikere, Mary Reichard, Jenny Rough, Sarah Schweinsberg, and Cal Thomas.
Production help this week from David Pierczynski and Kim Rassmussen, David Bahnsen, and Will Inboden.
BRIAN BASHAM: Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz stay up late to get the program to you early. J.C. Derrick is managing editor and Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief.
And you make it all happen. For that, an earnest “thank you” from each of us!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
I hope you’ll have a great weekend, and please join us again on Monday for The World & Everything in It.