Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

John Doyle: The endless hilarity of Trump’s new TV defender

Some people get a lot of their information from newspapers, whether they read it in print or online. Others get most of their information from TV. For such people, newspaper coverage doesn't really resonate until it's talked about on TV.

A person of the latter persuasion is Donald Trump. We know that for a fact. He obsesses about TV news coverage. He watches a lot of it and, you know, feels strongly about it. In particular he likes to see his presidency and personal doings defended on TV.

This has been a boon for even the casual viewer of TV news, especially all-news TV. Not since SCTV presented hilariously grotesque caricatures of TV types have we seen such a parade of entertaining, blathering blowhards talking nonsense. Now, admittedly, like certain skits on SCTV, intoxication of some sort adds to the enjoyment. But even stone-cold sober and weed-free, you have to admit that Kellyanne Conway is darn entertaining.

Story continues below advertisement

The current must-see and favourite defender of everything Trump is this guy Sebastian Gorka, who has been on TV recently more times than Judge Judy, which is saying a lot. You can tell he's a favourite of Trump because he's been everywhere on the all-news channels.

Gorka on TV looks less the pitbull that he and Trump believe he is, and more like a giant emoji meant to signify "Harumph!" All big-bass voice, vaguely snooty, sort-of British accent and glum stare, he is the personification of contentious interview before he even opens his mouth and expresses the disdain that his demeanour screams at you.

It's disdain for the media that has made him the top-ranked Trump spokesperson in the last few weeks. He says out loud what Trump tweets and does it with a gravitas that grabs your attention until, inevitably, you start giggling. He talks like a tersely worded ransom note, a tone he believes is as authoritative as all get-out. He treats the interviewer as a squalid, ignorant creature who has stained the universe by merely existing. Unless, that is, he is on Fox News. Fox News people are on the same page as his Gorka-ness. Yep, one imagines that Sean Hannity could write one hell of a threatening ransom note.

Last week was one for vintage Gorka, as he told off hosts and anchors willy-nilly on CNN and MSNBC on the matter of Donald Trump Jr. allegedly colluding with Russia, and related matters. He interrupted MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle, who was asking about Russian influence, to say this: "Would you like to talk about Mosul or continue talking about the nothing-burger story? The Hillary Clinton campaign collects dirt on Bernie Sanders. Is that unusual?"

For Anderson Cooper on CNN, he had this baleful observation: "I'm sad to see CNN fall to this … I know you want salacious and sensational coverage for your ratings so your corporate sponsors and owners will have more money, but that's not media, that's not reportage. It's just fake news."

Gorka's disdainful approach to CNN is his new specialty. This is a guy who used to appear on TV as an alleged expert on terrorism and would issue dire warnings. Now, from the vantage point of being some sort of factotum to Steve Bannon in the White House, he is a self-educated expert on television ratings and demographics. The Nielsen numbers are at his fingertips. Fingertips, I tell you. Speaking to CNN's Alisyn Camerota about Russian influence, he played his trump card: "The amount of time you spend in desperation on a topic that has plummeted you to 13th place in viewership ranking across America! More people watch Nick at Nite cartoons than CNN today."

Later, he took the same tack with Anderson Cooper. He started by questioning the length and purpose of the interview. (It was initially about Trump visiting France.) "Anderson, how many minutes are we in?" Gorka asked.

Story continues below advertisement

Cooper snapped, "Are you a TV producer now? You have somewhere else to go? If you gotta go, you gotta go."

Gorka just went on with, "You're falling into the fake-news trap again, Anderson." And he struck again with, "You are now 13th place in national ratings behind Nick at Nite." Cooper frowned and replied, "I think it's funny you have enough time to sit around and read Nielsen numbers."

It was excellent TV. In part, because Cooper didn't really know how to handle Gorka. It's the viewer who sees the truth of it, from outside the bubble that Cooper and Gorka exist in. Gorka goes on TV and sits there like the Roman emperor in a bad, old Hollywood movie. He's a ham; it's an act. Probably, Gorka goes home and enjoys aromatherapy while listening to Perry Como records. It's Donald Trump who is really, truly inhabiting the role of Roman emperor. That, too, is funny, but in a different way.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.