Most of the talk surrounding the opening episode to Season 20 of “South Park” has gone to the show’s focus on the national anthem and protests during it, predominately at NFL games, over the last month.
Whether or not that particular storyline intrigues you, the episode, “Member Berries,” is worth watching if only for one scene buried in the middle of it. The scene has nothing to do with either football or political protest, however. Instead, it offers a road map for how journalists like NBC’s Matt Lauer should deal with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump when he lies on air.
In the scene, Lauer (simply referred to as “Matt”) is hosting an interview during the Commander-in-Chief Forum with presidential candidate Mr. Garrison, who is the show’s stand-in for Trump ― Garrison is often referred to as “Giant Douche,” while Hillary Clinton is nicknamed “Turd Sandwich.” The show’s use of the tag “Commander-in-Chief Forum” leaves no ambiguity about it: This is a fictional re-do of Lauer’s roundly criticized interview with Trump last week, in which the veteran journalist didn’t push back when Trump said he had always opposed the Iraq War. (Trump did not always oppose the Iraq War.)
After asking about Garrison’s lack of clear policies, Matt moves on to one of Garrison’s more eye-raising claims.
“In your campaign, you said that you would deal with our country’s immigrants and enemies by personally fucking them all to death. How do you plan to actually achieve that?” he asks.
“Well, Matt, I don’t think I said I would fuck them all to death,” Mr. Garrison replies dismissively.
Here is where real-life Lauer and his fictional counterpart divide. For rather than move on, as real-life Lauer did with Trump, fictional Matt instead says, “OK, well, let’s roll the tape on that,” forcing Mr. Garrison to watch a prolonged clip of him suggesting over and over that he would have sex with the country’s immigrants and enemies until they are deceased.
When the clip ends, there is little room for ambiguity, and Mr. Garrison must confront the truth in front of the world.
“So, by our estimates, it’s roughly 7.6 million people you have promised to fuck to death in your first year of office,” Matt says simply after the video ends.
The joke here is quintessential “South Park” in its almost childish embrace of immaturity. “South Park” co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have replaced Trump’s claim about deporting millions of undocumented immigrants with a threat of death by sex. But the message is also an important one for the media. Too often, the media has let Trump get away with lies (and he lies a lot more than Clinton) due to a continued embrace of false equivalency. But, as Samantha Bee said on Monday night after Lauer’s interview, “Calling a liar a ‘liar’ isn’t an opinion if you can prove it. That’s what we call a ‘fact.’”
If Parker and Stone get that, why can’t Lauer and the rest of the media?