Scott D. Pierce: No ‘Newsroom’ retreat in war with Tea Party

By Scott D. Pierce

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: July 12, 2013 07:58AM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:35PM
Courtesy photo Anchorman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) on the set of his cable news show in "The Newsroom."

Will McAvoy doesn’t like the Tea Party. The Tea Party doesn’t like Will McAvoy.

It has escaped some that Will McAvoy isn’t a real person. He’s a fictional character in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama “The Newsroom,” which returns for Season 2 on Sunday at 10 p.m.

And neither Will (Jeff Daniels) — a self-professed moderate Republican — nor Sorkin is backing away from the fight he picked in Season 1 of the series about a fictional anchorman who heads a fictional cable show at a fictional cable network. It’s a major plot point going forward.

In the Season 1 finale, Will offered this analysis to his fictional viewers and the real viewers of “The Newsroom”:

“Ideological purity, compromise as weakness, a fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism, denying science, unmoved by facts, undeterred by new information, a hostile fear of progress, a demonization of education, a need to control women’s bodies, severe xenophobia, tribal mentality, intolerance of dissent and a pathological hatred of the U.S. government,” he said.

“They can call themselves the Tea Party. They can call themselves conservatives and they can even call themselves Republicans, though Republicans certainly shouldn’t. But we should call them what they are. The American Taliban.”

Those were fighting words to many. Including the folks at the Fox News Channel, who attacked Sorkin, “The Newsroom,” HBO and TimeWarner.

They were preaching to the choir. But coverage of the FNC attacks provided “The Newsroom” was more advertising than HBO could possibly provide.

But is “The Newsroom” a “liberal fantasy,” as FNC’s Greg Gutfeld asserted? Does it attack the Tea Party and “glorify” the Occupy Wall Street movement, as Kimberly Guilfoyle contended?

Does it “hold Occupy communist freaks up on a pedestal,” as FNC’s Eric Bolling argued?


I’ve seen the first four episodes of Season 2, and, yes, one of the regular characters, Neal (Dev Petel), thinks Occupy Wall Street could be America’s version of the Arab Spring. Neal is also the naive guy who, in Season 1, argued in favor of doing a story about Bigfoot.

In the first four episodes of Season 2, Will and others are hugely skeptical of Occupy Wall Street. Will humiliates a representative of the movement on the air.

To be clear, he makes the woman and the movement look downright stupid.

“So Hollywood gets everything wrong again,” said Guttfeld, who got it entirely wrong. Because he was basing his comments about an entire season of “The Newsroom” on a 90-second trailer.

Even fictional anchormen are smarter than that.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.