Tommy Christopher is the latest addition to the Daily Banter team. Tommy is known for his past work as Mediaite‘s White House correspondent and his reputation as, to quote Ben Cohen, “a no-nonsense, rabble-rouser with the rare ability to write hard-hitting stories in a compelling way.” We figured what better way to introduce him to you all than to throw him under the spotlight.
As part of our “10 Questions With…” interview series, I chatted with him about journalistic biases, stand-up comedy, and live-tweeting a heart attack.
The Daily Banter: And here’s the softball: Why cover the White House?
Tommy Christopher: The White House beat has been great for me, because I’m covering it from multiple angles. As a media reporter and commentator, I can track how media narratives form and transform, and as a political reporter and commentator, I can also participate in that. The greatest value, though, is that as a regular person, I can bring the concerns of other regular people to the attention of those at the highest level of our government. We don’t always get answers, but our questions are heard.
The Daily Banter: You were one of the first reporters in the White House Press Room to take on Robert Gibbs over the issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” What made you want to really poke the bear on that issue?
Tommy Christopher: Wow, you did your homework. I’m very passionate about social justice issues, and that particular topic presented itself with a unique peg that kind of put everyone in a bind. If it was a threat to release detainee photos, how was it not a threat to fire otherwise qualified translators?
The Daily Banter: And speaking of taking on people, what was it like to go after Jay Carney like you did? When you were doing it, was there a voice in your head going, “I’m being a dick to the WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY!”?
Tommy Christopher: Well, that wasn’t really me being a dick to Carney, but rather, to those reporters who had been asking equally absurd questions about the Affordable Care Act and the government shutdown, without thought to the stakes for real people. I just wanted those guys to put a little more thought into what they were doing.
The Daily Banter: You took a lot of flak for that, but one of the more interesting responses I found to all that was Larry O’Connor’s over at Breitbart, who defended the concept of a proudly-biased White House correspondent. In hindsight, what are your thoughts on your decision to ask those questions, and do you think we’d be better off if more people, conservative reporters included, asked those types of questions?
Tommy Christopher: I take issue with the term “biased,” because I think it is possible to have a point of view, while still operating based on facts, per my last response. Asking Jay Carney if he’s going to sign up for Obamacare is dishonest. I think honesty about point of view would be better, as would more honesty overall. The point of my question was to expose the dishonesty and frivolity of some reporters’ treatment of the ACA, and the stakes involved.
I expected to get shit from right-wingers over that, but I was surprised how few liberals had my back. I guess the satirical aspect got lost in translation, but my real audience was always right there in the room with me.
The Daily Banter: You’ve gotten in your fair share of hot water over some of your articles as well, specifically a piece you wrote for Mediaite called “This NSA Scandal Is A White People Problem”. With that headline and angle, you obviously knew what you were doing, but how serious do you really believe the NSA scandal to be?
Tommy Christopher: From what I’ve seen, it’s no more serious than it has been since the FISA court was created, which is to say it’s serious, but if your hair is only just now on fire, you haven’t been paying attention. The stuff Snowden has revealed, frankly, makes me feel disappointed in the NSA’s talent for villainy.
The Daily Banter: Having said all that, now that you’re at the Daily Banter, where Chez has proven that it’s impossible to get fired from, what’s the piece you’ve always wanted to write that might actually happen in the near future?
Tommy Christopher: I obviously don’t let getting fired worry me, but I do look forward to Twitter-feuding with my Daily Banter fellows, a pastime that’s not always appreciated elsewhere. Life is so much more interesting when we disagree.
The Daily Banter: You once live-tweeted a heart attack (props, by the way). If you could have live-tweeted any event in history, what would it be?
Tommy Christopher: Well, part of the reason I did that was to get my mind off of my possible imminent death, so I’d probably elect not to tweet most worthwhile historical events. I would love to have seen the search results for the #FreeBarrabas hashtag, though.
The Daily Banter: A bit of byline hunting told me that you at least dabbled with stand-up comedy, which isn’t surprising given the noticeable overlap of writers and comedians. Why do you think such a strong overlap exists, even when it comes to writers that don’t necessarily write humor pieces?
Tommy Christopher: All comedians are writers. All writers are not comedians. There’s your Venn diagram. Comedians are people for whom writing is insufficiently misery-inducing.
The Daily Banter: If the world is screwed past the point of no return (or close), what do you think was or what will be the final nail in the coffin?
Tommy Christopher: I think it was live-tweeting a heart attack.