Bryant Gumbel, this is your sorry life

By Nathan Porter
web posted July 17, 2000

You were born Bryant Charles Gumbel in New Orleans, Louisiana on Sept. 29, 1948, the second child of Democratic Party activist Richard Dunbar Gumbel and Rhea Alice Gumbel. You were raised in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. You attended Bates College in Maine, graduating in tumultuous 1970.

In 1972, you took your first job on television as a weekend sportscaster at KNBC in Los Angeles, where you became sports director. Alluding to your belief that you received the job because you were black, not because you were the most qualified applicant, you said, "Did affirmative action play a part? I don't think you have to be a Phi Beta Kappa to figure it out."

In 1981, you were promoted to Today Show co-host, where you remained until 1997. While host of the Today Show, you never let the fact that you were a "journalist" keep you from injecting your personal opinions into your work. Take Ronald Reagan for example. You didn't much care for Reagan, and you always seemed to find a way to let us know, like when you said, "Largely as a result of the policies and priorities of the Reagan administration, more people are becoming poor and staying poor in this country than at any time since World War II."

Then there was the time you told Lee Atwater, "Blacks have looked at the past eight years and seen this [Reagan] administration retreat from civil rights, retreat from affirmative action, make South Africa no priority, continue to see a greater disparity economically between blacks and whites, foster a spirit of racism that hasn't been seen in 20-plus years."

When questioning Richard Corlin of the American Medical Association, you said, "In the greedy excesses of the Reagan years, the mean income of the average physician nearly doubled, from $88 000 to $170 000. Was that warranted?"

Yet during the Reagan year of 1982, you signed a contract with the Today Show paying you $750 000 a year. In 1985 -- still a Reagan year -- your salary was raised to $1.5 million a year. Now that is economic disparity. I know that being the host of a morning "news" show is more important than being a physician, but tell me Bryant, was that pay raise warranted?

Your vitriol is not reserved solely for Reagan. Speaking of Kenneth Starr, you opined, "Given Starr's track record, should we suspect that he's trying to do with innuendo that which he has been unable to do with evidence?"

And of Linda Trip you asked, "Has she always been a snoop and a gossip with a particular interest in other people's romantic lives?"

Had you reserved your venom for political operatives you would have been looked on as nothing more than an average liberal media personality, but, as is your wont, you decided to tear down those closest to you professionally. In 1989 you wrote the infamous memo which explained that everything and everyone was wrong at the Today Show. Everything and everyone except of course Bryant Gumbel. As a result of your petulance, ratings for the Today Show sank.

Over the ensuing years your self inflicted wound began to fester, so in 1997 you divorced NBC, several weeks later ending up at CBS. For your service to CBS you received a salary of $5 million a year. I ask you Bryant Gumbel, is this warranted?

Your first venture with CBS was the prime-time news show, "Public Eye With Bryant Gumbel". Your show was a failure and was canceled less than year after it began. In the subsequent year, with a lot of time and money on your hands, you played plenty of golf, and plenty of hanky panky. CBS executives were incensed that you were spending more of your time on your passion for golf, and your passion for adultery, than on creating your next CBS news failure, all the while collecting $5 million. I ask you Bryant Gumbel, was that warranted?

With no ideas of your own, CBS forced you to take over the seldom viewed CBS Morning Show, turning it into the CBS Early Show. Having never crossed a bridge you didn't burn, you explained your prime time failure by lashing out at former colleagues, saying of Katie Couric, "You know, Katie had a primetime magazine fail under her." What viewers the Morning Show had were not fooled. They knew who you were and left in droves, leaving your current show with less viewers than public access television.

Like the rest of America, your family too has had enough of Bryant Gumbel. Citing years of "habitual adultery", your wife--the woman who married you when your were a nobody-- is suing you for divorce. And though you and your hot, blonde lover are living in your new $10 million pad, you pay your wife of 26 years $250 a month. Which makes me think that, largely as a result of the practices and priorities of philanderers like you, more divorced women are becoming poor and staying poor in this country than at any time since World War II.

So here you are Bryant Gumbel. As an educated black man who started his career in 1970, you had the world at your disposal. And while you had an admirable beginning, your pettiness, petulance, and arrogance have led you down the road to failure. Failure in your professional life, and -- although, with a hot blonde thing by your side, you may not realize it now -- failure in your personal life.

You are as loathed as any member of the media in my memory. In twenty years, when fame and fortune, and the women that are drawn to them are gone, what will you have left? Not much. This is your life Bryant Gumbel, and it sucks.

Nathan Porter is the creator of and the author of a weekly column entitled Who Sucks. This is his first contribution to Enter Stage Right.

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