The backlash has begun.
Not against Queen Elizabeth, not against the British monarchy, but against the wall-to-wall American coverage of the mourning of the monarch.
Howard Stern said that “Jesus, it’s enough with the queen!…It’s America, we don’t have a queen.” He called the coverage “annoying,” saying he knows the queen was a nice lady and was on the throne a long time, “but we gotta get back to Trump, where are those papers that they found at Mar-a-Lago.”
Mediaite ran this headline: “Queen Elizabeth Still Dead, News Networks Continue to Report.” (For younger readers, it’s a play on an old “SNL” running joke in which the faux anchors kept saying “Francisco Franco, still dead.”
“For 70 years, people in the U.K. said, ‘Long live the Queen.’ And so it goes for the news cycle following her death.”
I have a broader view of this–for one thing, it’s all news, including coverage of President Biden and Ukrainian forces ousting Russia from a large swath of territory, that’s been blown off the daytime cable news screens. I’ve also come to understand, in part by anchoring part of the royal coverage on Sunday’s “Media Buzz,” what a deep and emotional connection many people felt, including in the States, many people, especially women, felt toward a warm and reassuring monarch who held the throne for seven decades.
I raised the question on that show about whether there has been too much coverage in America, and Martha MacCallum responded that since we don’t have a queen, there’s a natural interest in the pomp and circumstance of a royal family (not to mention, I’d add, of its many scandals).
The key seems to be when Queen Elizabeth’s casket is on the move. While I was on the air, the procession was finishing its six-hour journey from her home at Balmoral Castle to the royal residence in Edinburgh, which has served that purpose since the 12th century. She would lie in rest there for one day.
Watching a slow-moving caravan isn’t very exciting, though it was moving to watch the big crowds turn out as the procession crawled through small towns.
By yesterday morning, the fever seemed to have broken. The cable networks were back to – Stern was right – Donald Trump.
And there was plenty to chew on. The Justice Department had just issued 40 subpoenas in its investigation, including, according to unnamed sources, to Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media guru, and Bernie Kerik, who, with his mentor Rudy Giuliani, pushed claims of voter fraud.
Federal agents also seized the phones of Boris Epshtyn, a former campaign spokesman and now an in-house counsel to Trump, and Mike Roman, who directed the campaign’s Election Day operation.
Trump and DOJ lawyers also dueled in court before Judge Aileen Cannon, who the president got confirmed after the election, about her ruling for a special master. Justice asked to be able to proceed with parts of its probe and to set a tight deadline for the outside expert’s review; Trump wants to slow the probe and set a longer deadline. The government did agree to one of Trump’s nominees for special master Raymond Dearie, a retired federal judge in New York.
Then there was an account from a forthcoming book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, “Confidence Man,” shared with CNN, where she is a contributor. She said that after initially accepting defeat, his mood abruptly changed.
“I’m just not going to leave,” Trump told one aide. “We’re never leaving,” Trump told another. “How can you leave when you won an election?”
He was also overheard telling RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, “Why should I leave if they stole it from me?”
What’s more, the Senate Judiciary Committee said it would investigate allegations in yet another book by the fired U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, that Trump and his inner circle repeatedly pressured him to bring indictments against such opponents as John Kerry and to block investigations of such allies as Michael Cohen.
But around noon eastern, the queen coverage was back. Her yellow-draped casket was being loaded onto a Royal Air Force transport plane, to be flown to Buckingham Palace. All three cable networks took it live because it involved an official movement, although viewers were left staring at the unmoving plane for quite awhile as their royal commentators weighed in.
They also covered the jet as it took off – and once it disappeared, it was back to Trump and politics and the latest inflation numbers.
But when the plane landed in England, the live coverage kicked in again.
For all the emotional fervor surrounding this period of mourning, there is a hard-headed business consideration for cable news: the queen’s final journey has been very good for ratings.