READ OF THE DAY — WaPo’s account of our own Meridith McGraw’s retelling via Twitter of one dead turkey’s journey on a Southwest flight from DCA to Austin: through scanning at TSA, into an overhead bin and, 3 hours and 24 minutes later, on to someone’s home in Texas. The fowl’s owner, McGraw noted among many other funny observations, was “in Boarding Group A, which is called, ironically, the early-bird check-in.”
A NOT-SO WELCOME HOMECOMING — DAVE CHAPPELLE made a surprise stop by D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts on Tuesday in the latest chapter of the running saga with his alma mater.
But if the self-proclaimed GOAT hoped to smooth things over amid the backlash over his jokes about transgender people, he was in for a surprise of his own.
Some 580 students packed into an auditorium to hear their school’s most famous alumnus discuss the uproar triggered by his Netflix special “The Closer.” With a camera crew in tow, Chappelle took the stage to a raucous reception of cheers and some boos — and the hourlong session went south from there, we’re told.
During a Q&A session, one student stepped to the mic and called Chappelle a “bigot,” adding, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child,” according to two students present. The comments were confirmed by Chappelle’s spokesperson CARLA SIMS.
NO APOLOGIES: Chappelle responded, as recalled the next day by the students, “My friend, with all due respect, I don’t believe you could make one of the decisions I have to make on a given day.” That peeved some students who were hoping for an apology or some semblance of one from Chappelle.
In response to another antagonistic question, Chappelle roughly told the student body of artists: “I’m better than every instrumentalist, artist, no matter what art you do in this school, right now, I’m better than all of you. I’m sure that will change. I’m sure you’ll be household names soon.”
The students recalled that another student in the audience shouted at him, “Your comedy kills,” and Chappelle shot back, “N—— are killed every day.” He then asked, “The media’s not here, right?”
ONE DISTURBED PARENT: The two students we spoke to declined to go on the record out of fear of retribution from the school. The father of one of the students, who also declined to speak publicly to protect the identity of his daughter, said, “As a parent, I have to say I have a real problem. … He was being dead serious and using the n-word on the record. What kind of judgment is the school showing to allow that?”
Sims, the Chappelle spokesperson, responded: “They are complaining that he talked and said the n-word. If anything, Dave is putting the school on the map.” Chappelle has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Duke Ellington and brought A-list celebrities such as BRADLEY COOPER and CHRIS TUCKER to its campus.
The two students who spoke to Playbook said they were afraid to speak up at the assembly because Chappelle often laughed at students’ questions or responded with jokes. At one point, after a student left the assembly room, Chappelle singled her out by saying, “Of course she left early.”
Sims said that person “couldn’t even entertain the idea of a conversation.”
Some students were equally put off by Chappelle.
“He could tell we were nervous,” said one of the students we spoke with. “It was a huge power imbalance of this grown man and his camera crew — and these 14- to 18 year-olds without their phones, just high school kids.” Students had to lock their phones in special pouches beforehand to prevent recordings.
A spokesperson for the school said that about eight students came forward to ask questions.
“During the conversation with students and staff, Chappelle specifically invited the voices of discontent to ask questions, however as a result, the supporters of Chappelle became the silent majority,” said Duke Ellington spokesperson SAVANNAH OVERTON.
“Our principal was approached by several students after the assembly who were disappointed that they were not able to voice their support for Chappelle in this forum.”
NO HARD FEELINGS: According to the students, Chappelle seemed to soften up as he wound down. Turning to the camera, he spoke out against death threats some students have received since protesting him. The school has responded by increasing security and barring students from leaving campus for lunch.
“His whole tone changed,” one of the students said. “He said, ‘This is my family and whether they know it or not I love these kids. … I don’t want to hear about any threats to these kids. These kids don’t deserve that.’”
“He was really kind,” the student added. “If [only] he [had] acted that way the whole time. … There was no reason to be mean to us. He was just laughing at kids.”
A PARTING GIFT: Sims said Chappelle was expecting forgiveness from students, not to offer an apology of his own. The school canceled and rescheduled an event to name its theater after him amid concern about student reactions to his special.
“He said these kids deserve an F for forgiveness,” Sims said. But, “Give them some space to grow. They are going to say things that are immature.”
On his way out, Chappelle gave three tickets to each of the students for the screening of his documentary “Untitled” at Capital One Arena that night and 600 Thanksgiving meals for students and staff.
YOUR GRASSLEY CHORES — In Wednesday’s Playbook, we asked you to send in your “Grassley chores” — the ones you do to avoid even less pleasant tasks. A few of our favorite responses:
— “I’ll stay in the kitchen washing all the dishes by hand to avoid … talking to the guests. God, that is such a chore!” –Joan Carnrick
— “Keeping our 15-year-old Maltese out of the kitchen; as soon as she smells the turkey she will sit on the kitchen floor and endlessly BARKBARKBARK” –Rick Pozniak
— “I like to volunteer for the wine/beer/ice run. Ice often being the hardest to find, requiring multiple Wawa stops. Which of course is never time wasted. That segues into day of drinks Sherpa.” –Bill Deere
— “My chore has been the same since age 5. Take people’s coats and put them on the bed. Then give them back at the end of the night. Sometimes a person brings a scarf and it's a little more challenging. Not a glamorous job but proud to play a small role each Thanksgiving.” –Tim Schlittner of the AFL-CIO
BIDEN’S THURSDAY — The president is in Nantucket and has nothing on his public schedule.
THE HOUSE and THE SENATE are out.
MTG’S WISHLIST — House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY still has a ways to go to win over Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) in his bid to become speaker if Republicans take the House. “There are many of us who are unhappy about the failure to hold Republicans accountable, while conservatives like me, PAUL GOSAR and others just take the abuse by the Democrats,” she told Rep. MATT GAETZ (R-Fla.) on his podcast “Firebrand” this week.
Greene laid out demands for McCarthy if he hopes to win her support for speaker: First she wants Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.), who is retiring, and Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) to be kicked out of the GOP Conference and effectively booted from their committee posts. Next, she wants the other 11 Republicans who voted for impeachment stripped of their leadership positions on committees.
“Do you know the excuse I was given about why we can’t remove them from the conference?” she said. “‘Oh, but Marjorie, we’ll lose committee seats. Our conference will lose committee seats.’ Well guess what? I lost two committees … Paul Gosar lost a committee seat. I don’t see why we can’t kick these two Republicans out of our conference.” MTG claimed McCarthy currently doesn’t have the votes to become speaker, though a lot of other Republicans would probably disagree.
“While some members might be focused on an event 13 months away, most — including McCarthy — are focused on fighting against the Democrat agenda in Congress, winning back the House, and putting our country back on the right track. Happy Thanksgiving!” said McCarthy’s spokesperson MATT SPARKS.
THE WHITE HOUSE
THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS — The Bidens are in Nantucket, Mass., for Thanksgiving, “renewing a family tradition that dates back to 1975, when Mr. Biden and his wife-to-be spent their first holiday together,” NYT’s Zolan Kanno-Youngs writes. But it’s a little different this year.
— The visit comes with “a dizzying array of security personnel, members of the media and White House officials, not to mention a parade of family members: his children, ASHLEY and HUNTER; Hunter’s wife, MELISSA; grandchildren NAOMI, FINNEGAN, MAISY, NATALIE, HUNTER BIDEN II and BEAU; and Naomi’s fiancé, PETER NEAL.”
A TURKEY DAY INFLATION REMINDER FOR THE W.H. — With prices for Thanksgiving staples up 5% this year, Republicans are seizing on the holiday as an inflation attack line against Biden, Meredith Lee reports. Even though “some of today’s rising food prices have more to do with labor shortages and rare supply-chain snarls,” she notes, Republicans are trying to link inflation with their efforts to kill the Build Back Better bill — and they’re winning the messaging war.
AHEAD OF THE HOLIDAYS — A.G. MERRICK GARLAND said Wednesday that the DOJ is prioritizing “prosecuting passengers who have assaulted airline crews, as travel spikes for what is set to be the busiest holiday season since the pandemic took hold,” Oriana Pawlyk writes.
“Not only do passengers violate federal law when they harm employees, ‘they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,’ Garland said in a letter to his workforce. ‘Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard.’”
ON THE RISE & ON THE MOVE — The American Automobile Association “predicts that 48.3 million people, 4 million more than last year, will travel at least 50 miles from their home for Thanksgiving this year despite a nationwide rise in COVID cases,” Newsweek’s Katie Wermus writes. “The U.S. is reporting nearly 100,000 new infections per day. In the past two weeks, the seven-day daily average of new cases increased nearly 30 percent.”
— The White House also plans to “require essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S. land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated beginning on Jan. 22,” AP’s Zeke Miller reports.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
ARBERY DEFENDANTS CONVICTED — NYT’s Richard Fausset: “Three white men were found guilty of murder and other charges on Wednesday for the pursuit and fatal shooting of AHMAUD ARBERY, a 25-year-old Black man … The three defendants — TRAVIS MCMICHAEL, 35; his father, GREGORY MCMICHAEL, 65; and their neighbor WILLIAM BRYAN, 52 — face sentences of up to life in prison for the state crimes. The men have also been indicted on separate federal charges, including hate crimes and attempted kidnapping, and are expected to stand trial in February on those charges.”
— Biden said Wednesday that the jury’s verdict in the Arbery case shows the “justice system doing its job.” More from NBC’s Lauren Egan
INVESTIGATION LATEST — The criminal investigation into DONALD TRUMP “and his family business is reaching a critical phase as CYRUS R. VANCE JR., the prosecutor overseeing the inquiry, enters his final weeks as Manhattan district attorney,” write NYT’s Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, Jonah Bromwich and David Enrich. Recent developments in the investigation — issuing additional subpoenas and interviewing more key players — indicate the office has “shifted away from investigating tax issues and returned to an original focus of their three-year investigation: Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets.”
— MATTHEW CALAMARI, Trump Organization COO “who was being investigated as part of a wide-ranging probe into Trump's company, is not expected to be charged, his attorney said Wednesday.” Details from NBC’s Tom Winter and Dareh Gregorian
Chuck Schumer noted the death of his 98-year-old father, Abe: “In so many ways — he personified the greatest generation.”
WHITE HOUSE OPEN FOR PARTIES — While we’re still waiting for our invites to the White House Christmas parties, administration officials tell Daniel Lippman that they are planning an in-person Hanukkah event Wednesday in the East Room following the lifting of the D.C. mask mandate. One official said the event will include the president, first lady Jill Biden, VP Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish. The person said the invite list “won’t be small.” A second official said there will be a menorah-lighting ceremony as part of it. Jewish Telegraphic Agency first reported the White House’s intention to hold a Hanukkah party.
IN MEMORIAM — “Michael Smith, a top U.S. trade representative, dies at 85,” by WaPo’s Bart Barnes: “Michael B. Smith, a top U.S. international trade representative during the Carter and Reagan presidencies who helped reduce obstacles to imports and exports on world markets with a blunt and aggressive style at negotiating tables from Asia to Europe, died Nov. 8.”
— “Sherif Zaki, CDC pathologist who studied infectious diseases, dies at 65,” by WaPo’s Matt Schudel: “As the founder and chief of the CDC’s Infectious Disease Pathology Branch, he was at the forefront of efforts to identify numerous deadly diseases, including the hantavirus, West Nile virus, the Ebola and Zika viruses, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the current global pandemic of covid-19.”
TRANSITIONS — Parker Dorrough will be a managing associate at CLS Strategies. He previously was comms director for Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.). … Meghan Dorn is joining Argo AI as a public policy manager. She previously was a legislative assistant for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) … CNN’s Abby Phillip … Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush are 4-0 … The White House’s Shilpa Phadke … Mark Bloomfield of the American Council for Capital Formation … Robert Steurer … Elan Carr … Bill Dauster … Lee Dunn … Jason Rae … Eric Oginsky … Insider’s Brent Griffiths … CapitalGig’s David Almacy … Doug Troutman … Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss … PBS NewsHour’s Kira Lerner … Reuters’ Sarah Lynch … EEOC’s Keith Sonderling … Loully Saney of Day One Project … former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich … former New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch … Rachel Holt of Construct Capital … Colin Crowell … Stuart Yael Gordon … Alexandra Givens … Sean Durns … Social Driver’s Anthony Shop
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( Information from politico.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )