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‘Is this an impeachment hearing or an episode of “Dance Moms”?’: Media roasted for saying event lacks pizazz

Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Thursday. (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/YouTube)

Live updates: Public impeachment hearings

As the historic public impeachment hearings kicked off Wednesday with televised testimony that threatens President Trump’s office, more than 13 million people tuned into broadcast and news networks while an untold number streamed the event online.

For some critics, however, the opening day of the hearings came up short. It “lacked the pizazz necessary to capture public attention,” according to an NBC News analysis. “Unlike the best reality TV shows — not to mention the Trump presidency itself — fireworks and explosive moments were scarce,” Reuters reported. One Fox News commentator called it “a tepid bore."

These assessments did not sit well with Comedy Central host Trevor Noah.

“Impeachment is like a family reunion,” Noah said Thursday night on his show. “If it’s sexy, something has gone horribly wrong.”

Noah wasn’t the only one Thursday to attack coverage that focused more on the hearing’s entertainment value than the substance of the testimonies from acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. Other late-night comics, Democrats and social media commentators weighed in, and soon, the backlash became a trending Twitter moment.

On CBS, Stephen Colbert tore into NBC News, zeroing in on the pizazz comment, which was featured in a tweet from the news site’s official account that was promoting a piece by reporter Jonathan Allen.

Late-night hosts had a lot to say about the first public hearing of the House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry on Nov. 13. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

“Yeah, that’s what I’m looking for in deeply troubling congressional hearings: 'zazz,” Colbert said, punctuating his remarks with exaggerated hand gestures. “That’s why during Iran-contra, Oliver North came dressed as Elton John.”

Colbert went on to wonder when pizazz became “the benchmark of trustworthiness.”

“I don’t want a pilot who says, ‘Attention, passengers, we’ll be touching down in Denver in just a moment, but first barrel roll, barrel roll, shimmy, shimmy, water landing!’ ” he quipped.

Meanwhile on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel told his audience that he initially misread NBC’s analysis.

“I thought it said it lacked pizza, and I agree with that,” Kimmel said. “The hearings definitely need more pizza; everything does. But then I realized it said ‘pizazz.’ ”

He continued: “These were two career civil servants giving sworn testimony about a potential attempt to undermine our democracy, they’re also supposed to have pizazz? Is this an impeachment hearing or an episode of ‘Dance Moms'? ”

Impeachment hearings begin with new evidence of phone call implicating Trump in Ukraine controversy

Seth Meyers was equally confused.

“What do you mean it lacked pizazz?” Meyers asked on NBC. “The only politicians who have ever been entertaining were the ones in ‘Hamilton.’ What do you want them to do? Show up with their own backup dancers like they’re in a chorus line?"

Alternatively, Meyers suggested that maybe House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and the other Democrats “can interpret the hearings through the music of ‘Cats.’ ”

On Thursday, social media exploded with reactions to Allen’s piece as people also called out Jeff Mason and Patricia Zengerle of Reuters for their similar take, which featured a headline that read, “Consequential, but dull: Trump impeachment hearings begin without a bang.”

“If you want entertainment, go see a movie,” one person tweeted, tagging Allen. The reporter later defended himself on Twitter, writing, “the primary purpose of these hearings is persuasion. Part of that is the presentation.”

The Reuters piece even drew responses from some Democratic leaders, including Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz and Rhode Island Rep. David N. Cicilline.

“Holy cow there’s really no reason to treat this like it’s community theatre,” Schatz tweeted.

“Today was not about your entertainment,” tweeted Cicilline, who added clapping emoji between his words.

Reuters declined to comment.

Others took a more humorous approach to their criticism.

“Pizzazz wouldn’t be an issue today if Taylor & Kent had worked a little harder on their jazz hands,” tweeted actor Michael McKean.

It didn’t take long for keen-eyed social media users to draw parallels between the pair of articles and views being trumpeted by conservatives aiming to downplay the historic hearings. Some even accused the news outlets of taking the same perspective as Eric Trump, who tweeted Wednesday, “This is horribly boring… #Snoozefest.”

Although many focused their outrage on NBC News and Reuters, Comedy Central’s Noah went after one of the loudest sources of such comments: Fox News.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is loudly ignoring impeachment. It ‘is not only dumb, it’s boring.’

“Even though millions of people have been talking about these hearings, over on Fox News their analysis of this impeachment is ‘Meh, pfft,’ ” Noah said Thursday, accusing the network of “coming up with all kinds of ways to convince people that even if do you have a PhD in Ukraine-ology, these hearings still just aren’t worth watching.”

Noah’s roughly seven-minute segment was peppered with clips from Fox News broadcasts, which featured hosts, commentators and guests disparaging the impeachment proceedings. In some broadcasts, Noah said it seemed like people on the network were either suggesting that “Americans are too dumb to follow these impeachment proceedings” or “straight up trying to hypnotize their viewers into not caring.”

“Even if people don’t understand every aspect about the Ukraine scandal that doesn’t mean that they can’t still grasp its importance” the host said. “I don’t know what a second cousin once removed is. What I do know is I’m not supposed to marry them."