The daily coronavirus task force briefings at the White House have become must-sees for many Americans, as they are often jam-packed with useful information about the pandemic — not to mention the ever-present possibility of a confrontation between President Donald Trump and one or more “fake news” reporters asking a loaded question.
On Wednesday, there was also a rare moment of levity during the briefing when one reporter took the opportunity to reference the hit Netflix series Tiger King, asking the president if he would consider issuing a pardon for the documentary’s title character, The Hill reported. Trump, for his part, announced that he’d “take a look.”
The Tiger King series — which has become a huge sensation as much of the country is locked down with little else to do but watch Netflix — features a former zookeeper named Joe Exotic who was recently sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role, which he flatly denies, in a murder-for-hire plot, among other alleged crimes, against an animal rights activist named Carole Baskin.
A reporter for the New York Post raised the topic of Tiger King and Joe Exotic during the briefing on Wednesday, saying, according to a White House transcript: “He’s asking you for a pardon, saying he was unfairly convicted. Your son yesterday jokingly said that, you know, he was going to advocate for it. And I was wondering if you’ve seen the show and if you have any thoughts on pardoning Joe Exotic.”
“Which son? It must be Don [Jr.],” President Trump replied. “I had a feeling it was Don. Is that what he said? I don’t know. I know nothing about it. He has 22 years for what? What did he do?”
The reporter noted the allegation and a short humorous back-and-forth ensued as the president asked the reporter if he was personally advocating for a pardon in the case. The reporter was emphatic that he, as a journalist, wasn’t taking any sides in the matter at all.
Trump eventually joked, “I’ll take a look,” before another reporter, CNN’s Jim Acosta, transitioned the briefing back to the topic of the coronavirus.
President Trump: “Would you recommend a pardon?”
Jim @Acosta: “I’m not weighing in on Tiger King.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 8, 2020
A lighthearted moment
The Hill noted that reactions to the light-hearted moment drew a mixed response. Some felt the topic of the Tiger King was inappropriate for the serious setting of a coronavirus briefing, while others appreciated the moment of levity and laughter in the midst of such chaotic times.
And to be fair, a convincing argument could easily be made either way on whether the question about a pardon for Joe Exotic was acceptable in that particular setting.
That said, given the typical length of the briefings and the daily frequency with which they occur — not to mention the need for everyone to take a breather and laugh from time to time — there really wasn’t anything wrong or untoward with the brief, and humorous, distraction.
As to whether or not Trump will actually pardon Joe Exotic remains unknown, and though it seems unlikely, we might be able to assume as much if Trump starts tweeting about the Tiger King over the next few days.