Arianna Huffington called Tom DeLay “delusional.” Brian Williams slammed YouTube and the blogosphere. Time editor Richard Stengel didn’t know what Time‘s circulation was. Emilio Estevez‘s fiancé has never seen St. Elmo’s Fire.
All of which made for a lively luncheon and panel debate on who might be Time‘s “Person Of The Year” today in New York.
Williams’ nomination of “You” as Person of the Year was followed by an impassioned rant about the cultural impact of the blogosphere and YouTube on America. “We’re choosing cat videos over well-thought-out, well-reported evening newscasts,” Williams said. “Look at the shows that do well that don’t include dancing … If we’re all blogging, what aren’t we reading?”
Huffington and DeLay, seperated on the panel by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, jawed back and forth about the war in Iraq that peaked when De Lay asked her if she had been to Iraq. Mayor Booker quickly interjected, fearing the “tongue-lashing” would leave him “wet.”
Over filet of beef au poivre and rosemary shrimp, about 150 considered some of the early candidates for Time‘s honor: Al Gore, Hugo Chavez, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, the You Tube dudes, Kim Jong-Il and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — who, along with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Huffington dubbed the “Axis of Evil 2.0″ — and others who will follow last year’s philanthropic honorees Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates.
During the debate between Huffington and Williams of “You,” Williams asked Stengel what Time‘s circulation was, to which Stengel asked “Is this a trick question?” before turning to Time worldwide publisher Ed McCarrick for help. Said Williams: “That’s the intelligencia — that’s what’s left.”
“It was a revolutionary idea,” Stengel said of the Time POY franchise. “We report on history, but we also make history.”
On Bush and Donald Rumsfeld‘s candidacy for POY, DeLay called Rumself a “fantastic man” who was “dealt a bad hand” and supported his overall job in Iraq — which is when Huffington erupted. “That’s truly delusional,” Huffington said.
Williams, whose impeccable comedic timing was on display, talked about Bobby Kennedy, the subject of Estevez’s Bobby. “I took a rental car from LAX, moved a chain and snuck into the Ambassador,” said Williams, referring to the Los Angeles hotel where Kennedy was assassinated. When Booker quipped that the incident was an example of a priveledged white anchor, Williams shot back: “I was born and raised in Jersey — I know how to break into a place.”