There’s something magical about a really good—which is to say, really awful—CNN remote talking head segment. The delicate alchemy of pure awkwardness arises from any number of ingredients: tape delay; distance; the basic anxiety of knowing that every dumb expression crossing your face is being transmitted to hundreds of thousands of people, constantly. But true awkwardness doesn’t just spring to life by accident; it must be forged, in the fires of someone saying something very stupid with the conviction that it is, in fact, extremely funny, and that kind of wonder doesn’t just walk into your life every single day.
But today was one of those days, happily, as economic analyst Stephen Moore stepped up and earned his place in the pantheon of truly uncomfortable CNN moments. The achievement in question came during a sequence in which Don Lemon was talking about adult film actress Stormy Daniels’ recent decision to sue Donald Trump, and the general what-the-fuck-ness of an adult film star suing the President Of The United States. Enter Moore, apparently moved to play comedian, and lobbing a whiff so bad that you can actually watch the individual beats of his co-panelists’ growing contempt for it in action.
Moore’s joke—“Porn stars do things for attention, duh!”—is bad, yes (and the delivery is even worse), but the true beauty here is in the reaction; four human beings refusing to give his alleged gut-buster even the slightest time of day. It’s the platonic ideal of a joke (rightly) failing to land, and it happened in place where millions of people could see it. (Meanwhile, Mediaite has a longer version where Moore attempts, unsuccessfully, to get Lemon on his side.) We don’t say this often about a 24-hour news network, but god bless you, CNN. You’re doing the lord’s work.