Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Satirical pundit, Martin Eisenstadt, awards 'Harding' prize for apologies

Martin Eisenstadt, a satirical character who has claimed to be a political pundit and an adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, made yet another appearance on the political scene Thursday night at a Kennedy Political Union event.

Eitan Gorlin, the filmmaker who portrays Eisenstadt, and fellow filmmaker Dan Mirvish have been principally responsible for furthering the Eisenstadt mythos. They premiered an annual award series at the KPU event known as the Harding Prize, which recognizes people who have made the best apologies of the year in their fields.

“You have to be careful to use the apology to get whatever message you need to get across,” Gorlin said in an exclusive interview with The Eagle. “People are going to be looking at that apology, so if you need to plug something, if you need to insinuate something, it’s always good to change the subject. There are all kinds of tricks.”

Gorlin and Mirvish uploaded a series of videos featuring the fictitious Eisenstadt on YouTube that collectively received thousands of views.

They also took photos of the Eisenstadt character interacting with numerous political celebrities, such as former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Karl Rove, the former senior adviser to President George W. Bush.

At one point, Eisenstadt came forward and said he was the one responsible for leaking information from the McCain campaign that Sarah Palin, the Republican Party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee, did not know that Africa was a continent. Various news outlets, including MSNBC, quoted Eisenstadt on this information.

In November 2008, The New York Times published an article identifying Eisenstadt as a creation of Gorlin and Mirvish.

Gorlin said the Eisenstadt character claims to be one of the country’s premiere apology crafters and that the art of crafting apologies “seems to be a real Washington sport.”

The award — as well as Eisenstadt’s purported policy think tank, the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy — is named for Warren G. Harding, the 29th president of the United States who was in office from 1921 to 1923.

Gorlin said the fallacious institute honors a president who is generally considered by historians as among the worst, and that his namesake is appropriate for the prize. Harding once delivered an apology of his own.

“I am not fit for [the presidency],” Harding said. “And never should have been here.”

Gorlin delivered the awards as his alter-ego Eisenstadt while Mirvish filmed the event.

Eisenstadt awarded the Harding Prize for best apology on Twitter to Adam Carolla, who was a co-host of The Man Show on the Comedy Central television channel. Carolla earned the prize for his apology to both Manny Pacquiao, the World Boxing Organization’s champion in the Welterweight division, and to residents of Pacquiao’s home country of the Philippines for offensive comments he made on his podcast, “The Adam Carolla Podcast Show.”

Eisenstadt said the apology was notorious because Carolla used the time to plug his podcast.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel won the Harding Prize in Politics for his apology about calling some liberal Democrat activists “f***ing retarded.” This apology was noteworthy because Emanuel apologized for using the word “retarded” but not for swearing. He made a direct appeal to Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver, while his use of the swear word was barely addressed.

Among the other Harding Prize winners were Tiger Woods for his apology for his extramarital affairs and recording artist Usher for his apology to recording artist Chris Brown.

The next KPU event, which will be held today from 8:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. in Bender Arena, will feature the three generals who served as chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2007.

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