Why You Should Not Listen to Dennis Prager Ever Again

I have never been a fan of Dennis Prager or Prager University. Now, I can say that sentiment has risen to a recommendation to avoid it completely. Watch this clip about the relationship between private comments and character. Specifically, Prager makes reference to Donald Trump’s vulgar comments on the Access Hollywood tape.

You can watch the whole fireside chat here.

In this video, he correctly says that humans in private say and think things that are bad. This observation follows from the Christian doctrine of sin. Private evil is also consistent with a psychoanalytic perspective, whether it stem from Freud’s id or Jung’s shadow. However, Prager’s reference to Trump’s Access Hollywood comments as “private” is deeply flawed. As a result his moral lesson is also flawed.

Trump spoke on a television set to another person about what he had done (“moved on her like a bitch”) and what he claimed to do as a matter of course (sexually assault women). His comments were not private and they were not about his private wishes. He described what he had done and claimed to do as a matter of practice.

What Trump disclosed to Billy Bush in that conversation was not normal. For Prager to attempt to excuse this or normalize it is a disgrace. Remember Trump did not say that he worried about these fantasies or that he wished he didn’t have them or that he was fighting them. He wasn’t disclosing troubling thoughts to his therapist in an effort to help himself rise above them. They weren’t even jokes or hyperbole (which would be a less reliable indicator of character). Trump boastfully described something he had done and might do again.

Prager’s general point that private talk “is not an accurate indicator of a person’s character” isn’t consistent with common sense, the Bible, or psychological work. While I agree that humans are flawed, we are not all troubled in the same ways. It is not original with me to cite the words of Jesus on this point:

Social psychological research has demonstrated several ways that we present a front. We manage our appearance and behavior to give socially advantageous impressions. The results of self-report on tests is often questionable because of social desirability bias. Even though we don’t often know ourselves well, we often put on a different persona than we really feel. Most people agree with the idiom: you can’t judge a book by its cover. Prager wants us to believe you can’t judge a book by the book.

Prager’s effort to level the moral playing field to the lowest common denominator is a transparent effort to ease the conscience of Trump supporters. If Prager is going to be consistent then he will need to tape another fire side chat to excuse the private behavior of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

Prager was unprepared to speak intelligently about the matter. He didn’t even know the name of the show (he called it “Planet Hollywood”) and he tap danced around the specifics of what Trump said. Prager also revealed something about himself, saying that he engages in stereotypes about gender and ethnicity while he is driving. I can honestly say that I have had lots of road rage, but I have never attributed a person’s bad driving to their ethnicity or their religion. That information is something he probably should have kept private.

Additional point: Other Trump’s defenders want us to judge what they say is Trump’s heart and not his public words or actions. Defending Trump’s apparent ridicule of a disabled reporter, Kellyanne Conway once asked Chris Cuomo:

You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.

So if we can’t judge based on private disclosures and we can’t judge based on his public actions and words, then how may we judge him? I get the strong suspicion that Trump’s followers don’t want anyone to judge him at all.

Image via Wikipedia, taken by Gage Skidmore

44 thoughts on “Why You Should Not Listen to Dennis Prager Ever Again”

  1. Prager has been a phony for a long time. But it’s interesting to hear him vacillating between happy clappy man of God and bitter hate spewing liar with lightning speed.
    You don’t have to listen to him long before it becomes clear that he despises most of his countrymen.
    But what’s most amusing is the frequency with which he deploys his slogan “truth is not a left wing value” in between his endless endorsement of Trump’s pathological lying. If ever there were a broadcaster with contempt for truth it’s Dennis Prager.
    Ultimately he’s just selling his own brand- his YouTube channel, his books…whatever. He’s a con man, like every other right wing talker. Think of him as Limbaugh with more God.

  2. Had never heard of this person and I have to say that I’m not thanking Warren for introducing him to me! That is some of the most bizarre “reasoning” I have ever encountered.

    1. Unfortunately a lot of other people have heard of Prager and believe his nonsense. Hence the need for people like Warren to call him out on it.

    2. Unfortunately a lot of other people have heard of Prager and believe his nonsense. Hence the need for people like Warren to call him out on it.

  3. The flaw in this blog post is that you assume we listened to Dennis Prager before this. There is nothing to learn from him. Boom. I said it. Dennis Prager and his white Evangelical privilege has no power.

  4. I haven’t listened to Dennis Prager in years. So this is easy advice for me to follow.

    As for private conversations and a person’s character, it’s been my experience that the exact opposite is true. Have we forgotten Nixon’s expletive saturated private tapes? One of the truest measure’s of a man is how he acts when he thinks he won’t get caught.

  5. “Prager was unprepared to speak intelligently about the matter. He … tap danced around the specifics of what Trump said.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the president of the United States. (All you Trump supporters need to read this to your daughters and granddaughters:)

    “I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. “I did try and fuck her. She was married,” Trump says. Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’” “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.” “Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!” “I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says.“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” “And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.” “Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s. “Grab them by the pussy,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

  6. Let’s see…so David contemplating adultery with Bathsheba, and then going through with it and having her husband Uriah murdered wasn’t the “real” David. And, I guess when Nathan the prophet denounced judgment on him, God was just giving David a pass on his behavior. If that had been Obama or one of the Bush’s talking, we would never have heard the end of it from the evangelical camp. I personally, believe in the judgment of God, and I personally believe that Trump supporters who are believers who defend their POTUS’ aberrant behavior will receive their due at the proper time. It all makes me so sad.

  7. Never listen to Prager again?

    I never listened in the first place. Prager is cited so often by the usual suspects, that he cannot possibly be worth listening to.

  8. I actually enjoyed Prager’s radio show when I was driving around in Chicago years ago. But his assertion that private behavior doesn’t reveal true character is completely backwards. Trump or no Trump, he simply could not be more wrong.

    1. I never said private behavior doesn’t reveal true character. I said private speech doesn’t. And I wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal years ago defending Hilary Clinton’s private antisemitic slur.
      I am lied about so much by people like Throckmorton that it only confirms for me that the only way to dismiss what i say is to lie.
      Now you can return to listening to my radio show.

      1. “Private speech” is a form of “private behaviour.” It can and does reveal true character.

        and specifically, what “lie” did Warren say about you? Please quote him exactly as to what his lie was?

      2. Thanks for clarification, Dennis. It should be noted that Trump has publicly apologized for his private speech you’re talking about. Why can’t people like Throckmorton forgive him?

        Just curious, what was that WSJ column on Hillary all about?

        1. Wow, according to Dennis Prager, we shouldn’t read too much into Trump’s speech when he thinks he’s not being recorded. That doesn’t reveal his true character. But, according to you, we should certainly accept his public apology because, apparently, apologizing for something that hurts him politically, in the middle of a tight election, that totally represents his true character. And no politician, a group of people typically lambasted as the most duplicitous, in the least sincere profession, has ever given an insincere apology before, right?

          Never mind that Trump has lied about literally thousands of other things while in office, some of them incredible obvious and mindbogglingly stupid (Sharpie-gate anyone?). No, that time Trump must have be sincere and you wonder aloud why it is Warren can’t forgive him. But, that’s just who you are, I guess. You’re in the business of forgiving people. I just have wonder though, if it was Joe Biden bragging about sexually assaulting women, you’d feel the same, right?

          1. Joe Biden got another skeleton in the closet, which is an alleged involvement with money laundering with Ukrainian company Burisma of him and his son. I think, if those allegations are true, then he must publicly apologize for that if he wants to stay in a presidential race, and even become our president in the future. It’s not just about inappropriate behavior towards women, but it’s pretty much about embarrassing experiences that politicians have had that they need to acknowledge of and repent of. Speaking of the latter, when Bill Clinton admitted that what he did was wrong towards Monica Lewinsky, I thought it was good enough and there was no need for his impeachment.

          2. Except that everyone who has actually investigated the claims about Biden have said there is no evidence to support them.

        2. I don’t have to forgive anything. He didn’t directly do anything to me. This post is about judging character. I judge character by both private and public actions. Since we can’t actually know politicians that is all we voters have to go on. Thus, his disclosed comments are relevant and Prager’s effort to excuse especially these comments are gross and disgraceful. It says something not good about his character.

          PS – 1. What lie? 2. I am not sure that is Dennis Prager. There is no way to tell if that is an authentic identity.

          1. Trump’s comments about women offended a lot of people and I supposed they did so to you, but he publicly apologized for making them. It raises the question, whether those comments that were made back in 2005 alone can determine has quality as the president.

          2. Prager singled out those comments and then used them to make a generalization. I responded that the comments were not just private speech in isolation but speech about behavior he claimed to have engaged in and that the speech was not private. In any case, his general point isn’t accurate when evaluated religiously or psychologically. However, Trump’s fitness for president is about so much more than his Access Hollywood comments and the behavior he described. In addition to his moral problems (which have proven to be consistent with those comments in 2005), he has not demonstrated the temperament, knowledge, or competence to be president.

          3. Trump continues to talk to and about other people as if they have no human value and are worthy of no common respect. Some think he is just being funny, and others think he is a bully, and others even think he suffers from a mental problem. Regardless, his behavior and manner are indefensible. And please do not say that I just cannot tolerate “straight talk” or “telling it like it is”. I grew up as blue collar as it gets, and where I grew up people who talked to other people like Trump does got punched in the face. The only way to arive at Trump’s age and still think you can say anything you want is if you have hidden behind daddy’s money. I’m not a Never Trumper, and I think Hillary Clinton and, oh, James Clapper or James Comey are as filthy and compromised as Trump is in their own ways. But let’s get real about Trump’s behavior, please. His wife can’t even talk about online civility and bullying as First Lady without looking like a joke because the guy can’t even tone it down for her benefit.

          4. Sure, we can always put his offensive remarks down to youthful indiscretion at the tender age of… 58…

      3. So, because you also wrong something wrong years ago about a Democrat, that makes you right now? Are you literally going for the “two wrongs makes a right” argument?

        So, him bragging about sexual assault and adultery doesn’t reveal true character. How about actually committing adultery with a porn star? That certainly indicates his behavior matching his speech. What about the dozens of women coming forward and claiming that he assaulted them? That also matches what he bragged about. So, what happens when private behavior matches private speech? Do we still ignore it or, do we have to see whether they agree with you politically or not first?

      4. I entirely accept that, when, for example, we are angry or hurt, we all can say things that we would not wish others to use to make judgements about our character. However, it is also true that things we say, in public or in private, can be all too revealing.

        Those in public office in a democracy must accept that comments they make in private could become public knowledge, and that – especially if those comments are demeaning and gratuitous in nature (as racist and sexist comments are) – many people are going to make negative judgements, and often rightly so.

        Just on your point of ‘venting’: I see no good reason why someone should ‘vent’ by talking about things like sexual assault.

      5. Most of us show our true colors when we think no one is watching or we won’t get caught. Private speech is as much an indicator of character as private behavior.

        As for defending Hillary Clinton of a private antisemitic slur, you were wrong then as well.

      6. Hi Dennis. Just want to point out that speech is a form of behavior. It is unclear why you separate the two.

      7. It doesn’t matter. The distinction between public and private, micro morality and macro morality..it’s all just a semantic game Prager plays to accommodate the very real damage to the nation Trump’s lie and amorality cause.
        Prager makes his living lying for Trump to people who want to be lied to. Then he says “truth is not a left wing value” as if he ever valued it himself.
        He’s a typical talkradio charlatan and a hack.
        Anyone who choose to believe him is choosing ignorance.

  9. All is okey-dokey behavior for the president*. Not for Clinton , though. For Clinton, Prager would say, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
    For Trump , Prager might as well just quote Cole Porter and say, “Anything Goes”.

  10. Prager is espousing nonsense at best. He basically talked in circles. Perhaps I missed the biblical case for his argument???

    1. It’s not a biblical justification, it’s a Prager justification. Prager’s own self-serving interests are the theological authoritarian justification for Prager’s White-Nationalist Evangelical world view.

      This very same White-Nationalist Evangelical self-worship is also openly practiced by Wayne Grudem, David Barton, Pat Roberson, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, John MacArthur, Ken Ham, Robert Jeffress, Jay Sekulow, Ken Starr, Paula White, Gateway MegaChurch, Cranach Evangelical-Patheos Blog Commenters, and White-Nationalist Evangelical favorite, Trump. For further context, I highly recommend the Netflix docu-series, The Family, featuring Dr. Throckmorton among other brave souls daring to speak truth against corrupt, authoritarian power.

      1. Well, the Evangelical part of your label does not actually apply to Prager, who is Jewish.
        Which makes me think that Fea quoting Jesus to him may have even less impact than it otherwise would.
        Maybe more accurate to call him a sympathizer with the authoritarian white nationalist world view, which unfortunately many Evangelical Christians fall for but which is by no means limited to Evangelicals.
        Prager is very wrong, of course, but for once it is not an Evangelical behaving shamefully in this way.

        1. You raise a good point and I appreciate the clarification. Some might place Jay Sekulow, also Jewish, in Prager’s category. And then there’s convicted felon Dinesh D’souza, (not Jewish) not White, who nonetheless aligns himself with White-Nationalist authoritarians. And of course there’s Ravi Zacharias, who wouldn’t have his fraudulent career if it weren’t for U.S. White-Nationalist Evangelicals.

          Thankfully, U.S. White Evangelical Hegemony continues to crumble.

          1. Simply more evidence that this is nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with politics. It’s not that Trump’s base is evangelical, that’s almost happenstance, it’s that they are the most reliably far-right voting bloc in the nation.

  11. What Fea said was certainly Biblically on point. But what my parents taught me of respect for others, especially my mother for the ‘fairer sex’ (though that rarely came into play for me) and my father by his example, is what rings most in my ears. And I used to like Prager in my early years for his common sense reporting. I’ve just learned that can only go so far.

    1. I used to like Maria Bartiromo in her early years and then…money? Fame? Power? I was a Fox Republican (and by that I mean a derelict citizen) until 2016 when I cast my first vote for a non-GOP candidate (Independent Evan McMullen…I was derelict, not stupid. Thanks, Warren). In the ensuing years, I have made myself crazy trying to figure out why established, intelligent professionals have agreed to become caricatures of themselves on the world’s largest stage and it has finally sunk in. Money. The power only money can buy. Greed. Every other option has excluded itself.

      PragerU was founded in 2009 by Prager and funded generously by Texan billionaire brothers Dan and Farris Wilks (Reuters), both made wealthy through fracking (Forbes). Farris a pastor of an extremely right-wing church (Forbes) and both are using their fortunes to get the bible back in public schools (The Christian Post) and believe homosexuality and abortion (any stage, any reason) should be convictable crimes (AlterNet). PragerU videos (I’ve watched many) push an exclusively radical right agenda, deceptively couched in calm reason, just not in facts. The fact is, PragerU relies on an audience untrained in media discernment and unable to identify even grossly illogical arguments.

      PragerU is not a academic institution, does not hold classes, does not grant certifications or diplomas, and is not accredited by any recognized body (see Wikipedia/PragerU) although Dennis Prager has parsed the issue into: “Have you learned anything? Then it’s a university.” A lot like InfoWars. Or Daily Stormer. Or National Enquirer. Those universities.

      Per PragerU’s own website, it is a 501(c)3, tax-deductible organization that “relies on donations from viewers.” It says it costs $50,000 to make and market each PragerU video, which seems like a pittance compared to its funding sources and corporate support. So why does PragerU plead for donations from the middle class? There’s only one logical explanation. See paragraph 1.

  12. Of course, commentary like this will only confirm to Trump’s evangelical supporters that Donald Trump and Dennis Prager are true brothers-in-arms with one God-driven mission — to destroy the liberal establishment and elites. His fans are beyond reason, and were the moment Trump with his supercilious grin descended on that Trump Tower elevator.

    I know you won’t stop trying, Warren, and it is a noble effort, if futile, but for Trump supporters, it was never about religion, in any form, but all about “finally” having a president willing to air and (eventually) settle a myriad of political grievances against liberals of every stripe whom they believe are responsible for bringing America to the brink of moral and economic collapse. You could have them locked in a room and force them to spend an entire day listening to you teaching from the Bible, using all their favorite verses to illustrate Trump’s profound unfitness for office, but it wouldn’t make the slightest difference.

    Of course, the moment Trump departs the White House and a Democrat takes over, it will be as nothing had happened — Trump will have been “betrayed” by the latest conservative scapegoats and Prager and his ilk will once again rail against the liberal elites and rail against their “sexual depravity”. (No bookie would ever take a bet against it!)

    1. Ya got me man. I have to support Trump because, while he is not ideal, he is necessary. I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone who’d take effective action against the entrenched criminality in the Federal government. (I politely resigned and accepted rustication when they got to the point of veiled death threats, so don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.) If Trump had Stormy hanging on his arm in public every day, I would still support him if he were trying to actually do those things Reagan mostly only talked about. The alternative is the collapse of the Republic into a satrapy of the Global Fascist Dictatorship. Poor ol’ Dennis just wants you to be happy, but you do you.

      1. What do you mean by “entrenched criminality in the Federal government”?

        Can you give some examples? And what Trump has done about them?

      2. I guess you’re oblivious to the fact that that criminality and corruption is Trump’s M.O. and the rule of law (in the government) is weaker under Trump than it has been in living memory.

        Oh, and you’ll be back whining about entrenched criminality in the Federal government the moment Trump leaves office and his woefully underqualified Cabinet is replaced by people who actually know how to do the job.

    2. And now we have the spectacle of Prager advancing Trump’s lies about massive vote fraud. The knots Prager twists himself in to accommodate immorality has now led him to cheerlead for setting aside our constitutional electoral process and the installation of Trump as unelected dictator.
      Prager willingly stands with the regime that not only fired Chris Krebs for daring to tell the American people the election was secure, but which now openly calls for Krebs to be murdered.
      That’s just how morally bereft Prager and the Trump Cult have become.
      These people are despicable frauds.

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