Nothing was done to that GIF above. Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, the HBO show covering all things sports and/or Bryant Gumbel, had a segment on Barstool Sports in last night’s episode, and there’s site founder Dave Portnoy quivering as he’s interviewed by Soledad O’Brien. He’s one followup question away from melting into a puddle of Adderall residue.
Judging from what actually aired in the segment, O’Brien took it easy on him. Too much time was dedicated to Barstool’s humble origin story—scrappy, gritty Dave Portnoy used to scream at people to take his newsletter outside of South Station; now he has an audience that’ll gladly do a lot worse at his bidding—and not enough focused on the present. But if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, here’s the best part in a one-minute clip: Portnoy tries to get ahead of his own “sex it up and be slutty” remarks about ESPN broadcaster Sam Ponder, gets it wrong, then looks like a deer in headlights as the actual quote is read to him.
O’Brien should’ve gone further in pressing Portnoy’s and CEO Erika Nardini’s claims that only a small minority of Barstool Sports’ audience is responsible for the harassment of anyone who has the gall to criticize the company, because it’s completely false, especially in the case of Ponder. At the time, Portnoy egged this on. He went on the radio to talk about how happy he was to “slowly suffocate” his newest enemy in an “internet online war.” Ponder’s crime was being mad because the company she worked for made a deal with someone who had once said she should be sluttier and called her kid ugly.
The segment was soft but instructive, as O’Brien demonstrated how even the lightest amount of face-to-face pushback can reduce Portnoy to a blubbering mess. (In Nardini’s responses, she looked like she was reevaluating all her life decisions before each answer.) If O’Brien pushed that line of questioning further, Real Sports didn’t show it. That’s a shame.