Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

The latest free speech martyr

Churchill Downs came out with that statement — that was pretty harsh. And I think they had — with all the noise — we live in a different world now. This America is different. It was like a cancel culture kind of a thing so they’re reviewing it...

Bob Baffert, trainer of Kentucky Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit, reacting to his suspension after his horse was found to have a regulated substance in its bloodstream after the Derby. (“Five Baffert-trained horses have tested positive for a banned substance over the past year” — Yahoo Sports)

[A stable, by the stalls. A horse pokes his head out in the background. BOB BAFFERT, dressed in a sporty ensemble and mirrored sunglasses, sits on a chair; seated on another chair, facing him, is BARI WEISS, wearing jodhpurs, riding boots, a smart white shirt with a ruff, and a short jacket. She is scribbling in a notepad.]

WEISS: It’s disgusting how cancel culture has gotten into every corner of our lives — even sports!

BAFFERT: Yes, I guess it is.

WEISS: I don’t know much about racing, but I’m learning, and you know I love horses. Such magnificent creatures! And as you can see I like the clothes, too. I really think horse racing is one of those great treasures of Western culture, like the chromatic scale, Judeo-Christianity, and indentured servitude. I was talking to Andrew Sullivan the other day and Andrew tells me that horse racing is known as the sport of kings.

BAFFERT: That’s right.

WEISS: Well, you can see right there how the wokesters and antifa would react to that! I mean, we live in a Republic, sure, but what did that Republic come out of? The monarchy. That’s where we got many elements of our own government, like the electoral college and the death penalty. And if we don’t respect our monarchical roots, then we don’t respect our democracy. I assume you know about Colin Kaepernick.

BAFFERT: Hmm? Oh, yeah, a little. I read the papers and I’m not too sure of what that’s all about, so I don’t like to get into that —

WEISS: Because you’re scared.

BAFFERT: Scared? I’m not sure I —

WEISS: You’re afraid that if you let out what you really feel about Kaepernick and the All-Star Game and all the wokeness in professional sports, you’ll be cancelled yourself. More than you already are, I mean. Isn’t that right?

BAFFERT: There might be something to what you say.

WEISS: In fact, maybe all those other times the establishment said you doped up your horses, they were setting you up then as well.

BAFFERT: Well, horse racing’s a small world, and I try to think of these things as, you know, honest mistakes among —

WEISS: [Raising a hand] Say no more! I certainly wouldn’t write that you were going around saying you’d been cancelled. That's what the press has been doing, making you look opportunistic, like you’re just talking about these vitally important issues to distract from your own crimes. I understand! That’s what they do to all of us! I don’t think you have to worry about how you're going to come out in this story, Mr. Baffert. In fact —

[WEISS stands up; BAFFERT follows suit.]

I think we’ve got everything we need here. I’ll email or call if I need details — you know, horse stuff — but I get the gist. [Points at the stalls] Like those are the stalls and [points outside] that’s a paddock, right?

BAFFERT: Right, very good.

WEISS: [Indicating her pants] And these are jodhpurs.

BAFFERT: You look great in them.

WEISS: OK, well, thank you, Mr. Baffert.

[They shake hands.]

BAFFERT: Listen, did my publicist send you my headshot?

WEISS: Maybe. But I don’t really do that kind of thing. Maybe we’ll use an illustration showing a horse menaced by Twitter birds or something. Something dark.

[The HORSE makes a noise and shakes his head. WEISS addresses him:]

Oh, you like that, do you? Maybe we’ll use your picture, how about that? The innocent pawn caught between freedom of speech and cancel culture!

BAFFERT: Miss Weiss, you know, I’d appreciate it, because you see, I’m well-known in my own business, but this thing has got me a whole different, much higher level of publicity, and to have my picture with your article in the New York Times would really mean a big —

WEISS: The Times! Ha! I don’t work for them anymore. This would be for my Substack.

BAFFERT: Substack?

WEISS: My newsletter.

[The HORSE whinnies and appears to laugh.]

BAFFERT: A newsletter? This is for a — a newsletter?

WEISS: A Substack newsletter. It’s much more happening and important than the New York Times since they got all woke.

BAFFERT: [Baffled] Well how — how many readers does your newsletter have, because the Times, you know, I mean, millions of readers —

WEISS: Trust me, Mr. Baffert — millions of people might see you in the New York Times but, to the people who see you in my newsletter, you’ll rank with James Damore, Nick Sandmann, and other prisoners of conscience. Good day!

[She strides off. Pause. BAFFERT looks frustrated.]

HORSE: [In the voice of Mr. Ed] So, turns out your big profile in the Times is just a blurb in some crackpot’s newsletter! Now that’s what I call a horse laugh!

BAFFERT: Oh, shut up, Medina. [Chews his thumbnail thoughtfully] She must still have friends at the Times. Maybe if I turned on the charm —

HORSE: And they say humans are smart! Why do you think that crazy bitch left the Times? They hated her — couldn’t wait get rid of her! And as for your “charm,” you’re wasting your breath — even I could tell she’s a three-wheeler!

BAFFERT: [Angrily] This is all your fault! If only you could get off the junk, I wouldn’t have to keep —

WOMAN’S VOICE, OFF: Bob? What’s going on? Who are you talking to?

BAFFERT: [Sheepishly] Oh, no one, dear.

[BAFFERT shakes his fist at the HORSE. Theme music plays underneath. Fade out.]