Past Present Podcast: Comey’s Firing, Teeth & Dentistry, and the Bachelorette


On this week’s episode of Past Present, Niki, Natalia, and Neil debate Jim Comey’s firing, teeth and dental care, and the Bachelorette’s first black star.

Comey’s Firing

Donald Trump has admitted he fired FBI director Jim Comey because he was investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election. We discussed the usefulness of comparing Comey’s firing to Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Natalia shared the historian Nathan Connolly’s Facebook post that Trump’s decision reflected his businessman mindset where firing someone makes a problem go away.

Teeth & Dentistry

The Washington Post article, “The Painful Truth About Teeth,” investigated the huge divide in dental care for America’s rich and poor. We discussed the history of teeth and dental care in America, including Natalia’s remarks on the possibility that George Washington’s dentures came from the pulled teeth of his slaves. Niki remarked on the popular imagery of the terrifying dentist, such as Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist in Little Shop of Horrors. Natalia discussed how dentists have maintained a monopoly on dental care, something reflected in Mary Otto’s book Teeth.

The Bachelorette

ABC’s The Bachelorette has its first African-American star of the show. Neil observed the show would be airing during the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that outlawed state bans on interracial marriage. Neil also noted the cast was the most diverse in the franchise’s history, although it still had a majority of white contestants. Niki drew links between the Bachelorette and season two of Lifetime’s Unreal, which featured a black bachelor in its dramatic depiction of a dating show similar to the ABC franchise. Natalia recommended the Public Books’ virtual roundtable on Unreal for more reading on that show.

What’s Making History

  • Niki talked about the death of Roger Ailes. Niki has written about Ailes for U.S. News and for Vox. She also recommended David Greenberg’s piece on Ailes in the New York Times.

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