Sometimes you must wonder how some members of the establishment media live with themselves. Their double standards are so egregious, as is their refusal to observe the boundaries between straight news and opinionizing (to coin a word), and as are their utter contempt for and viciousness against those anywhere to the political right of them, that one would think there is no way they retain any conscience at all.
Another column in this space, very soon, will analyze this topic in more depth, including a discussion not just of journalistic sins of commission but of omission as well -- but for today, I am pleased to help publicize the horrid "journalism" compiled by the Media Research Center for its annual "Best Notable Quotable" awards for the year's worst reporting. This is, I think, my12th straight year with the pleasure of being one of the MRC's judges for these awards -- but I think this year takes the cake.
Herewith, then, some of the entries that particularly enraged/amused/befuddled me:
As one nominee for the "Michelle, The Media Belle Award," NBC correspondent Dawna Friesen gushed on the April 1 Nightly News that
From the moment the Obamas landed in Britain, hand in hand, many here were already star-struck…. Here, they're calling it "Michelle's magic." There's the fascination with her clothes… but awareness, too, that with her Ivy League education and relaxed, easy charm, she's impressive.… She's been hailed by the fashion press as a modern-day Jacqueline Kennedy, who dazzled Brits when she met the Queen.
If that's not enough sickly-sweet hagiography for you, consider this love note from old Thrill-up-his-Leg himself, Chris Matthews, who while covering Barack Obama's Feb. 9 press conference seemed to want to go all Rachel Uchitel to Michelle's Elin Nordegren:
The President showed his analytical mind.… He was at his best intellectually. I thought it was a great example of how his mind works.… What a mind he has, and I love his ability to do it on television. I love to think with him.
Then again, on April 1 Matthews showed that perhaps he really dreams of a threesome:
When they were both walking to the helicopter the other day, Marine One... you could tell, like, they were experiencing the -- I'm getting old here -- the grooviness, the excitement of being this first American couple heading towards Marine One, which is cool in itself, heading from there to Air Force One, to a quick flight across the Atlantic, on your own plane, and to meet with the world leaders as, like, the centerpiece of the world.… I'm saying it again, I'm getting a thrill.… We agree, we girls agree. I don't mind saying that. I'm excited. I'm thrilled.
At least Matthews didn't get as explicit as New York Times "Domestic Disturbances" blogger Judith Warner last Feb. 5: "The other night I dreamt of Barack Obama. He was taking a shower right when I needed to get into the bathroom to shave my legs.… I launched an e-mail inquiry.… Many women -- not too surprisingly -- were dreaming about sex with the President."
Then again, maybe sex is beneath Obama. After all, apparently he's even too good for the presidency: "I like to say that, in some ways, Barack Obama is the first President since George Washington to be taking a step down into the Oval Office. I mean, from visionary leader of a giant movement, now he's got an executive position that he has to perform in, in a way." (That was ABC Nightline co-anchor Terry Moran on a Feb. 20 podcast.)
But if the media love Obama, they may hate conservatives even more. From a much longer entry, just consider that ABC's Dan Harris ended a long report/attack on TEA partiers and other conservative activists, with all sorts of breathless and slanted examples, by saying: "Add it all up, and some prominent Obama supporters are now saying that it paints a picture of an opposition driven, in part, by a refusal to accept a black President." Yep, that's right: We conservatives wake up every day exclaiming that we just cain't have no Negro in the big house unless it's to be serving us our breakfast on a tray, or maybe to buff our hunting boots.
Not to be outdone, CNN Newsroom anchor Rick Sanchez on June 11, trying to assign blame for the Holocaust Museum shooting, asking rhetorically:
Was there a tone in this country that was actually started with the election of our first black president that is bringing the crazies out of the woodwork, and they are being motivated to move by right-wing pronouncements, like he is dangerous, he is a socialist, he is a Muslim, and he isn't even a U.S. citizen? This is what we hear on some TV and radio outlets, which, by the way, according to our constitution, they are entitled to believe and even propagate.
Well, Obama's policies are akin to Socialism and his policies are dangerous, but saying so doesn't make me responsible for any museum shootings -- and it has nothing to do with Obama being black.
Other hatred for conservatives includes Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik calling Robert Novak, deceased just two hours earlier, "a very dark force in cable TV news contributing mightily to the toxic culture of confrontation," and Chris Matthews complaining about "so much right-wing crap on the best seller list," and Matthews again calling Rush Limbaugh a "human vat of vitriol," and Keith Olbermann calling Michelle Malkin guilty of "total mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred, without which [she] would just be a big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it."
And on and on the examples go.
But here were the three that were my finalists for most outrageous Quote of the Year. First, understand that I hold supposedly "straight news" reports to a higher standard (opinionizers are given more leeway), that I hold formal columns in serious newspapers to a higher standard than off-the-cuff TV remarks or blog posts, and that I hold professional journalists to higher standards than I do mindless celebrities -- so, for instance, I'm not likely to award Lily Tomlin or Roseanne Barr the "Quote of the Year," because they can't be expected to be reasonable.
That said, read these three and weep, or laugh, or curse in anger, as the case may be:
From Liz Sidoti, in a written dispatch for the supposedly neutral Associated Press, on April 25:
It didn't take long for Barack Obama -- for all his youth and inexperience -- to get acclimated to his new role as the calming leader of a country in crisis.… Rookie jitters? Far from it.… For the past three months, Obama has spoken in firm, yet soothing tones. Sometimes he has used a just-folks approach to identify with economically struggling citizens. He has displayed wonkish tendencies, too, appearing much like the college instructor he once was while discussing the intricacies of economic collapse. He has engaged in witty banter, teasing lawmakers, staffers, journalists and citizens alike. He has struck a statesmanlike stance, calling for a renewed partnership between the United States and its allies.…
From New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (a partial excerpt from the entry), complaining Sept. 9 about the difficulty of passing health-care and cap-and-trade bills, yearning for "one-party autocracy" -- which "certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one-party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st Century."
Sure, just as long as you are not Tibetan, or a Christian, or a student in Tiananmen Square, or….
Finally, from Discover Magazine deputy web editor Melissa Lafsky, writing at the Huffington Post about the recently deceased Ted Kennedy:
We don't know how much Kennedy was affected by [Mary Jo Kopechne's] death, or what she'd have thought about arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history.… [One wonders what] Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted's death, and what she'd have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded. Who knows -- maybe she'd feel it was worth it.
Starting Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern time, you readers can let Mary Jo, reading from heaven, know if you think her death was worth it. The Media Research Center will for the first time ever sponsor a "public ballot" on these awards for bad journalism, at mrc.org. Or, don't hesitate to write comments here at this site about which of the ones I've highlighted (the full contest included many more) are the ones you think are worst.
Who knows -- maybe, if Chris Matthews reads your responses, he'll get another thrill up his leg.