The press corps has a mild buzz going about a weekend contretemps ginned up, for publicity’s sake, by Sarah Palin’s camp, in her ongoing campaign to show how badly she is victimized by the media. The odd thing is that she has been victimized by the media, horribly so, and many of us (myself included, in several posts after the Gabby Giffords shooting) have rushed to her defense — so she doesn’t need to gin up controversies out of thin air. But that’s exactly what she and her team did this past weekend.
What happened was that Alex Pappas of The Daily Caller, one of the rising stars among political scribes and a meticulously careful and wonderfully polite, fair-minded young man (an aside: I’ve known him since he was in junior high school), wrote a perfectly fine story about Palin’s current stances vis-a-vis the presidential race. In it, one of the things she said was that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, well, of course she would endorse him over Barack Obama.
Fox Nation picked up the story and, in its own headline (not Pappas’, not the Daily Caller‘s, but its own headline completely apart from anything Pappas ever wrote) played up the “Romney endorse” angle in a way that apparently did not make it clear that the endorsement might be in the general election, rather than the primary campaign. (The headline is no longer available at Fox Nation, so I can’t say exactly what the wording was.)
Anyway, the Palin team pounced. Specifically inviting over reporter Kasie Hunt from Politico so she could hear the exchange, Palin called Pappas’ cell phone and began berating him in a very scolding manner for writing a headline suggesting she supports Romney. Pappas didn’t even know what she was talking about. When he tried to say that neither he nor his editors had written such a headline, she said she didn’t have time for this, that she needed to go back to the “real people” at the State Fair, and hung up on him.
Later, when it became clear that Fox Nation, not Pappas or The Daily Caller, had written the semi-offending headline, a Palin press aide called Pappas back not to apologize but to say that they now realized it was Fox and that the headline had been taken down. “No,” Pappas said, far more bemused than angry or upset, “he didn’t come close to apologizing.”
Added Pappas, again lightly rather than angrily: “It was definitely ironic when she was the one complaining about a reporter being sloppy when she was the one being sloppy by complaining to the wrong reporter.”
Look, it’s one thing for Palin to complain about unfair press. She has a right to do so. It’s also understandable that somebody might, at first glance, mis-read an online piece in a way that makes the original source unclear. But, really, somebody with so much experience in the public eye should know A) that reporters often don’t write their own headlines; B) that there is a difference between an original news story, on one hand, and a partial reprint of a story on a news aggregator such as Fox Nation; C) that if the text of a story doesn’t match the headline, it is only the text, not the headline, that is the reporter’s doing; and D) that such a small mis-impression isn’t worth getting hot under the collar about. I mean, really, talk about a thin skin! This was absurd.
What was even more absurd is that she and her team deliberately played it up by inviting one reporter over just to hear her berate another reporter. That’s unprofessional on its face, and it’s also really odd in that the reporter they called over works for a publication often accused of leaning left, while the (innocent) reporter being berated works for a publication accused of leaning right — and one whose whole story, in the first place, was entirely accurate and showed absolutely no animus against Palin or even anything that would put Palin in a bad light.
If Palin wants to get rid of the image of being a difficult diva with a rude streak, she needs to stop acting like a difficult diva with a rude streak.