June 23, 2011 / Media - News Reporting & Analysis, Opportunity, Politics

By Insulting Palin, The New York Times Gives Itself a Black Eye


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, offered his version of a poison pen letter to Sarah Palin in his piece entitled Sarah Palin’s Tom and Jerry Problem. In it, he claimed that “If the 2012 election were held in the newsrooms of America and pitted Sarah Palin against Barack Obama, I doubt Palin would get 10 percent of the vote.” He is sure “most journalists would recoil in horror from the idea” of a Palin presidency. But it is more accurate to say that they recoil at anyone they cannot control. Palin has always been a wild card. When elected Governor of Alaska in 2006, successfully taking on big oil and corruption in her own Republican Party, she was considered a liberal darling. How times change.

In his editorial, Mr. Keller may as well have called Palin an ignorant rube. I’m surprised he didn’t refer to her as one of the “flyover people.” Yet his behavior may not be helping the cause of elitists like himself, or the Democratic Party, for that matter. When even actors, and Obama supporters, like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore tweet their disgust at big media’s witch hunt of Palin via their scouring of her 24,000 e-mails as Governor – so called “journalists” are in far more trouble than Palin is. “Journalist” credibility and respect are slowly whittling away to zero.

Keller wishes to pretend that journalists are a small part of Palin’s problem – but their sense of entitlement is the entire problem. The media picks our presidents. The very idea that we are not waiting with baited breath to find out who they think should be the Republican placeholder designed to be beaten by their already anointed President is infuriating to them.

Keller talks about the “profound and mutual lack of respect that is not quite like any I recall between a candidate (or pretend candidate) and the press” and in so doing forgets the horrid lack of respect that Hillary Clinton endured in her historic 2008 run for the presidency. At the time, I wrote to the New York Times public editor complaining of their coverage, accusing them of being little more than biased fishwrap. Of course, they exonerated themselves, claiming their bias was insignificant at best. Poppycock!

Their earlier behavior toward Hillary was not lost on Palin. Why should she work to earn the respect of a group that has already made their minds up about her and lives to catalog and celebrate her every misstep?

Mr. Keller offers barely veiled angry and petty complaints about her contempt for the media, but then again, he never had anyone going through his garbage, as Palin did when 30 lawyers were commissioned to head to Alaska during the 2008 campaign to dig up dirt on her. I also doubt he experienced what it would be like to have an infant of his own with Down Syndrome be publicly excoriated and ridiculed. Let’s look at this Keller comment:

The evidence of Palin’s scorn for what she calls the lamestream media is abundant, but I was struck by the gratuitous quality of one remark she tossed off during that Rolling Thunder rally in Washington the Sunday before Memorial Day. When an NPR reporter asked what had brought her to the event, she replied, “It is our vets who we owe our freedom — not the politician, not the reporter — it is our vets, so that’s why we’re here.”

While Mr. Keller is irritated she did not make a more gracious statement, Mrs. Palin is spot on. Powerful politicians in cushy surroundings with large expense accounts and reporters angling for seven figure book deals, often trading accuracy for access, do not matter as much as the brave men and women putting their lives on the line for their country.

Keller also opines that “one key to Palin’s dislike of the news media is a streak of intellectual insecurity, or a trace of impostor syndrome. Her best defense against being found shallow is a strong offense.” Keller ignores that our own President has a penchant for personally criticizing anyone who dares to criticize him, yet I doubt Keller would ever accuse the President of suffering from “imposter syndrome.” The rest of Mr. Keller’s article pretends at patience, making allowances for Palin the way one would a slower or weaker adversary. Oh, pity her. It’s the best she can do, poor dear. Ah, yes, let’s try ridicule.

He criticizes her characterization of Paul Revere’s ride, but a pack of historians have come out to back up her version. He conveniently ignores how many males, including our current President and Vice President, have made inaccurate statements bordering on the nonsensical only to be given pass after pass on their mistakes. Keller quotes her low poll numbers, compelled to condemn the woman he insists has no chance in the race. He says journalists find her “confounding” and “frightening” and yet he cannot resist picking at the scab. He complains about her peculiar “bus tour” and yet she has not declared as a Presidential candidate. The press is under no obligation to follow her. He and his media cohorts make their own misery and then blame her for it. Sound familiar?

In what he describes as their “use-hate relationship,” Keller demands that Palin acknowledge big media’s importance rather than bypassing traditional media outlets by reaching out to the people directly via facebook, twitter and her own books. Mr. Keller is almost whining: “Damn it – pay attention to me! Make me relevant.” She has got him pitching fits. And he is not alone. Even CNN had to admit that the recent research project to bust Palin through her email correspondence has backfired in the media’s faces – showing her to be “a hardworking and capable executive.”

If I find someone confounding, frightening, unprepared, irrelevant, or otherwise unworthy, I just cross the street. Why spend so much column ink to rip someone to shreds if you are so sure she can never get anywhere? This is not logical. And they call women hysterics…

Keller states that “[t]he press, I think, returns her antipathy in part because she makes us feel ridiculous.” But no one can make you feel anything, isn’t that so? If he feels ridiculous, he would do better to look in the mirror rather than blaming a woman who is currently a private citizen for his troubles.

Mr. Keller ignores the larger dilemma – big media is rendering themselves irrelevant. Sarah Palin is just capitalizing on a trend. As long as we continue to see this sort of condescension or level of scrutiny not equally meted out to both men and women, or to both sides of the aisle for that matter, media outlets will continue to see their numbers decline.

That is Mr. Keller’s real “Tom and Jerry Problem.”