Fascinating article by South Carolina's The State about the behind-the-scenes media jockeying that was going on when the buzz began to build in late June that the state's governor, Mark Sanford, could not be located.
This was before his infamous press conference when Sanford admitted to an extramarital affair and before it was learned that Sanford had used taxpayer money to travel to meet his girlfriend. At the time, it was just a weird story about a governor who disappeared and whose staff could not find him.
Here's The State:
National media blitzed Gov. Mark Sanford's staff, offering big ratings and, possibly, a sympathetic venue in an effort to land the first interview with the governor after his six-day trip to Argentina.
In addition, a blogger and state leaders reached out to Sanford's office to try to coordinate a way to "push back" on the growing mystery surrounding Sanford's absence.
The behind-the-scenes maneuvering is detailed in e-mails released by the governor's office this week in response to The State's request under the freedom of information act.
Not surprisingly, conservative media outlets such as the Washington Times, the WSJ, and Fox News were angling for some friendly face time with the gov., and emailing his flak, Joel Sawyer. They seemed to suggest that Sanford was getting a bum rap in the press.
But note this passage [emphasis added]:
ABC News White House reporter Jake Tapper e-mailed Sawyer twice on June 23, both to note coverage of competitor NBC.
With a subject line of "NBC spot was slimy," Tapper e-mailed Sawyer a "Today" show transcript of Sanford coverage, calling it "insulting." Later, Tapper forwarded Sawyer a Twitter post by "Meet The Press" host David Gregory.
Jeff Schneider, a vice president at ABC News, said Tapper was "carrying some water for producers who knew he had a relationship with the governor's office."
UPDATED: Tapper responds to Politico's Michael Calderone.
Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza offers a scorecard of "winners and losers" from yesterday's Sotomayor hearings.
His second "winner"? Lindsey Graham, who Cillizza says "was the Republican senator best able to rile Sotomayor" and "managed to unsettle Sotomayor." Cillizza provided no evidence to support that assertion. Nor did he mention that Graham asked Sotomayor if she has a temperament problem - a question that was rather odd coming at the end of a day in which she had answered a barrage of often hostile questions without losing her composure.
Cillizza wrote that Graham's "low-key delivery" proved that he is "one of the best questioners/smart legal minds in the Senate" -- but even Chris Matthews found Graham's questioning condescending. When even Chris Matthews thinks someone is being condescending to a woman, there's a problem.
Even more odd, Cillizza couldn't think of a single Republican to list under the day's "losers." Not, say, Jeff Sessions, the Senator whose own judicial nomination was derailed amid charges of racism - and who suggested that Sonia Sotomayor should have ruled the way Judge Cabranes did because he is also "of Puerto Rican ancestry." Not only that, Sessions blundered into a Marshall McLuhan moment - something that just doesn't happen in real life.
No, Cillizza's "losers" were President Obama and Democrat Herb Kohl - not because Kohl did anything wrong, but because the cable channels didn't cover him.
When Chris Matthews appeared on MSNBC yesterday evening to discuss the day's Supreme Court nomination hearings, he seemed to portray Sonia Sotomayor as a child chastened about her (badly distorted) "wise Latina" comments. This morning, Matthews picked up where he left off, further infantilizing Sotomayor:
A calm Judge Sotomayor spent yesterday fending off attempts by Republicans to portray her as someone guided by her personal prejudice -- prejudices -- and even suggested, some of them did, that it was her hot temperament they were worried about. Well, the nominee backed off her comment that a wise Latina would come to a better conclusion than a white man, calling that a mistake. In fact, she used the word "bad," about the words she used, which is certainly strange in an adult conversation.
Is Matthews really prepared to argue that the word "bad" is "strange in an adult conversation"?
I know that in law school they teach aspiring litigants never to ask a question in court that you don't know the answer to, but my LSATs were awful so I'll go ahead anyway. This obsessive (and dreadful) coverage of the "Latina woman" comment got me wondering, if, in recent American history, a nominated Supreme Court justice has ever been subjected to such extraordinary scrutiny for something he/she said about the law* outside of the courtroom?
Seems to me these mini-nomination dramas have always been about what the nominated judge has said or written inside the courtroom. That it was the nominee's legal rendering that were put under the microscope and dubbed to be fair game for politicians and the press to go over endlessly.
But the "Latina woman" quote, which is virtually the only line of drama the press can find to hype anymore, was taken from a campus speech eight years ago. Just thinking back to the two most recent confirmation hearings, did Justices Roberts or Alito have to spend an inordinate amount of time answer to speeches they gave, or were they questioned intently about their legal writings?
To me, the AP was way off base when it claimed [emphasis added]:
Sotomayor's public comments are as much a part of the hearings as her lengthy judicial record.
In terms of the hearings, and especially the press coverage, Sotomayor's public comments are the story. Period. And why doesn't the AP try to explain why that's the case? The AP, like the rest of the press covering the hearings, has simply embraced this new idea that public comments are now the center of Supreme Court confirmations.
Again, I don't know the answer for sure, but my hunch is that a speech given outside the courtroom has never played this kind of central role in a nomination hearing in recent memory; not the way the "Latina woman" speech has dominated the news this week. (And for the last month.)
For instance, as Jamison has noted, during the Samuel Alito hearing, there was a minor interest over the fact that, in a job application for the Reagan administration, the nominee had once touted the fact that he'd been a member of an exclusive club at Princeton that tried the limit the number of minorities admitted on campus. So yes, that was non-legal work and it did come up. But in no way did those references at Alito's hearing match the onslaught of "Latina woman" attention.
So, if I'm right, my second point is why has the press embraced this new standard for the first Hispanic woman ever nominated for the highest court in the land? Why has the press decided that what Sotomayor has decided and written from the bench is of relatively little interest, but a campus speech relentlessly hyped by the GOP suddenly passes the threshold for nomination news?
Why has the press adopted a whole new standard for Sotomayor?
*Obviously, the Clarence Thomas nomination hearing ended up focusing a lot of things that were said and done outside the courtroom. But that controversy had little to do with what Thomas said about the law outside the courtroom, and more to do with Thomas' alleged personal misbehavior.
The Note's supposed to be a morning tip sheet that tells the Beltway's CW crowd which Beltway reporters that day are regurgitating the Beltway CW. (That's considered a good thing.) The Note routinely leans on conservative media sources for daily insights, and rarely links to openly liberal or progressive sites because they're not part of The Village.
Sometimes though, the Note doesn't even bother with linking to articles or columns. Instead, The Note simply reprints emails from GOP sources. (Why mess around with CW middlemen, right?)
Like the Note did today:
From a senior Republican strategist: "Do Democrats really want to engage on this? . . .
1. The Obama administration is doing this now in Pakistan through drones (and hopefully are pursuing al Qaeda anywhere they are) . . . 2. I think most people in most Congressional districts want the administration to kill terrorists. . . . 3.Dems prove that they leak classified information and it probably wasn't a bad idea not to share with them and tip off those al Qaeda leaders."
The Note wanted to make sure readers knew exactly why the Obama administration was wrong to press the CIA about possible law-breaking activities (that's the dominant CW, btw), and who better for The Note to quote, unfiltered, than a Republican political consultant?
I previously mocked the WSJ's editorial page for completely ignoring the Sanford infidelity and abuse-of-power story even though the same WSJ editorial page spent the decade of the 1990's evangelizing about Bill Clinton's infidelity and alleged abuse of power.
Screaming double standard, right?
Well, TPMuckraker reports that right before the Sanford scandal broke, back when there were general news stories about the governorship MIA status, a writer from the Journal's editorial page emailed a Sanford aide to complain about how awful and mean the news coverage of Sanford was.
In fact, the WSJ editorial page staffer mocked his own paper's Sanford coverage:
"Someone at WSJ should be fired for today's story. Ridiculous."
When people thought Sanford had simply disappeared and left the state of South Carolina without anybody in charge, the Journal editorial page thought the news coverage was "ridiculous."
And then when Sanford admitted he'd traveled overseas to meet with his girlfriend and had previously spent taxpayer money to meet her, the Journal's editorial page lost complete interest in the story and, as far as I know, has never once addressed the story in print.
Quite embarrassing, even for the Journal crew.
CQ rushes to join the Beltway pack by hyping the news that Judge Sonia Sotomayor used the now-infamous phrase "wise Latina woman" phrase many times. CQ assures us it's a very, very big deal:
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor delivered multiple speeches between 1994 and 2003 in which she suggested "a wise Latina woman" or "wise woman" judge might "reach a better conclusion" than a male judge.
We've been over this countless times, but every day the press simply proves our point over and over and over: the press refuses--categorically refuses--to note that Sotomayor made that remark in reference to sex and gender discrimination cases. She did not, as the press, including CQ, obediently claims, make a sweeping claim about the superiority of Latina judges vs. white males.
This "Latina woman" reporting really has become a stunning example of journalism malpractice. The only good news is that readers are now wise to it. Here's the very first comment posted under the CQ debacle:
Why didn't the author of this CQ piece tell his/her readers if Sotomayor was speaking about race and gender discrimination cases in these instances as well?
Do you love lack of context?
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Just a final comment on the pointless 'controversy' last week about a deceiving image of Barack Obama at the G8 summit last week; an innocent image Drudge posted while suggesting Obama had been leering at an underage girl.
As Media Matters reported, the image was first spotted online at the right-wing fever swamp site, Free Republic, which first gained national attention in the 1990's for its unhinged hatred of all-things Clinton, and which recently has played host to an assassination fantasy of Barack Obama and where commenters* denounced his young daughter as a "street whore." Within minutes of being posted at Free Republic, Drudge picked up the G8 photo and 'serious' journalists then quickly treated it as a news event.
My parting thought is that this is not the first time we've seen this sort of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance coordination between the Free Republic, Drudge and the Beltway press. Last year during the Democratic primary season, Drudge posted a photo of Obama dressed in African garb. The shot was taken years earlier when the young senator had visited Africa.
Drudge, in one of his patterned fictitious 'exclusives,' claimed that staffers for Sen. Hillary Clinton had been emailing the image around. Zero proof was ever presented to back up the absurd claim, but that didn't' stop the Beltway press (and sadly, large chunks of the liberal blogosphere) from treating the Drudge scoop as a very big deal and turning the pointless Obama image into a scandal. Sort of like with last week's pointless G8 image.
Here's the Freeper connection, as I noted in Bloggers on the Bus:
The snapshot was actually first published online in September 2006, by a news site called Geeska Afrika, which reported on the new Illinois senator's trip to the continent. The Obama image then resurfaced during the 2008 campaign season in the February 4 issue of the supermarket tabloid National Examiner, which used the photo as part of a scurrilous story headlined "Obama's Shocking Al Qaeda Link." The story contained no reference to the Clinton campaign.
The National Examiner does not publish its stories online, but the photo itself got uploaded to the Internet on February 23, to the rabid, Democrat-hating site, FreeRepublic.com, whose "Freeper" members first gained notoriety by spinning all sorts of wild Clinton conspiracies during the 1990s.
Freepers were obsessed with the Obama-in-Africa photo and desperately wanted it to reach a wider audience. Wrote one eager Freeper after seeing the photo, "It needs to get to Drudge."
Less than 24 hours later, it did.
*Added to provide clarity.
From the July 14 edition of FoxNation.com:
The storyline has now taken a new, absurd turn with Republican operatives in the press claiming that Sen. Patrick Leahy, during today's Judge Sonia Sotomayor hearings, "lied" when referencing the quote today. Will the press let conservatives get away with the spin? Even money says, and how!
Leahy's Wise Latina Lie [Robert Alt]
After accusing Republicans of twisting Sotomayor's quote, Leahy then misquotes her, saying that she said that she "hopes a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would reach wise decisions." Of course, that's not what she said. What she actually said was: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Leahy conveniently distorted "better," a word that Sotomayor is obviously trying to distance herself from.
The irony here is pretty much inescapable. Conservatives, with plenty of help from the press, have been purposefully mangling the meaning of Sotomayor's "Latina woman" quote for months now, claiming the judge made a "racist" statement about how a minority on the bench would make better decision than a white male on every case brought before them. That's not what she said.
Yet now conservatives are crying foul because Leahy accurately summed up the meaning of the Sotomayor quote, although used slightly different wording to so. Sadly, I'm guessing the press, which has already gone all in on the "Latina woman" misinformation, will simply echo the GOP claims about Leahy.