WSJ's Chozick misrepresented Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

In a blog post, Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Chozick baselessly asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's statement that "[y]ou can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig" "played on [Gov. Sarah] Palin's joke during the Republican National Convention that the only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom was lipstick." Chozick provided no evidence for this assertion, and, in fact, Obama did not mention Palin in at least the 65 words preceding his "lipstick on a pig" comment. Indeed, his preceding comments consisted of what he described as a "list" of Sen. John McCain's policies that Obama said were no different from President Bush's.

In a September 9 post on The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog, reporter Amy Chozick baselessly asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's statement that "[y]ou can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig" "played on [Gov. Sarah] Palin's joke during the Republican National Convention that the only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom was lipstick." Chozick provided no evidence for this assertion, and, in fact, Obama did not mention Palin in at least the 65 words preceding his "lipstick on a pig" comment. Indeed, his preceding comments consisted of what he described as a "list" of Sen. John McCain's policies that Obama said were no different from President Bush's. Moreover, the expression Obama used is common in political rhetoric. As Chozick herself noted in an "update" to her post, McCain reportedly used the same "common expression" in reference to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's health-care proposal. Obama has also reportedly used it in the past.

Linking to a separate report on Obama's comments, conservative Internet gossip Matt Drudge placed the words "OBAMA: 'LIPSTICK ON A PIG, STILL A PIG' " under a picture of Palin.

A video clip posted on YouTube contains part of Obama's comments leading up to the "lipstick on a pig" expression:

OBAMA: Let's just list this for a second. John McCain says he's about change, too. Except -- and so I guess his whole angle is, "Watch out, George Bush, except for economic policy, health-care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics. We're really gonna shake things up in Washington." That's not change. That's just calling some -- the same thing, something different. But you know, you can -- you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig.

As Atlantic.com blogger Marc Ambinder noted in a September 9 post headlined "Obama Did Not Call Sarah Palin A Pig," the Chicago Tribune reported on October 12, 2007:

McCain criticized Democratic contenders for offering what he called costly universal health care proposals that require too much government regulation. While he said he had not studied Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's health-care plan, he said it was "eerily reminiscent" of the failed plan she offered as first lady in the early 1990s.

"I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," he said of her proposal.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson reported on September 14, 2007:

"I think that both General [David] Petraeus and Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker are capable people who have been given an impossible assignment," Sen. Barack Obama said yesterday in a telephone interview. "George Bush has given a mission to General Petraeus, and he has done his best to try to figure out how to put lipstick on a pig."

Indeed, former McCain aide Torie Clarke's 2006 book is titled: Lipstick on a Pig: Winning In the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game.

From Chozick's post, titled "Obama Puts Different Twist on Lipstick":

What's the difference between a more hopeful kind of politics and old-fashioned attacks? Lipstick.

Barack Obama says the John McCain-Sarah Palin policies don't represent change, they're "just calling the same thing something different."

"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," Obama said during a town-hall style event here Tuesday night.

The comment played on Republican vice presidential candidate Palin's joke during the Republican National Convention that the only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom was lipstick.

Obama has been hammering the Republican ticket for adopting his change mantra. "This is a guy who supported George Bush 90% of the time. What does that say about somebody's judgment that they agree with George Bush 90% of the time?" he said.

"You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called 'change,' it's still going to stink," Obama said. "After eight years, we've had enough of the same old thing. It's time to bring about real change to Washington and that's the choice you've got in this election."

[...]

UPDATE: The McCain campaign quickly struck back convening a conference call with reporters and former Mass. Gov. Jane Swift to paint the common expression as a sexist jab at Palin. "As far as I know there is only one candidate in this contest who wears lipstick," Swift said.

The reaction set off a frenzied dive into the opposition research vault. Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton sent reporters a Chicago Tribune article published in 2007 during the Democratic primaries that cites McCain criticizing Hillary Clinton's health care plan. "I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," McCain is quoted as saying about Clinton's proposal.

Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Person
Amy Chozick
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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