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The View: Still Pounding on Palin

Is there still any serious question that comedienne Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin had an effect on the 2008 presidential election?


Whoopi Goldberg brought up the impression on this morning's broadcast of The View, as Barbara Walters promoted her “10 Most Fascinating People” special scheduled to air Thursday on ABC.  Fey is on this year's list.


According to Goldberg, Fey “doesn't think that her Governor Palin impression had any real impact on the election.”  Isn't Fey's presence on Walters's list strong evidence that she had a very significant effect?


Token conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck argued that Fey “was being modest” and that the impersonation “did have an impact.” 


Polls conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press back up Hasselbeck.  In the span of one month, the portion of the public that held an unfavorable opinion of Palin increased by 17 percent.  An October 21 story posted on Pew's Web site stated, “In the current survey, 49% of voters express an unfavorable opinion of the Alaska governor, while 44% express a positive opinion; in mid-September, 54% viewed Palin favorably, compared with 32% who had an unfavorable opinion.” 


Fey's first impression of Palin aired on September 13. 


Maybe it wasn't the impression per se, but rather the news media's repeated rebroadcasting of the impression that affected the election.


As noted in CMI's latest special report, “How the TV Networks Have Portrayed Sarah Palin as Dunce or Demon,” eight news segments in a two-week period featured clips of Fey's Palin impression.  In two more segments, producers blurred the lines between reality and parody by editing Fey's impersonation into footage of an interview with the real Palin. 


Even TIME magazine's James Poniewozik recognized the impact Fey had on public perception of Palin.  He wrote in an October 9 article, “The governor's comedian doppelganger has essentially taken control of Public Sarah Palin: the composite of images, biography and attitudes that stands in for the actual person in voters' minds.”  


Today's discussion on The View also gave Sherri Shepherd and Joy Behar opportunity to bash Republicans.  Shepherd claimed “they were very funny impressions, but she didn't do anything but shine the light on what was already there.”  Behar noted, “It's like when you quote President Bush you know, and you say the crazy things he says, it gets a laugh. You don't even have to write this stuff.” 


The transcript of the discussion is below:


WHOOPI GOLDBERG:  She also says in your interview that she doesn't think that her Governor Palin impression had any real impact on the election. But comedians made so much news with the election. Do you think they swayed voters?  Do you think they helped work it or not?


SHERRI SHEPHERD: I think, you disagreed with me, but I feel like people had their minds made up. I think that Tina Fey, they were very funny impressions, but she didn't do anything but shine the light on what was already there.


BARBARA WALTERS: But it was a big light.


SHEPHERD: But most of her impressions were word for verbatim what Sarah Palin said.


JOY BEHAR: That was the joke, though.


SHEPHERD: That was Sarah Palin's fault.


BEHAR: That was the joke.


SHEPHERD: Yeah.


BEHAR:  It's like when you quote President Bush you know, and you say the crazy things he says, it gets a laugh. You don't even have to write this stuff, that's how bad --


SHEPHERD: That's what I'm saying. You shined the light on what was already there.


ELISABETH HASSELBECK: Remember the flute scene that we all saw?  There's no talent portion? I remember that.


WALTERS: She does that too in our special.


HASSELBECK: She's definitely, I think, people, if it were an exaggeration or like you said, a representation, I think people were just constantly reminded of it and it kind of brought it to the forefront. You know, they kind of implemented what was it, the Thursday night "Saturday Night Live" and I think it, right before the election, I think that she's being modest. I think it did have an impact on people's decisions. If not confirmed what they already believed.


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute.