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Obama's 'The Man,' CBS's Early Show Explores 'How Cool is Obama?' --12/29/2008


1. Obama's 'The Man,' CBS's Early Show Explores 'How Cool is Obama?'
On Friday morning's The Early Show on CBS, viewers were treated to what seemed like a parody of Barack Obama's mainstream media paparazzi fawning over the Democratic President-elect, as the show ran a report exploring the question of "How cool is Obama?" and co-hosts Harry Smith and Tracy Smith referred to Obama as "the man" and "the epitome of cool," respectively. Audio of the classic rock group the Chiffons singing "He's So Fine" even played as the piece on Obama's "coolness" began. Tracy Smith oozed as she plugged the segment: "We're actually talking about how a lot of people think that President-elect Barack Obama is the epitome of cool. Look at that guy. Everything, I mean, even in a baseball cap. Don't you think?" After Harry Smith referred to a New York Times article about the significance of Obama spending his childhood in Hawaii, Tracy Smith effused: "That makes him even cooler."

2. Network Morning Shows Fawn Over Obama Vacation Photos
The Tuesday morning shows of NBC, ABC, and CBS all promoted Barack Obama's celebrity status as hosts and reporters ogled the latest paparazzi photo of Obama in swim trunks while on vacation in Hawaii, as NBC's Matt Lauer declared on Today: "And fit to serve, Barack Obama photographed shirtless in Hawaii and a lot of women are giving him the presidential seal of approval." On ABC's Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer outlined Obama's workout routine: "...these photos of the first abs, which we've all been analyzing this morning. I just want to reminder you, to get those abs, he does standing triceps push-downs, shoulder presses, sit-ups with a high platform, one set of triceps, and calf raises." On the CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Debbye Turner Bell held up the picture and announced: "Take a look at this. I'll be happy to pick this up!"

3. Obama's Blago Story on 3, His Exercise Chiseled Pectorals on 1
Here's a textbook definition of bias by story placement in a newspaper. On Christmas Eve, the Washington Post placed the release of the Obama's transition team's report on contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich on page A3 -- headlined "Obama Report Clears Dealings with Blagojevich." Centered right underneath the headline in this four-column story was a gray two-column box with a sidebar headlined in capitals "OBAMA ATTENDS SERVICE FOR GRANDMOTHER." But on Christmas Day, this Obama story was on Page One of the Post: "As Duties Weigh Obama Down, His Faith in Fitness Only Increases."

4. Newsweek Uses Year-End Edition to Take Potshots at Palin
Newsweek sprinkled throughout its year-end double issue, with Barack Obama on the cover as the #1 member of "The New Global Elite," a bunch of potshots at Sarah Palin -- and even derided teen daughter Bristol too. In a list of those who committed "low behavior" during 2008 (which did at least also highlight John Edwards), the magazine accused Sarah Palin of a "smear" against Barack Obama, on another page Newsweek described her as an "ill-informed, inarticulate shopaholic" (while on the same page hailing MSNBC's Rachel Maddow as a "brilliant" woman who "gives libs a happy new voice") and deep in the December 29/January 5 edition the magazine ridiculed Bristol Palin: "For 30 years, the Moral Majority has promoted 'abstinence only.' Jamie Lynn Spears, Bristol Palin...how's that working out?"

5. NYT Falls for French Prank After Mocking Palin for Similar Gaffe
The New York Times, which last month mocked Sarah Palin for getting taken in by a French prank...got taken in by a French prank, printing a letter Monday (December 22) allegedly from Bertrand Delanoe, the Mayor of Paris, calling Caroline Kennedy's bid for a U.S. Senate seat as "appalling" and "not very democratic."

6. 'Disheartened by What Bush Did to Us,' He Should Be 'Ashamed'
Declaring President George W. Bush's "economic legacy is selfishness" for daring to propose letting people invest a portion their Social Security payments in the stock market, on Sunday's Meet the Press the Washington Post's Michelle Singletary charged Bush "should be ashamed of what he's left us." The Post-based nationally-syndicated "Color of Money" personal finance columnist contended that as a "regular mom and churchgoer" she's "just so disheartened by what Bush did to us" economically by "fighting a war that we couldn't win." She got the last word, an overly dramatic one at that, during the panel's assessment of Bush's legacy: "He did all of this, I think, at the detriment of our country, our economy. And I think the regular American people are sitting here going, 'We're in this war, and you said you couldn't afford health care, and yet all these billions of dollars are over there. And I have no job, no health care and probably no house.'"

7. Joe the Plumber Laughs at CNN Anchor Who Insists He's Fair
Just before 8am Eastern time on the Tuesday edition of CNN's American Morning, anchor John Roberts interviewed Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher, and something unusual happened. After a battery of questions from Roberts suggesting Joe was throwing John McCain "under the bus," Joe shot back that the media does that to candidates it supports. Roberts took offense, since "I'm a journalist," and Joe laughed at that. Roberts insisted Joe should not cast aspersions against him, and Joe said he didn't mean to attack Roberts personally, but the news media are "very slanted to the left."

8. Winning Quotes in MRC's Annual Awards for the Worst Reporting
The winning quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." As noted in a CyberAlert Special last Monday, the awards issue was posted, with videos, on Monday, December 22, but following tradition, today, Tuesday and Wednesday -- the last weekdays of the year -- CyberAlert will run the winning quotes followed on succeeding days by the runners-up. MSNBC's Chris Matthews earned the dubious honor of "Quote of the Year" for the Hardball anchor's gushing reaction to a Barack Obama speech back in February: "I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often....And that is an objective assessment." Matthews edged out Reuters news service, which "won" second place for this ridiculous post-election headline: "Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race." MRC.org features the online posting with audio/video (click-and-play Flash video, as well as downloadable Windows Media video and MP3 audio clips), a PDF and downloadable text.

9. List of the 44 Judges Who Selected the Winning Worst Quotes
In recognition of their time and effort, a listing of the names and affiliations of the 44 judges for the "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."


Obama's 'The Man,' CBS's Early Show Explores
'How Cool is Obama?'

On Friday morning's The Early Show on CBS, viewers were treated to what almost seemed like a parody of Barack Obama's mainstream media paparazzi fawning over the Democratic President-elect, as the show ran a report exploring the question of "How cool is Obama?" and co-hosts Harry Smith and Tracy Smith referred to Obama as "the man" and "the epitome of cool," respectively. Audio of the classic rock group the Chiffons singing "He's So Fine" even played as the piece on Obama's "coolness" began. Tracy Smith oozed as she plugged the segment: "We're actually talking about how a lot of people think that President-elect Barack Obama is the epitome of cool. Look at that guy. Everything, I mean, even in a baseball cap. Don't you think?" After Harry Smith referred to a New York Times article about the significance of Obama spending his childhood in Hawaii, Tracy Smith effused: "That makes him even cooler."

The December 25 New York Times story: www.nytimes.com

Later during the 8:00 a.m. hour, Harry Smith introduced the report, which featured soundbites from GQ magazine's Adam Rapoport and Joyce Corrigan of Marie Claire: "Many people are fascinated by President-elect Obama. They think he's cool. So just how cool is he? We asked some people in the know."

After the report started with an audio clip of the Chiffons singing "He's so fine," Rapoport declared that Obama "is someone that you look up to in sort of a pop culture way." After a clip of Rapoport talking about how unreal it feels that someone as "cool" as Obama could be President, Harry Smith gushed that GQ also says Obama is "the man": "But that's exactly what Barack Obama will be. And as if being leader of the free world isn't enough, GQ magazine says the man is also 'the man.'"

Then came a soundbite of Rapoport: "Obama is one of those guys, and you're just like, 'That guy is a man.' He is a man, and everyone around him knows it, and he knows it."

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Corrigan compared Obama to a "male model" and, after another clip of Rapoport, Harry Smith continued: "On a 'cool guy' checklist, the style experts think Obama qualifies in just about every category."

After more clips of praise from Rapoport and Corrigan, and the revelation that Rapoport is more critical of Obama's jeans, the story finally took a moment to acknowledge the possibility that Obama may not really be perfect:

HARRY SMITH: But be wary of Obama worship.
ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF TELEVISION AND POP CULTURE: The Barack Obama administration right now is like the days before Christmas. There's all this great stuff under the tree, and it's all promise. Pure magic might be in there. Unfortunately, in those boxes might be a lot of good things, but there's a lot of bad things that are going to be in those boxes as well.

The report ended as the final soundbite of Rapoport returned to the overall pro-Obama theme: "We'll see how the next four years go, but so far, he's walked the walk and talked the talk. And I think, as a guy, you really dig that."

Below is a transcript of the complete report from the Friday, December 26 The Early Show on CBS, from the 8:00 a.m. hour:

HARRY SMITH: Welcome back to The Early Show. I'm Harry Smith, along with Tracy Smith, and Maggie and Julie are off today.
TRACY SMITH: We're talking about being cool.
HARRY SMITH: Mmm-hmm.
TRACY SMITH: I mean, you're cool, but we're actually talking about how a lot of people think that President-elect Barack Obama is the epitome of cool.
HARRY SMITH: Mmm.
TRACY SMITH: Look at that guy. Everything, I mean, even in a baseball cap.
HARRY SMITH: Right.
TRACY SMITH: Don't you think?
HARRY SMITH: There was a whole thing in the Times yesterday about his being from Hawaii and a kind of a zen of what it's like to be from Hawaii and that's, how that might serve him well in the days and months to come.
TRACY SMITH: That makes him even cooler. There is one fashion faux-pas that he commits, and we'll talk about that also, coming up.

...

TRACY SMITH, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:16 a.m. Up next, from his aviator sunglasses to his wing-tipped shoes, lot's of people think Barack Obama is cool. A look at the President-elect's style when we come back.

...

HARRY SMITH: Many people are fascinated by President-elect Obama. They think he's cool. So just how cool is he? We asked some people in the know.
CLIP OF THE CHIFFONS SINGING THE SONG "HE'S SO FINE": Do-lang, do-lang. He's so fine. Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang.
ADAM RAPOPORT, GQ MAGAZINE: The President, all of a sudden, is someone that you look up to in sort of a pop culture way, as kind of a remarkably exciting person to have in charge of us.
HARRY SMITH: Adam Rapoport, the style editor at GQ magazine, knows a thing or two about cool.
RAPOPORT: So I got my little Obama picture here in my desk drawer, which, when I saw this in the Times a few weeks ago, I was just like, all right, that's not fair, that is too cool, he can't possibly be President of the United States.
HARRY SMITH: But that's exactly what Barack Obama will be. And as if being leader of the free world isn't enough, GQ magazine says the man is also "the man."
RAPOPORT: Obama is one of those guys, and you're just like, "That guy is a man." He is a man, and everyone around him knows it, and he knows it.
JOYCE CORRIGAN, MARIE CLAIRE: This is Barack Obama coming off his jet on the campaign trail, and it's almost like a male model image, you know, he's casual with his hand in his pocket, no tie, loosened shirt top. It's just altogether, you know, black, white and gray is about as classy as you can get.
RAPOPORT: He looks great without the tie, with the sleeves rolled up. Some of the older politicians, they wear that look and it looks like, [SAID WITH SARCASM] "I'm rolling my sleeves up, I'm getting to work." Obama, he's not trying to make a point by dressing this way. That's the way he dresses.
HARRY SMITH: On a "cool guy" checklist, the style experts think Obama qualifies in just about every category.
CORRIGAN: He's got a perfect, sort of, size 40 long, which is a male model size.
RAPOPORT: He can throw on the baseball cap and look like I actually own this cap and I wear it regularly.
CORRIGAN: Aviator glasses, cool wing-tip shoes.
RAPOPORT: You see those girls, and they're just so beautiful and so happy. It's kind of this classic American family.
HARRY SMITH: Rapoport says Obama is guilty, though, of one fashion faux-pas.
RAPOPORT: He could use some help in the jeans department. He's kind of got the high-waisted bad jeans going. Don't love those.
HARRY SMITH: Yet, there are plenty of other things he does right.
RAPOPORT: Listen, there's a lot of guys that will play golf, there's a lot of guy who plays tennis. That's not cool, you know. If you can ball, if you can be on the courts, if you can walk down to the gym and get a little pick-up game going, that's cool. Presidents don't do that.
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I've got pretty eclectic tastes. I've got everything from Miles Davis to Stevie Wonder to Frank Sinatra to Jay-Z.
HARRY SMITH: But be wary of Obama worship.
ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF TELEVISION AND POP CULTURE: The Barack Obama administration right now is like the days before Christmas. There's all this great stuff under the tree, and it's all promise. Pure magic might be in there. Unfortunately, in those boxes might be a lot of good things, but there's a lot of bad things that are going to be in those boxes as well.
RAPOPORT: We'll see how the next four years go, but so far, he's walked the walk and talked the talk. And I think, as a guy, you really dig that.

Network Morning Shows Fawn Over Obama
Vacation Photos

The Tuesday morning shows of NBC, ABC, and CBS all promoted Barack Obama's celebrity status as hosts and reporters ogled the latest paparazzi photo of Obama in swim trunks while on vacation in Hawaii, as NBC's Matt Lauer declared on Today: "And fit to serve, Barack Obama photographed shirtless in Hawaii and a lot of women are giving him the presidential seal of approval."

On ABC's Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer outlined Obama's workout routine: "...these photos of the first abs, which we've all been analyzing this morning. I just want to reminder you, to get those abs, he does standing triceps push-downs, shoulder presses, sit-ups with a high platform, one set of triceps, and calf raises." Fellow co-host Chris Cuomo added: "The most important thing that he does to be fit, is his diet. He's very careful about his diet. He's in good shape, certainly for a man his age. But I think it's how he eats."

On the CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith proclaimed: "Obama in Awahu. Why he's getting a lot of attention." Smith later referenced a newspaper cover with the shirtless picture of Obama: "This picture is in a lot of papers around the country...'Fit For Office.'" Meanwhile, fill-in co-host Debbye Turner Bell held up the paper and announced: "Take a look at this. I'll be happy to pick this up!"

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

While all three December 23 shows were eager to show the photos of the President-elect, all were concerned with his privacy at the same time. On NBC's Today, correspondent Samantha Guthrie explained: "Secluded behind a tight Secret Service barrier, glimpses of Obama in vacation mode are rare. Not surprisingly, he draws a crowd on any venture out, like after his daily workout Monday."

On ABC's GMA, Cuomo went so far as to ask: "You will be seeing this picture a lot. However, they are not enjoying it in private. This morning, many are wondering how did a photographer get these pictures? He got within 200 feet of the incoming president, apparently without any action by Secret Service. So what was going on?"

Finally, on the CBS Early Show, correspondent Ben Tracy described how: "Paparazzi on the beach are being watched themselves by Secret Service but they did manage to get a shot of the president-elect in his least formal wear...The Obamas chose this location in part because the house is located at the very end of this secluded beach. Unlike the tourist-filled Waikiki beach a half hour away."

Only NBC's Today brought up the expense of the vacation, as Lauer asked NBC political director Chuck Todd: "Hey, let me touch briefly on this vacation for the Obama family...I've read some comments in the last day or two, some pretty snarky, about this home they're renting. Is this a big deal? I mean, they don't have a ranch, they don't have Hyannisport or Newport from the Camelot days. They're renting a home. Is it a big deal?" Todd dismissed it as an issue: "Well, don't forget Kennebunkport or the Reagan Santa Barbara ranch, no I don't think it's that big a deal in this sense, this is where they've gone every year...it's not like they picked this out of a hat or they said, you know, 'let's go to the chi-chiest place we could find somewhere in the United States.'"

Obama's Blago Story on 3, His Exercise
Chiseled Pectorals on 1

Here's a textbook definition of bias by story placement in a newspaper. On Christmas Eve, the Washington Post placed the release of the Obama's transition team's report on contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich on page A3 -- headlined "Obama Report Clears Dealings with Blagojevich." Centered right underneath the headline in this four-column story was a gray two-column box with a sidebar headlined in capitals "OBAMA ATTENDS SERVICE FOR GRANDMOTHER." But on Christmas Day, this Obama story was on Page One of the Post: "As Duties Weigh Obama Down, His Faith in Fitness Only Increases."

[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Friday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The December 25 front-pager, written by Obama-friendly Post reporter Eli Saslow, began by showing how devoted the new President will be to the people's business:

Being elected President forces a man to take inventory of his life, so Barack Obama has trimmed his schedule to the bare essentials. He's not in the White House yet, but gone are the hours he once spent reading novels, watching television, and obsessing over the daily transactions of Chicago's sports teams. He eat out only once every few weeks. He visits friends rarely, if at all.

But one habit endures: Obama has gone to the gym for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row. He has always treated exercise less as recreation than requirement, but his devotion has intensified during the last few months. Between workout during his Hawaii vacation this week, he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions. The sun glinted off his chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games."

SUSPEND Excerpt

The story continued inside with the headline "Gym Workouts Help Obama Carry the Weight of His Position." It was accompanied by a large picture of Obama playing basketball against a University of North Carolina player named Jack Wooten.

Placed clumsily next to the photo was another gray two-column text box with the headline "OBAMA SPEAKS OF AMERICAN COURAGE." Post reporter Philip Rucker wrote what amounted to a nice press release for Obama's holiday radio address: President-elect Barack Obama released a sobering message for the nation on Christmas Eve, recognizing the sacrifice of the country's service men and women while calling on Americans to find inspiration in a founding father to overcome current economic struggles." It was George Washington, as Obama recalled crossing the Delaware on Christmas 1776. Rucker continued: "On a day when the nation's unemployment fiings reached a 26-year high, Obama turned to Washington to stoke hope in the battered American workforce." There was no mention of a Republican rebuttal, and it's obvious the Post wasn't offering any kind of balance to these stories carrying the servile tone of transition-team public relations.

For that story in full: www.washingtonpost.com

Saslow's front-page fitness story was a classic example of the kind of story Democratic presidents get, thick with the relentlessly positive evaluations of close friends, and sentences like this: "Even Obama's closest friends said they marvel at how he has maintained his commitment." The Post offered only infomercial-style evaluations of Obama's good health:
"It's something he takes seriously, and that's why he's in great shape," said Alexi Giannoulias, a friend of Obama's and a former professional basketball player. "When people picture him running or whatever, they might think he's just going through the motions. But he goes hard. He's fit. He could convince you he's half his age."

The tribute to Obama's fitness cannot continue without the reporter noting how Obama makes the reporters feel like a lazy collection of out-of-shape losers:

For the small group of reporters tasked with following Obama's every move, his fitness has become a running joke repeated in the stories they file. They sit at McDonald's while he exercises in Hawaii. They eat calorie-rich scones while he sweats at Regents Park. One reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, filing his report about one of the president-elect's gym trips last month, noted: "While Mr. Obama worked at maintaining his lithe look, your pear-shaped pooler spent quality time at a local coffee shop."

Obama still suffers from one vice -- smoking -- although he has worked hard to quit since he started the presidential campaign. He's down from three or four cigarettes each day to what he terms the occasional "slip."

With this sneaker-polishing story appearing on Christmas Day, some readers might wonder about Obama's almost religious observance of exercise against his quite irregular church attendance (but Saslow's already done the soft-shoe story on Obama's obnoxious former church). Saslow concluded the story by suggesting that Obama's devotion to exercise offers a story of salvation by gym works:

It's a schedule he started as a 22-year-old student at Columbia University in New York, and it immediately transformed him. In his 1995 autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," Obama said he was a casual drug user and an underachiever until he decided to start running three miles each day. He stopped staying out late, fasted on Sundays and became a voracious reader, spending most of his time alone in his apartment reading classic literature and philosophical texts.

Physical fitness yielded mental fitness, Obama decided, and the two concepts have been married in his mind ever since.

"It's always been a priority in his daily routine," said Christopher Lu, a marathon runner who worked as Obama's legislative director in the Senate and was named Cabinet secretary last week. "I think it's an example of how disciplined he is. It's one of the things that really keeps him balanced."

For the December 25 front page article: www.washingtonpost.com

Obviously, the Post doesn't seem to make any kind of attempt to keep itself balanced. It shows few signs it's paying any attention to departing ombudsman Deborah Howell's advice to stop tilting the news in Barack's direction. They look too distracted by the glint off his "chiseled pectorals."

Howell's December 21 admonition: www.mrc.org

Newsweek Uses Year-End Edition to Take
Potshots at Palin

Newsweek sprinkled throughout its year-end double issue, with Barack Obama on the cover as the #1 member of "The New Global Elite," a bunch of potshots at Sarah Palin -- and even derided teen daughter Bristol too. In a list of those who committed "low behavior" during 2008 (which did at least also highlight John Edwards), the magazine accused Sarah Palin of a "smear" against Barack Obama, on another page Newsweek described her as an "ill-informed, inarticulate shopaholic" (while on the same page hailing MSNBC's Rachel Maddow as a "brilliant" woman who "gives libs a happy new voice") and deep in the December 29/January 5 edition the magazine ridiculed Bristol Palin: "For 30 years, the Moral Majority has promoted 'abstinence only.' Jamie Lynn Spears, Bristol Palin...how's that working out?" The specifics:

# Page 21, a list of "The Biggest Losers" of 2008 "who set the high-water mark for low behavior in 2008," featured Palin: "In a smear that sounds even worse in retrospect, Sarah Palin goes rogue and stirs up prejudice by accusing Barack Obama of 'palling around with terrorists.'"

# Ten pages later, in a full-page year in review version of the "Conventional Wisdom Watch" (not yet online in the posted CW), the newsweekly hit her and McCain, but admired Maddow:

- "Sarah Palin: Ill-informed, inarticulate shopaholic has ego bigger than Alaska -- and she's still the darling of the GOP."

- "John McCain: Hard to forgive the nasty end-game, and Palin pick was irresponsible. But classy concession speech and Letterman gig."

- "Rachel Maddow: Brilliant, ebullient, lefty lesbian gives libs a happy new voice. Will MSNBC be Obama's Fox?"

"Will"?

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Finally, page 79 has "The Power Index" (also seemingly not online) with a list of the magazine's arguments for whether figures in the news in 2008 were a "player or pretender?" Under "pretender," Newsweek discredited the Christian Right and Palin:

- "Christian Right: For 30 years, the Moral Majority has promoted 'abstinence only.' Jamie Lynn Spears, Bristol Palin...how's that working out?"

- "Sarah Palin: She seemed like McCain's silver bullet...until she opened her mouth. A 2012 contender if she starts boning up on issues. Now."

The "Biggest Losers" list: www.newsweek.com

Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom" page: www.newsweek.com

The December 29/January 5 edition of the magazine: www.newsweek.com

NYT Falls for French Prank After Mocking
Palin for Similar Gaffe

The New York Times, which last month mocked Sarah Palin for getting taken in by a French prank...got taken in by a French prank, printing a letter Monday (December 22) allegedly from Bertrand Delanoe, the Mayor of Paris, calling Caroline Kennedy's bid for a U.S. Senate seat as "appalling" and "not very democratic."

[This item, by Clay Waters, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]

The Times explained in Tuesday's edition:

In Monday's newspaper, we published a letter over the name of the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, criticizing Caroline Kennedy. This letter was a fraud and should not have been published. Mr. Delanoe's office has since confirmed that he did not write it.

Printing the letter, which also appeared on nytimes.com until it was removed, violated the standards and procedures of The New York Times editorial department.

It is our practice to verify the authenticity of every letter we publish. Like most of our letters these days, this one arrived by e-mail. We sent an edited version back to the writer of the e-mail and did not receive a response.

At that point, the letter should have been set aside. It was not.

The Times has expressed its regret to Mr. Delanoe's office for the lapse in judgment that led to this error. We now express those regrets to our readers.

We will be reviewing our procedures in an attempt to ensure that an error like this is not repeated.

END of Reprint

That's online at: www.nytimes.com

Back on November 6, the Times' Republican-hostile reporter Elisabeth Bumiller mocked Gov. Sarah Palin in a story relishing the post-election backbiting emanating from the John McCain campaign. Bumiller concluded by recapping a prank interview Palin conducted with who she thought was President Nicolas Sarkozy of France but was actually a French radio prankster:

One of the last straws for the McCain advisers came just days before the election when news broke that Ms. Palin had taken a call made by Marc-Antoine Audette. Mr. Audette and his fellow comedian Sebastien Trudel are notorious for prank calls to celebrities and heads of state.

Ms. Palin appeared to believe that she was talking to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, even though the prankster had a flamboyant French accent and spoke to her in a more personal way than would be protocol in such a call. At one point, he told Ms. Palin that she would make a good president some day. "Maybe in eight years," she replied.

END of Excerpt

Bumiller's article: www.nytimes.com

'Disheartened by What Bush Did to Us,'
He Should Be 'Ashamed'

Declaring President George W. Bush's "economic legacy is selfishness" for daring to propose letting people invest a portion their Social Security payments in the stock market, on Sunday's Meet the Press the Washington Post's Michelle Singletary charged Bush "should be ashamed of what he's left us." The Post-based nationally-syndicated "Color of Money" personal finance columnist contended that as a "regular mom and churchgoer" she's "just so disheartened by what Bush did to us" economically by "fighting a war that we couldn't win." She got the last word, an overly dramatic one at that, during the panel's assessment of Bush's legacy:
"He did all of this, I think, at the detriment of our country, our economy. And I think the regular American people are sitting here going, 'We're in this war, and you said you couldn't afford health care, and yet all these billions of dollars are over there. And I have no job, no health care and probably no house.'"

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Sunday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Singletary, who is also a contributor to NPR, appeared with Todd Purdum of Vanity Fair, Newsweek's Richard Wolffe and Rich Lowry of National Review. Two of her December 28 comments:

# "His economic legacy is selfishness. You know, you look at what they wanted to do to Social Security. Imagine if our money was in the markets right now, which is one of the things that he wanted to do. I think this, this administration failed on so many levels when it came to the economy, including not regulating the banks and letting things happen that shouldn't have happened with the mortgage industry. And, you know, he should be ashamed of what he, what he's left us."

# "You know, I listen to this conversation, and I'm sort of thinking, you know, as the, as the regular, you know, mom and, and churchgoer, and I'm thinking, you know, all this -- I'm just so disheartened by what Bush did to us, and, and all this focus on fighting a war that we couldn't win. I mean, all the generals sort of told you that going in. And you said sometimes stubborn. He wasn't sometimes stubborn, he was always stubborn. And, and he did all of this, I think, at the detriment of our country, our economy. And I think the regular American people are sitting here going, 'We're in this war, and you said you couldn't afford health care, and yet all these billions of dollars are over there. And I have no job, no health care and probably no house.'"

Singletary's weekly Washington Post columns: www.washingtonpost.com

Singletary's own Web site: www.michellesingletary.com

MSNBC'com's page for Meet the Press: www.msnbc.msn.com

Joe the Plumber Laughs at CNN Anchor
Who Insists He's Fair

Just before 8am Eastern time on the Tuesday edition of CNN's American Morning, anchor John Roberts interviewed Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher, and something unusual happened. After a battery of questions from Roberts suggesting Joe was throwing John McCain "under the bus," Joe shot back that the media does that to candidates it supports. Roberts took offense, since "I'm a journalist," and Joe laughed at that. Roberts insisted Joe should not cast aspersions against him, and Joe said he didn't mean to attack Roberts personally, but the news media are "very slanted to the left."
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Tuesday, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Here's how the December 23 exchange went:

ROBERTS: But if you disagreed with some of his policies, why were you out there on the campaign trail supporting him?
WURZELBACHER: Do you agree with every candidate and your candidate's policies?
ROBERTS: Hey, I'm not out there stumping for anybody, I'm a journalist. (Joe laughs heartily)
WURZELBACHER: I'll leave that one alone.
ROBERTS: No, seriously.
WURZELBACHER: You know I was out there, I told everybody, Obama's-
ROBERTS: Excuse me, Joe. Why would you cast aspersions on my journalistic integrity. I don't even know you?
WURZELBACHER: [Pause] Oh, I wasn't -- you specifically, and in general some of the media, you know is very slanted to the left. You personally, John, I don't know you, I don't mean to cast any kind of bad things about you, brother.
ROBERTS: All right.
WURZELBACHER: I just, you know, in general you can say the left pretty much shot me up, wouldn't you say?
ROBERTS: Well, I mean, you know, I guess when you entered the political fray, you've got to expect that some people are going to take some shots at you, you know, when you get out there and you enter into that political arena. It's a tough place to be. It's a little bit like a gladiator sport-
WURZELBACHER: Oh, absolutely.
ROBERTS: And you are going into the coliseum.

But that's not the case if the "average Joe" is accomplishing some liberal objective -- take, for example, Cindy Sheehan. She wasn't subjected to rough questioning from the liberal media.

That's not even the case if you're a media-appointed political savior, like Barack Obama.

We nominated Roberts on our Best of Notable Quotables ballot in the category "

Let Us Fluff Your Pillow Award for Soft and Cuddly Interviews" for this May 5 exchange on American Morning:

JOHN ROBERTS: I want to just stipulate at the beginning of this interview, we are declaring a Reverend Wright-free zone today. So, no questions about Reverend Wright. Our viewers want us to move on, so this morning we're going to move on. Is that okay with you?
BARACK OBAMA: Fair enough. That sounds just fine.

The Roberts pounding that proceeded the media-bias-protest exchange with Joe the Plumber:

ROBERTS: Joe Wurzelbacher, you probably know him better as Joe the plumber. He became a blue-collar talking point during the final leg of the presidential campaign. Well now, Joe is out with a new book with his take on American values. Joe Wurzelbacher, author of "Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream" joins me now from Toledo, Ohio.
Joe, good to see you. I guess the book is available on your Web site which is secureourdream.com. It's coming out in stores I believe, first in the new year. In the book you say that the McCain campaign was, "fragmented and disorganized." And you go on to say, "I did not want him for the Republican ticket. I do not agree with a great many of his policies, nor do I care for aspects of his voting record." Now, he stood by you after you had said during an interview that a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for the death of Israel. He was there backing you up, but you're throwing him under the bus now. Why?
JOE WURZELBACHER, AUTHOR: I'm not throwing him under the bus, the things I spoke about, his voting records, I mean that's factual. You know, we talked about -- he wanted to make other senators famous for having pork ,you know, in a bill, and yet he goes back to Washington, you know, suspends his campaign and goes back to Washington and votes for a $700 billion bailout, when Americans are in a time of need. You know we're taken advantage of and money is you know, 'you wash my back, I'll wash yours.' Money was thrown, you know, Michigan International Speedway got what, $250,000? So many other different organizations received pork.
So it's not that I'm throwing John McCain on the bus. I have said it in my book, I respect John McCain for the service he provided our country, and, but as far as his voting record, I mean, you know, he proposed the amnesty bill for the illegal aliens. And I mean, that got a lot of negative publicity, a lot of, you know, opinion polls you know, proved the American people don't want it, yet they don't listen to us. So I'm not throwing McCain under the bus. That's just factual and that's what happened.
ROBERTS: But I guess the throwing him under the bus aspect of this Joe, comes in from the idea that you were out there on the campaign trail, you were stumping for John McCain, you didn't say anything about it then. He loses the election. Now you're writing a book for profit, saying all of these things about him. Many people take that as throwing him under the bus. If you felt so strongly about it during the campaign, why didn't you say something then?
WURZELBACHER: Well no, it's not so much that people are saying I'm throwing him under the bus, the media is saying I'm throwing him under the bus. So you know, let's correct that. You know, let them make the decision when they read the book. You know, so far I have heard that and it's been written about in the last couple of weeks since the interview with Glenn Beck, that I've thrown him under the bus. But that's just what I heard from the media. It's not what I heard from the general populace of America. Like I said, so they read the book, they can decide if I have thrown them under the bus, I just stated facts. I just stated facts about other politicians as well. So it's not, you know, I'm not singling John McCain out, he just happens to be the one I got to meet and you know, work with for six hours. So he's a good example that I can use.

Winning Quotes in MRC's Annual Awards
for the Worst Reporting

The winning quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." As noted in a CyberAlert Special last Monday, the awards issue was posted, with videos, on Monday, December 22, but following tradition, today, Tuesday and Wednesday -- the last weekdays of the year -- CyberAlert will run the winning quotes followed on succeeding days by the runners-up.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews earned the dubious honor of "Quote of the Year" for the Hardball anchor's gushing reaction to a Barack Obama speech back in February: "I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often....And that is an objective assessment." Matthews edged out Reuters news service, which "won" second place for this ridiculous post-election headline: "Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race." For all the winners and runners-up, many posted with video and audio: www.mrc.org

The Media Research Center's annual awards issue provides a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 2008 (December 2007 through November 2008). To determine this year's winners, a panel of 44 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers, and expert media observers each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from a slate of five to eight quotes in each category. First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. Point totals are listed in the brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote. Each judge was also asked to choose a "Quote of the Year" denoting the most outrageous quote of 2008.

A list of the judges, who were generous with their time, appears in item #9 below. Or, you can see them online here: www.mrc.org

The MRC's Michelle Humphrey, Kristine Lawrence and Melissa Lopez distributed and counted the ballots, then produced the numerous audio and video clips that accompany the Web-posted version. Rich Noyes assembled this issue and Stu James posted the entire package, with dozens of Flash videos, on the MRC's Web site:

The direct address for the issue online where it's posted with audio/video (click-and-play Flash video, as well as downloadable Windows Media video and MP3 audio clips), a PDF and downloadable text (Word, WordPerfect and OpenOffice): www.mrc.org

Direct address for the Adobe Acrobat PDF that matches the eight-page hard copy version: www.mrc.org

Now, the winning quotes in the 18 award categories:

The Obamagasm Award

"Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope....Barack Hussein Obama did not win because of the color of his skin. Nor did he win in spite of it. He won because at a very dangerous moment in the life of a still young country, more people than have ever spoken before came together to try to save it. And that was a victory all its own."

-- Time's Nancy Gibbs, Nov. 17 cover story. [65 points]



The Half-Baked Alaska Award for Pummeling Palin

"The fact of the matter is, the comparison between her [Sarah Palin] and Hillary Clinton is the comparison between an igloo and the Empire State Building!"

-- Host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, October 14. [50 points]



Let Us Fluff Your Pillow Award for Soft & Cuddly Interviews

"What of the attacks has busted through to you? What makes you angriest at John McCain, the Republicans? What's being said about your husband that you want to shout from the mountain tops is not true?"

-- NBC's Brian Williams to Michelle Obama in an interview shown on the August 27 Nightly News. [60 points]



Damn Those Conservatives Award

Reporter Deborah Solomon: "You helped re-elect Bush in '04 when you gave $3 million to the Swift Boat campaign to discredit John Kerry's Vietnam service. Do you regret your involvement?" Businessman T. Boone Pickens: "Why would I?" Solomon: "Because it's such an ugly chapter in American political history." Pickens: "Oh, I see. Well, it was true. Everything that went into those ads was the truth." Solomon: "Really? I thought it was all invented."

-- From a "Q&A" exchange published in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, August 3. [72 points]



The Irrelevant Reverend Wright Award

"To see his [Jeremiah Wright's] career completely destroyed by three 20-second soundbites, all of the work he has done, his entire legacy gone down the drain, has been absolutely devastating to me -- to him, sorry....We are still a racist country....I think that so many white people who had never been inside a black church were absolutely shocked by the tone and language that they heard [from Wright]....I think it brought out a lot of latent racism."

-- Washington Post writer Sally Quinn on PBS's Charlie Rose, April 30. [76 points]



Madness of King George Award

"As a final crash of self-indulgent nonsense, when the incontrovertible truth of your panoramic and murderous deceit has even begun to cost your political party seemingly perpetual congressional seats....When somebody asks you, sir, about the cooked books and faked threats you foisted on a sincere and frightened nation; when somebody asks you, sir, about your gallant, noble, self-abnegating sacrifice of your golf game so as to soothe the families of the war dead; this advice, Mr. Bush: Shut the hell up! Good night and good luck."

-- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann in a "Special Comment" on Countdown, May 14. [80 points]



From Camelot to Obamalot Award

"Today, the audacity of hope had its rendezvous with destiny. No mere endorsement this, more like a political anointment from the Kennedys, merging ideals from two different eras....Obama is now an adopted son of Camelot. His candidacy blessed not just by the Lion of the Senate, patriarch of the clan, but by JFK's daughter."

-- ABC's David Wright on Nightline, Jan. 28. [55 points]



"Pay Up You Patriots" Award

"It's early April, which means these are the few days of the year when Americans of almost every political stripe unite in a perennial ritual: complaining about taxes. Count me out. I'm happy to pay my fair share to the government. It's part of my patriotic duty -- and it's a heckuva bargain.... There seems to be an inconsistency about people who insist on wearing flag pins in their lapels, but who grumble about paying taxes....Genuine patriots don't complain about their patriotic obligations....Pay up and be grateful!"

-- Former ABC and CNN reporter Walter Rodgers writing in the Christian Science Monitor, April 2. [109 points]



Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis

"Not doing it [fighting global warming] will be catastrophic. We'll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years, and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals. Civilization will have broken down."

-- CNN founder Ted Turner on PBS's Charlie Rose, April 1. [56 points]



Media Hero Award

"As we know this morning, there is another ground-breaking, crossroads moment. That is for Senator Hillary Clinton, who ran her campaign on her own terms. This woman, as we said, forged into determination and purpose her whole life. As someone said, '€˜No thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.'"

-- ABC's Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, June 4, quoting a 17th century discourse about Jesus Christ. [66 points]



Good Morning Morons Award

Co-host Harry Smith: "In which ocean are the South Sandwich Islands located? A sixth grader from Nebraska answered that question. It's in the -- is it in the Atlantic? I thought the Sandwich Islands were actually named after the Earl of -- it's Hawaii. That's not right. I'm so sorry. Other -- you know what, let's-" Co-host Julie Chen: "No, it's in which ocean, so that is right. So it's the Atlantic Ocean." Smith: "Hawaii is not in the Atlantic Ocean." Chen: "Oh, it's in the Pacific."

-- Discussing National Geographic's geography bee on CBS's The Early Show, May 22. [51 points]



The John Murtha Award for Painting America as Racist

"What do you think the bigger obstacle is for you in becoming president, the Clinton campaign machine or America's inherent racism?"

-- ABC's Chris Cuomo to Barack Obama in a December 20, 2007 interview on Good Morning America. [89 points]



The Great Goracle Award

"Since he lost the election, Al Gore has become a certified celebrity, a popular prophet of global warming....When Al Gore ran for President in 2000, he was often ridiculed as inauthentic and wooden. Today, he is passionate and animated, a man transformed....What about the idea of the honest broker who goes to the two candidates [Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton] and helps push one or the other of them off to the side?...He's not ruling it out, but he says he already has a job -- as he puts it, '€˜PR agent for the planet.'"

-- CBS's Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, March 30. [48 points]



MSNBC = Maudlin Sycophantic Nutty Blathering Chris Award

Keith Olbermann: "For 42 minutes, not a sour note and spellbinding throughout in a way usually reserved for the creations of fiction. An extraordinary political statement. Almost a fully realized, tough, crisp, insistent speech in tone and in the sense of cutting through the clutter....I'd love to find something to criticize about it. You got anything?" Chris Matthews: "No. You know, I've been criticized for saying he inspires me, and to hell with my critics!...You know, in the Bible they talk about Jesus serving the good wine last, I think the Democrats did the same."

-- MSNBC live coverage of Obama's Democratic convention speech, August 28. [35]



The Crush Rush Award for Loathing Limbaugh

Author/humorist P.J. O'Rourke: "It's the twilight of the radio loud-mouth, you know? I knew it from the moment the fat guy-" Host Bill Maher: "You mean Rush Limbaugh and Sean-" O'Rourke: "-from the moment the fat guy refused to share his drugs...." Maher: "You mean the OxyContin that he was on?...Why couldn't he have croaked from it instead of Heath Ledger?"

-- HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Feb. 8. [80 points]



Barbra Streisand Political IQ Award for Celebrity Vapidity

"I'd like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult. Its leader also has a compound, and this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he used to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. That's right, the Pope is coming to America....If you have a few hundred followers, and you let some of them molest children, they call you a cult leader. If you have a billion, they call you '€˜Pope.' It's like, if you can't pay your mortgage, you're a deadbeat. But if you can't pay a million mortgages, you're Bear Stearns and we bail you out. And that is who the Catholic Church is: the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia....The Church's attitude: '€˜We're here, we're queer, get used to it,' which is fine. Far be it for me to criticize religion."

-- Bill Maher on HBO's Real Time, April 11. [59]



Admitting the Obvious Award

"When NBC News first assigned me to the Barack Obama campaign, I must confess my knees quaked a bit....I wondered if I was up to the job. I wondered if I could do the campaign justice."

-- NBC reporter Lee Cowan in an article for "The Peacock," an NBC advertising supplement included in the March 23-29 edition of the American Profile magazine newspaper insert. [59 points]



Quote of the Year

Co-anchor Chris Matthews: "I have to tell you, you know, it's part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My -- I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often." Co-anchor Keith Olbermann: "Steady." Matthews: "No, seriously. It's a dramatic event. He speaks about America in a way that has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the feeling we have about our country. And that is an objective assessment."

-- Exchange during MSNBC's coverage of the Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. primaries, February 12.


# Tomorrow (Tuesday): The first runners-up quotes.

List of the 44 Judges Who Selected the
Winning Worst Quotes

In recognition of their time and effort, a listing of the names and affiliations of the judges for the "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

As explained in item #8 above, the panel of 44 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and expert media observers received a ballot and each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from a slate of five to eight quotes in each category.

The judges, in alphabetical order:

- Lee Anderson, Associate Publisher and Editor, Chattanooga Times Free Press

- Chuck Asay, editorial cartoonist via the Creators Syndicate

- Brent H. Baker, MRC's Vice President for Research and Publications; Editor of CyberAlert and Editor the NewsBusters blog

- Mark Belling, radio talk show host, WISN-AM in Milwaukee

- Robert Bluey, Director of the Center for Media an dPiblic Policy at the Heritage Foundation

- Neal Boortz, nationally syndicated radio talk show host

- L. Brent Bozell III, President of the Media Research Center

- Priscilla Buckley, retired Senior Editor for National Review

- Bill Cunningham, nationally syndicated radio talk show host from WLW in Cincinnati; nationally-syndicated by Premiere on Sunday nights

- Mark Davis, talk show host, WBAP Radio in Dallas; columnist for the Dallas Morning News

- Midge Decter, author, member of the Heritage Foundation's Board of Trustees

- Bob Dutko, radio talk show host, WMUZ-FM in Detroit

- Jim Eason, retired radio talk show host

- Barry Farber, radio talk show host

- Don Feder, consultant at Don Feder & Associates, writer of Don Feder's Coldsteel Caucus Report

- Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis, Media Research Center; Senior Editor of the NewsBusters blog

- Steven Greenhut, columnist, Orange County Register

- Kirk Healy, radio talk show host, WDBO Radio in Orlando

- Quin Hillyer, Associate Editor, The Examiner (of Washington, DC)

- Cliff Kincaid, Editor, Accuracy in Media

- Mark Larson, Program Director and talk show host on San Diego 1700 AM

- Jason Lewis, talk show host, 100.3 KTLK-FM in Minneapolis

- Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor of National Review Online

- Brian Maloney, radio analyst, creator of The RadioEqualizer blog

- Patrick McGuigan, Managing Editor of The City Sentinel in Oklahoma City; contributing editor for Tulsa Today

- Jan Mickelson, radio talk show host on WHO in Des Moines

- Rich Noyes, Director of Research, Media Research Center; Senior Editor of the NewsBusters blog

- Kate O'Beirne, President, the National Review Institute

- Marvin Olasky, Editor-in-Chief of World magazine; Senior Fellow at the Acton Institute

- Janet Parshall, nationally syndicated radio talk show host

- Henry Payne, editorial cartoonist, The Detroit News

- Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, Editorial Director, The American Spectator

- Dan Rea, host of Nightside on WBZ Radio in Boston

- Chris Reed, editorial writer, San Diego Union-Tribune

- Mike Rosen, radio talk show host, KOA in Denver; columnist for the Rocky Mountain News

- William A. Rusher, Distinguished Fellow, Claremont Institute; syndicated columnist

- Matthew Sheffield, Executive Editor of NewsBusters, the MRC's blog

- James Taranto, Editor of OpinionJournal.com

- Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist; panelist on FNC's Fox News Watch

- R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., Editor-in-Chief of The American Spectator

- Clay Waters, Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch.org

- Walter E. Williams, economics professor, George Mason University

- Thomas S. Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Human Events

- Martha Zoller, radio talk show host for WDUN in Gainseville, GA

For links to Web pages for the judges: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker