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Ed Driscoll

Blue On Blue: Salon Versus Maureen Dowd

August 25th, 2013 - 3:25 pm

“Please fire Maureen Dowd … or get her a fact-checker — The Times columnist hijacks the NYC mayor race, makes another screw-up that would get a less famous reporter axed,” writes Alex Pareene in the arch-left and race obsessed Salon…?!

The New York mayoral race this week detoured into one of the occasional rounds of umbrage-taking that are a regular feature of American campaigns, as City Council Speaker Christine Quinn claimed that the wife of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio unfairly criticized Quinn for being childless. This wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal, even in terms of our little municipal election, except that the quote was actually a misquote. Making matters worse: The misquoter was New York Times political columnist Maureen Dowd. And Maureen Dowd has something of a history of screw-ups like this.

The original column had Chirlane McCray, de Blasio’s wife, saying that she thinks Quinn is “not accessible … She’s not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave.” So, yes, you can see why Quinn seized on the quote: The implication seems to be that Quinn, who is a lesbian, and childless, doesn’t understand issues “like taking care of children.”

The problem is that McCray didn’t say that, or at least didn’t say that in that order.

The article goes on to reference Maureen’s many earlier “Dowdifcations,” (a term that dates back a decade to 2003) so read the whole thing, words I rarely use these days when it comes to the current iteration of Salon.

Dowd was only forced to issue a correction because a recording of the interview was quickly circulated by the de Blasio campaign, which had also recorded the interview. Yet another reminder, that as Glenn Reynolds wrote in the New York Post in September of 2008, politicians should always record interviews by the MSM, lest they get, well, Dowdified:

Charlie Gibson’s ABC interview with Republican veep candidate Sarah Palin produced a lot of complaints from Palin fans. There’s not much anyone in the campaign can do about journalists like Gibson misstating candidates’ “exact words,” but there is something that candidates – and anyone else interviewed by a possibly hostile media – can do to make sure that things get played straight in the editing process.

You just have to break the camera monopoly. Luckily, that’s become easy.

An episode of “The Simpsons” a few years back centered on Homer facing bogus sexual-harassment charges. A TV news show (“Rock Bottom”) interviewed him and edited his innocuous statements to make them sound incriminating. (To make the joke clear, the hands on a clock in the background were in a different position for almost every word). Ultimately, Homer was saved only because Groundskeeper Willie turned out to have shot video that exonerated him.

Real life isn’t “The Simpsons” (though politics are seeming more and more cartoonish these days). Still, TV is all about the editing – and even modest tweaks can drastically change how an interviewee comes across.

So, when you sit down for an interview (unless it’s live), you’re putting yourself, like Homer, at the mercy of the editors. Usually they’re honest, but not always.

Wait, does anyone still believe that last sentence post-2008, post-Dowd, and post-NBC?

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