Friday, July 18, 2008

"Where is that marvelous ape?"

The Huffington Post, self-described on their homepage as "The Internet Newspaper," may not abide by the highest journalistic standards.

Reporting on a joke that John McCain might have told over twenty years ago, Sam Stein, "reaches out" (perhaps he will "go forward" with his reporting if he has enough "bandwidth" and/or "cycles," but, hey, "it is what it is") to a reporter who covered the possible initial incident. She helpfully tells him,
"I'm not sure exactly what the wording was of the joke, but something was said. Some joke involving a rape and ape was said. Enough women repeated it to me at the time and the McCain campaign had a non-denial denial," said Coile, now with the Arizona Daily Star. "It came after his 'Seizure World' joke, in which he referred to the [retirement community] Leisure World as Seizure World... I just think it reinforced this idea that John McCain is humor-challenged." (Link)

Even though she's "not exactly sure what the wording was of the joke" she is certain that "something was said." Excellent. It's a good bet that something was said at an event where speeches were made. To bolster her claim that "something" was said, she cites another questionable joke McCain made, which almost adds up to circumstantial evidence. Then she goes on, after an unbracketed ellipses (did she just pause or were words taken out of her quote: HuffPo, what style manual are you using?), to vaguely confirm that McCain in fact told the joke: "it reinforced this idea that John McCain is humor-challenged." What does "it" refer to? The joke that was confirmed through rumor? "Enough women repeated it" to Coile to confirm? How many women is "enough" to qualify for fact checking?

Whether or not McCain actually told the joke is obviously irrelevant here. With but a wink and a nod to objective reporting, The Huffington Post clearly wants only to extend the narrative of John McCain-as-chauvinist-douchebag. Trying to pretend otherwise is low--exactly the kind of thing HuffPo would jump on Fox News for running with. Sure, he might not be the most sensitive speaker, but what of his actions, the substance? The article ends with a another nod to the idea that substance trumps innuendo (it quotes Linda Barter the head of the Arizona Women's Political Caucus, who says, "John McCain has not been pro-choice or supportive of issues related to women's reproductive health"), but this only adds a sheen of respectability to a petty partisan hack job.

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