Dear Media: This Is Why Everybody Hates YouPosted: December 3, 2014
Mollie Hemingway writes: Last week, President Barack Obama pardoned a turkey prior to Thanksgiving Day, as is tradition. And as in previous years, his teenage daughters Malia and Sasha stood by his side. The daughters are cute as can be — and Malia is growing into an absolutely beautiful young woman.
They are, however, teenagers. And they were, I guess, engaged in some mild teenage behavior — eye-rolling and smirking and what not. I watched a video of the event and didn’t really notice anything worth commenting on (apart from the interesting annual practice of Obama signing the cross over the turkey). But one minor Capitol Hill staffer thought the girls were dressed inappropriately and acted a bit churlish. And then, for some reason, she wrote about it on Facebook.
At which point some people lost their everliving minds. Her comments were posted on Twitter where the social media mob fed their hankering for constant outrage. There were petitions calling for her to be punished. And worst of all the media wrote and broadcast story after story after story about the matter. Elizabeth Lauten lost her job for saying mean things about President Obama’s children.
“In what world — in what mother-freaking world — does he justify taking a foreign affairs reporter and having him dig up dirt on a low-level former staffer who said nothing worse about presidential children than the Post’s own columnists did in the Bush era?”
Now, Lauten is in communications and her job presumably included an assumption that she wouldn’t embarrass her boss. Besides, in a city where you can keep your job even if you’re involved in serious scandals at the IRS, State Department, Veterans Affairs or the Department of Justice, an actual job loss is refreshing, in its own way. She even gave a full-throated apology — within hours of the initial post — for being mean, not one of these “I’m sorry if” constructions that politicians frequently use.
Still, what in the world was the media doing reporting on this non-story and firing up the mob? The Washington Free Beacon reported that “major media outlets are pouring resources into tracking her moves and digging into her past.” This included two network news vans camping outside of her parents’ home in North Carolina and a search of Lauten’s leaked juvenile records and college writings.
This is insanity and each and every person involved should be ashamed of himself or herself. If you were involved, you are a big part of what’s wrong with journalism and you need to check yourself.
Explain yourself, Washington Post
A few years ago, I had this exchange with a Washington Post reporter:
@MZHemingway Hi Molly – I cover policy for the Washington Post, not local crime, hence why I wrote about all the policy issues you mention.
— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) April 11, 2013
Yes, I was told that the reason why the Washington Post was studiously avoiding any discussion of serial murderer and abortionist Kermit Gosnell was because it was a local crime story. The Washington Post previously avoided or subsequently went on to avoid covering the trial of George Zimmerman, the Grand Jury’s look at Darren Wilson and various other local crime stories. Just kidding. They gave those stories wall-to-wall coverage, as you might expect.
Anyway, the Washington Post ran a somewhat laughable explanation of why the paper failed to cover the story, an explanation I dissected here. A snippet from the Post’s story:
Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor, offers a more mundane rationale for the newspaper’s lack of coverage: He wasn’t aware of the story until Thursday night, when readers began e-mailing him about it. “I wish I could be conscious of all stories everywhere, but I can’t be,” he said. “Nor can any of us.” …
“We never decide what to cover for ideological reasons, no matter what critics might claim. Accusations of ideological motives are easy to make, even if they’re not supported by the facts.”
OK, sure, sure. Yes, the Gosnell story was for years one of the biggest stories in the country for millions of Americans who are pro-life, but let’s just assume that “being even vaguely aware of major stories that are interesting and important” isn’t something we should judge executive editors on. Yes, it had angles dealing with late-term abortion, partial-birth abortion, infanticide, pharmaceutical rationing, exploitation of immigrants, racism, and abortion clinic regulations, but let’s just agree that the Washington Post’s struggle to see if any of those things were worth really exploring had nothing whatsoever to do with ideological reasons. Sure.
Now let’s turn back to the Lauten story and see if the Washington Post heard about it or covered it at all.
See, somehow — and I don’t know if this was a reporter idea or an editor idea or just a complete breakdown of journalistic prudence on all sides — but somehow the Washington Post took a “foreign affairs” reporter and put him on the investigation of Lauten.
And that’s a real thing that happened.
Yes, the Washington Post had a reporter dig up dirt on a low-level former staffer who dared to criticize the presidential family. Is this real life?
I’d like someone to go ahead and circle back with Baron and have him explain himself. In what world — in what mother-freaking world — does he justify taking a foreign affairs reporter and having him dig up dirt on a low-level former staffer who said nothing worse about presidential children than the Post’s own columnists did in the Bush era? One of the items linked above is a Ruth Marcus column where she bashes this low-level staffer for critiquing the daughters, then notes she herself did it to the Bush girls –including attacking them for showing so much “cleavage”, being churlish, and their speaking style — but that it was OK because she did it under the guise of parody and they had notable busts. I’m not joking. You can read it for yourself….(read more)
- GOP Staffer Elizabeth Lauten to Resign Over Attack on Sasha & Malia Obama (hinterlandgazette.com)
- GOP Staffer Elizabeth Lauten Resigns Over Sasha & Malia Obama Facebook Attack (themoderatevoice.com)
- The long and fraught history of judging the president’s kids (washingtonpost.com)
- Hill staffer Elizabeth Lauten resigns after remarks about Obama daughters (washingtonpost.com)