What is CNN’s problem?

All of a sudden, CNN appears to be taking some pretty underhanded steps to make things difficult for John McCain and Sarah Palin.  I say “underhanded” because my capacity for benefit of the doubt, at long last, has been depleted; neither of these screw-ups would ever have befallen a competent reporter or editor.

First, they reported Monday on their “Political Ticker” blog, wrongly, that the McCain campaign was ceding Colorado to Obama, prioritizing scenarios for winning without it.  Not only is this vigorously denied by the campaign, but this report came on the same day that Sarah Palin was drawing record audiences in Grand Junction, with four appearances across the state by Todd Palin scheduled for Tuesday.  How, when the McCain campaign looks to be concentrating especially hard on Colorado, does CNN possibly divine that they are giving it up for lost?

Now, CNN’s Drew Griffin has “dowdified” a passage from a column in National Review by Byron York to make it sound as if York thinks Sarah Palin is the dimmest of dim bulbs, when actually York is commenting on how the media are making every effort to make her look that way.  Here is York’s original passage (note especially the opening clause):

Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it’s sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above. Palin, the governor of Alaska, has faced more criticism than any vice-presidential candidate since 1988, when Democrats and the press tore into Dan Quayle. In fact, Palin may have it even worse than Quayle, since she’s taking flak not only from Democrats and the press but from some conservative opinion leaders as well….

Yes, there are legitimate concerns about Palin’s lack of experience. Who wouldn’t, at the very least, wish that she had more time in the governor’s office on her résumé? But a look at Palin’s 20 months in power, along with interviews with people who worked with her, shows her to be a serious executive, a governor who picked important things to do and got them done — and who didn’t just stumble into an 80 percent job-approval rating.

And here’s a transcript of Griffin’s question in an interview with Gov. Palin (video clip here):

The press has been pretty hard on you, the Democrats have been pretty hard on you, but also some conservatives have been pretty hard on you as well. The National Review had a story saying that, you know, I can’t tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above.

Note the conspicuous absence of the previously emphasized opening clause.  York himself takes considerable exception to the distortion of his article in NRO’s The Corner.  National Review had no story saying any such thing; the story said such a conclusion might be drawn from the tenor and content of Palin’s media coverage.  (Kind of ironic that Griffin should make himself an example of just such coverage with this tailored misquote.)

Too bad…with Griffin’s recent more-in-depth-than-usual coverage of Barack Obama’s connections to ACORN and Bill Ayers, I’d begun to consider reassessing my estimation of CNN’s “in the tank for Obama” status.  Griffin, in his infinite consideration, has done his part to spare me a minor cris de coeur.

UPDATE: Griffin has apologized, pseudo-kinda-sorta. He was kind enough to stress that “Sarah Palin was delightful,” and also pointed out that the offending quote aired only once (they were notified of the misquote by National Review, after which the quote was cut from the interview). His explanation:

“I wanted to keep the interview moving, so I got to the heart of the question and really the heart of York’s article, and the National Review‘s article, which is that you are a successful Governor, and why aren’t you getting that message out, which she answered…In no way did I intend to misquote the National Review.

OK. Saying you were rushed is a pretty weak excuse, and an apology would have been fitting (it was done out of his own carelessness, after all), but I give him credit for taking airtime out to explain. I still have trouble seeing how such a mistake can be made accidentally, but since he’s gone on the record admitting, at the very least, a “misquote,” then as far as I’m concerned, the matter’s closed. Too bad Kyra Phillips blew the whole thing when she ended off the segment with the following facetious yet self-pitying twaddle:

We should graduate not only with a diploma but a big target on our forehead, because no matter what we say during a political season, and you’re rushed and it’s tight time, there’s always going to be people out there that are going to criticize it. You did a great job Drew, appreciate it.

Excuse me? “No matter what we say??” What is Phillips trying to say, that an accurate quote would have generated the same backlash? Sorry, Kyra, but you’re not the victim here. Your testiness is undeserved and unprofessional, and however one might describe Griffin’s handling of that part of the interview, it was definitely not a “great job.”

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