I have never hesitated to state a strong opinion when Sarah Palin was the topic of conversation. From my POLITICO columns to my ramblings on “Morning Joe,” I’ve always been tough on the former Alaskan governor for her undisciplined approach to national politics.
But another powerful player on the national stage has also performed badly since Palin’s debut in 2008. And this past week, the national press corps once again continued its embarrassing behavior toward Palin with what seemed to be a rabid pursuit of her official email records.
A quick scan of presidential polls shows that Sarah Palin will not be elected president of the United States anytime soon. That reality makes the media’s treatment of the former GOP vice presidential candidate disproportionate to her sway over national events. And yet the media’s obsession with Palin reached absurd heights last week with the publication of those 13,000 emails from her time as governor.
Dozens of reporters were dispatched to Alaska to sift through Palin’s correspondence with her staffers, her husband and even her children. Journalists spent hours collecting, digitizing and compiling the emails into searchable online databases.
The results of this years-in-the-making investigation ended up being as dull as dishwater, but that didn’t stop papers like The New York Times from breathlessly reporting the following titillating “scoops”:
• “Back in 2007, well before Ms. Palin was a national figure, an adviser suggested meeting an important person in Washington.”
• “An email from the manager of the governor’s house to Ms. Palin in early 2008 makes clear that Ms. Palin had inquired about the possibility of installing a tanning bed in the house.”
• “In the weeks leading up to her selection as Mr. McCain’s running mate, Ms. Palin seemed to be paying particular attention to mistakes she found in news media reports about her.”
Stop the presses! A politician was told by an aide that she should meet “important people” and took note when newspapers wrote inaccurate stories?
Wow. The next thing we’ll learn is that Palin liked to get more votes in elections than her opponents.
I’m sorry, but at this point the media’s fixation with Palin is getting downright creepy. And they have been strangely obsessive since she burst onto the national scene in 2008.
When my co-host, Mika Brzezinski, and I arrived at the Republican National Convention that year, we were met by excited network chiefs and newspaper reporters who were chasing down a sleazy Internet rumor that Trig Palin was not Palin’s child. To a neutral observer, the story was an obvious hoax, but unfortunately for their audience, the mainstream media were not a neutral observer when it came to the GOP candidate.
Mika received a number of calls from her friends at the major networks gleefully passing along the Internet lie before cheering for Palin’s demise.
“God, I hope it’s true,” a former co-worker said to her. That view was echoed by calls she got throughout the convention. The cocktail chatter we heard during the GOP convention was equally venomous.
The episode at the Republican convention did not shock me but was an eye-opening experience for my co-host. Mika had seen the media’s bias up close, and it was not a pretty sight.
There is a question of why is Palin is so loathed by the national press. She served only two years as governor of Alaska and hasn’t held political office since. She has not declared a run for president, and 42 percent of Republicans say they definitely would not vote for her if she were to run. She is an eccentric political celebrity of marginal relevance.
It is also very curious that the national media were more concerned with Palin’s two years as Alaska governor than with President Barack Obama’s 10 years in Chicago politics — a stint that included his close involvement with Rod Blagojevich’s first run for governor. Considering Chicago’s reputation for rough and crooked politics, why didn’t we read more stories about his past political life?
Is it because most national media outlets were in the tank for Obama in 2008 or biased against Palin and the GOP ticket?
You know the answer. The question now is whether the mainstream media will learn from past mistakes to avoid future embarrassments. Judging from the media’s performance over the past week, I fear the answer to that question is a depressing “no.”
A guest columnist for POLITICO, Joe Scarborough hosts “Morning Joe” on MSNBC and represented Florida’s 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001.