Thursday, June 30, 2011

MSNBC's political etiquette policy: make sure you are bleeped before calling the President an expletive

Time Magazine's editor-at-large Mark Halperin said that President Obama was a "dick yesterday", referring to the President's news conference. That is OK, apparently, as long as the producer is there to bleep out the expletive. If not, well, you're screwed.
"I want to offer a heartfelt and profound apology to the President and the viewers of Morning Joe. My remark was not funny. I deeply regret it," Halperin wrote on Twitter, now apparently the place where all official correspondence between the media and the President occurs. By the way, Halperin's post says he used "Twitter for iPad" to post his apology (see, you were wondering what the "new media" angle was, right?).

MSNBC had its own story which was in fact no story at all, just the apology: "Mark Halperin's comments this morning were completely inappropriate and unacceptable.  We apologize to the President, The White House and all of our viewers. We strive for a high level of discourse and comments like these have no place on our air. Therefore, Mark will be suspended indefinitely from his role as an analyst."

What really interests me in these situations are the news sites that decide that Halperin called the President a "dick", and those that says he called the President a "@#$%".

NPR's news blog, written by Mark Memmott went with "@#$%", no surprise there. Politico, though, included the whole sentence from Halperin: "“I thought he was a kind of a dick yesterday.” Again, no surprise.

Huffington Post, now it its post AOL-acquisition stage, used "D*ick" in its headline, but the actual word in its body copy. Back in 2008 the HuffPost ran this headline: "Penis Size Preference Chart: SEE WHAT WOMEN WANT HERE!" (This may explain why so few people are truly concerned that AOL will negatively effect the site's editorial standards.)

The Drudge Report – which right now has the headline "Rubio: Obama 'Left Wing Strong Man'" – had no problem using the actual word in its headline, after all no one reads any on that site other than the headlines anyway (it then links over to Politico).

In the end, I find it strange that Halperin should be suspended from giving his opinions on MSNBC because of this comment. Everyone already knows what he thinks of the President, so actually verbalizing it seems merely what he is paid to do. Or does the Morning Joe program people actually bring on people like Halperin in hopes that they will do a good job of hiding their true feelings?

(By the way, for a grown-up look at this whole flap, as opposed to my simple ramblings, you might want to read Greg Sargent's post on the WaPo site, which is spot on.)