The breathtaking dishonesty of Andrea Mitchell

Andrea Mitchell’s recent attempt to further the Democratic Party’s narrative about Mitt Romney — that the former Massachusetts governor is “out of touch” — has now been widely exposed as dishonest reporting. Mitchell used a deceptively edited clip to suggest Romney was completely unfamiliar with what average Americans encounter in convenience stores. Bowing to pressure, Mitchell later ran a longer version of the clip that supplied slightly more context. But Mitchell has refused to acknowledge what was so offensively misleading about the original clip — and her gratuitously snarky narration of it. This refusal is as infuriating as her original transgression.

Mitchell’s original report ran on MSNBC on Monday. Speaking to MSNBC contributor Chris Cillizza, Mitchell introduced a clip of Romney’s remarks to a crowd in Pennsylvania: “Maybe this was Mitt Romney’s supermarket scanner moment, but I get the feeling — take a look at this — that Mitt Romney has not been in too many, in too many Wawas along the roadside in Pennsylvania.” Delighted at her own wit, Mitchell started to chuckle toward the end of her introduction. Cillizza, meanwhile, smiled broadly.

For those of you who are completely out of touch with the common folk — or who don’t live in the small number of states that Wawa operates in — Wawa is a regional chain of convenience stores. “Supermarket scanner moment,” of course, is Mitchell’s reference to President George H.W. Bush’s visit to a grocer’s convention during his re-election campaign. As the New York Times told the story at the time, Bush appeared to be “amazed” that supermarket scanners existed — thus proving that he was out of touch with the experience of average Americans. It was fitting that Mitchell would cite the Times story, because it, too, has been debunked as dishonest journalism designed to support the narrative that Republicans are out of touch.

After her snarky introduction, Mitchell ran the edited clip of Romney’s remarks. Romney described his experience ordering a sandwich in a Wawa: “You press the little touchtone keypad, you just touch that, and the sandwich comes in, touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier, there’s your sandwich. It’s amazing!”

Cut to Mitchell smiling with her mouth agape, as if to say: “Can you believe this guy?”

“It’s amazing,” Mitchell repeated mockingly as she shook her head. Cillizza broke into laughter.

It appears that Mitchell hasn’t been in many convenience stores herself. As Erik Wemple of The Washington Post pointed out, sandwich kiosks of the type that Romney was supposedly marveling at are actually a rarity found in only one percent of America’s convenience stores. Mitchell’s attempt to portray Romney as being out of touch thus only served to demonstrate how out of touch Mitchell is. But the larger point was that Mitchell had taken Romney completely out of context. Romney wasn’t marveling at the existence of sandwich kiosks. He was marveling at how the private sector’s ability to improve our lives through innovation stands in such marked contrast to the sclerotic public sector. This context is clear from a clip of Romney’s remarks without the agenda-driven editing, uncovered by blogger Sooper Mexican.