On Monday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin mocked her media detractors – Politico, specifically — as “puppy-kicking, chain-smoking porn producers” for their heavy use of anonymous sources in a quote as memorable as Spiro Agnew’s “nattering nabobs of negativism.”
Palin’s latest broadside against the press comes in response to a Politico story that quoted several anonymous Republican operatives worrying aloud that a Palin presidential candidacy could end in disaster.
“We believe she could get the nomination, but Barack Obama would crush her,” said a source identified by Politico as “one prominent and longtime Washington Republican.”
Palin and her allies are hitting back, saying the article is part of a broader pattern of the media embracing a “liberal media elite” mindset.
“The ‘reporters’ who continue to cite ‘unnamed GOP-insiders’ as hard news sources are deemed impotent by the American public as we rise up and say, ‘The state of journalism today stinks. Let’s clean it up and expect some accountability’,” Palin wrote in an email to The Daily Caller.
Palin also mocked Politico’s use of anonymous sources, saying, “I suppose I could play their immature, unprofessional, waste-of-time game, too, by claiming these reporters and politicos are homophobe, child molesting, tax evading, anti-dentite, puppy-kicking, chain smoking porn producers…really, they are… I’ve seen it myself…but I’ll only give you the information off-the-record, on deep, deep background; attribute these ‘facts’ to an ‘anonymous source’ and I’ll give you more.”
Several recent Politico stories have been notably tough on Republican candidates who fit the Palin mold. One piece declared Christine O’Donnell’s primary victory in Delaware a “nightmare” for Republicans. Another Politico piece described Kentucky candidate Rand Paul’s college hijinks as evidence he was part of a “subversive,” anti-Christian movement in college.
But in the midst of a season of historic anti-Washington backlash, negative press like this has seemed only to burnish the outsider reputation of its targets, at least with a key bloc of conservative voters.
More than any other publication, Politico embraces an inside-the-beltway mentality, say critics as diverse as top Obama adviser David Axelrod and conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin.
“I prefer living in a place where people don’t discuss the Politico over dinner,” Axelrod told the New York Times.
Levin is even sharper in his critique. “They are basically mouthpieces for political operatives on the Left — in the Democrat Party and the Republican Party. So it’s very hard for them to comprehend people of principle, people who are trying to advance a movement or a cause or anything like that. They are so immersed in the ways of Washington and so cloistered in their circle of acquaintances and so forth – they just don’t get it,” Levin told TheDC.
One anonymous GOP source who largely agreed with Politico’s Palin story said he noticed, and understood, the publication’s harsh treatment of her.
“They do seem more willing to say that the empress has no clothes,” the source said. “Politico is the hometown paper for the inside-the-beltway establishment. The reporters are all best buddies with every has-been and current insider. So they’re going to take that stance.”
Critics on the Right cite a liberal tilt at Politico.
“Politico.com should just be seen as part of the liberal media machine,” said Tim Graham of the Media Research Center, a right-leaning media watchdog group.
Graham said Politico has led the charge of portraying the conservatives and the Tea Party as “fringe.”
“The entire fall campaign season has been about finding Republican fringe candidates, and Politico has helped set the tone.”
The list of grievance points on the right is long.
A recent Politico story headlined “Hurricane Sarah” has perhaps drawn the most fire. The article claimed numerous Republican campaigns are frustrated with Palin’s scheduling demands when coordinating campaign events.
According to the article, even top conservative commentators Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck became frustrated with Palin’s flaky political operation. But all three later denied that characterization.
Politico has led the charge in showing ties – financial and otherwise – between GOP establishment types and the Tea Party.
In the case of Christine O’Donnell, Politico headlined her primary victory a “GOP nightmare” and ran an article the next day, “Meet Christine O’Donnell,” that rehashed her most embarrassing foibles.
In the Kentucky Senate race, a Ben Smith piece declared that “Rand Paul’s college group mocked Christians.” Smith’s item later became nearly the word-for-word narration of an attack ad by Jack Conway, Paul’s opponent. But the story may have missed the context of Paul’s “secret society,” which according to members of the group was more “a bunch of guys having fun” than a cabal waging a theological assault on the Christian faith.
Politico has also drawn fire on the right for reporting about expenditures by a major Tea Party group for cruise ship tickets, going after the “secret money” fueling Republican attack ads, and highlighting congressional investigations into Goldline and other companies hawking gold as an investment on conservative cable and radio programs.
Conservative critics note the involvement of key Politico reporters in Journolist – the email list-serv where a collection of hundreds of leftwing reporters often traded talking points and coordinated stories.
Update: Politico executive editor Jim VandHei responded to Palin’s criticisms, saying “We have promised since the earliest days of Politico to pull back the curtain on how Washington really works and to let readers inside the conversations taking place among the people in power. Sometimes that requires extensive use of anonymous sources.
“This is what GOP insiders in this city are talking about and their concerns are widely known, if not publicly discussed. None of these Republicans would speak on the record for obvious reasons: they fear the backlash from Palin and her very passionate supporters around the country.”