NORAH O’DONNELL’S REASONABLE QUESTION…. A clip made the rounds this week of MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell appearing live in Michigan, at a bookstore where Sarah Palin fans had lined up to get their copy of “Going Rogue” signed. The video seems to have become a little more interesting as the week went on.

If you haven’t seen it, O’Donnell starts interviewing random folks waiting in line, eventually coming across a young woman with a t-shirt that slams the financial industry bailout from last year. O’Donnell asks the young woman, named Jackie, whether she realizes that Sarah Palin actually endorsed the bailout. “Where’d you hear that?” the Palin fan asked.

In the same exchange, asked specifically what she likes about the former governor, the fan said something about Palin’s approach to the Constitution (the response was eerily reminiscent of an item in The Onion this week).

Now, I know this made for some easy mockery, but I’m inclined to cut the young woman a fair amount of slack. It’s easy to get flustered during a national television interview, especially if you’re not prepared. She’s just 17, and anyone can appear foolish in such a situation.

But since the segment aired, conservative activists have lashed out at O’Donnell for asking Palin fans if they know anything substantive about Palin. Worse, Jackie personally decided to blast “the liberal media and their crafty schemes.” She called O’Donnell a “buffoon” who asked “a gotcha question.”

Nothing erases sympathy faster than cheap nonsense. Jackie wore an anti-bailout t-shirt to a Palin event, and got asked a question about Palin and the bailout. This is hardly the result of a “crafty scheme.” It’s not O’Donnell’s fault the young woman has a limited understanding of her hero’s record.

And that record is unambiguous. As Dave Weigel noted earlier, Palin really did endorse the bailout at the time, and did so again in “Going Rogue” (page 270).

It’s hardly beyond the pale to ask Palin’s anti-bailout supporters about this. So what’s with all the whining?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.