Open mic catches reporters telling the truth

OPEN MIC CATCHES REPORTERS TELLING THE TRUTH…. Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) spoke at a California university fundraiser last week, which generated some controversy due to her excessive speaking fees. Now, it appears the event has become controversial for an entirely different reason.

The local Fox affiliate overheard a variety of journalists reflecting on Palin’s remarks on a live mic, with reporters unaware that they were being recorded. The result was some unexpected candor.

“I feel like I just got off a roller coaster, going round and round,” one reporter is heard saying on audio captured by Fox40 News. “S— flying out everywhere.”

“She didn’t finish a statement,” another reporter says.

“Did she make a statement?” another asks, drawing laughs.

“I don’t know how we’re gonna make a story out of that,” a voice is heard saying.

“Now I know that dumbness doesn’t come from just sound bites,” yet another reporter says.

It’s unclear exactly which reporters were caught by the open mic, and the Fox affiliate issued a statement that noted, “Unfortunately, there’s no way to immediately identify the photographers and reporters making commentary following Sarah Palin’s speech.”

Not surprisingly, some on the right are pointing to these remarks as “proof” of liberal media bias. I don’t quite see it that way.

Remember, reporters are people, and though they’re usually reluctant to say so publicly, they tend to know the difference between bright politicians and clueless ones. In private moments, or moments they think are private, they’re even willing to say so.

In truth, Sarah Palin is conspicuously unintelligent. Objectively, that need not be controversial. For reporters to notice her conspicuous unintelligence isn’t evidence of bias; it’s evidence of reporters simply paying attention and noticing what is plainly true.

Indeed, let’s not forget that in September 2008, Peggy Noonan was helping cover the Republican National Convention, and she was caught on a live mic questioning Palin’s qualifications, and describing Palin’s role on the GOP ticket as “political bullshit.”

What’s more, I think the right should also remember that in 1999, political reporters covering a presidential candidate debate openly mocked and jeered Al Gore during the event. Time‘s Eric Pooley wrote that during the debate, the reporters in the press room responded to Gore “in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.” Another reporter added, “The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something.”

If the Palin mockery is evidence the media is liberal, was the media’s response to Gore proof that the media is conservative?

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Steve Benen

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.