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Fox News Goes To Bat For Palin Over Her Hand Notes

Reported by Ellen - February 9, 2010 -

It’s been less than a month since Sarah Palin joined Fox News and she has already gotten egg on her face thanks to the crib notes on her hand she was caught with on Saturday during a Q&A session after her Tea Party Convention speech. Predictably, Fox News went all out to defend her yesterday (2/8/10). Sadly, even the Democrats pulled their punches. But the fact that there was not a coherent message – which seems to be a specialty of the right – suggests that the incident was more damaging than anyone at the "we report, you decide" network wanted to let on. The question is, how many more “get out of jail free” passes will Palin get at Fox? With video.


The Palin defending started early Monday, with Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson coming up with what had to be the most unique theory of the day: that Palin wrote the notes on her hand to somehow prove that, unlike Barack Obama, whom Palin had attacked during her speech for using a teleprompter, she didn’t need one. Carlson said, “I think she did it on purpose… ‘Cause I think it’s an exact opposite of reading off the teleprompter, reading off complete script written for you with every word in a sentence. And here she’s just taken crib notes on her hand. It makes it look as if she can just talk off the cuff and that she just jotted down a few couple notes before she went out to give a big, long speech.”

Co-host Brian Kilmeade didn’t quite buy that idea and seemed as though he thought Palin had made a boneheaded move. But he drowned his critique in compliments. “There’s nothing wrong if she had a card, just jot a card down… But to sit there, …do the interview and then look down at her hand, I think that is… like you said Gretchen, before, folksy, absolutely down to earth, I can identify. But if you’re gonna write on your hand, why not just say, ‘Staffer, can you hand me a card?’ And then it would have been OK.”

"Fair and balanced" Fox Nation got into the act, too, trying to paint the left as unhinged nit-pickers who "freaked over this non-issue rather than focus on her brilliant speech knocking the Obama Administration’s horrid record on economics and national defense."

Rather than a full-out defense of Palin, Sean Hannity used the incident to attack Barack Obama. He rehashed Obama’s “corpsman” faux pas three more times during the show (bringing the total number of times Hannity has harped on this issue to 7). Hannity's choice to deflect from Palin was a further indication that the “palm pilot” incident was more problematic than Fox and he led viewers to believe.

First, Hannity started with Dick Morris, with this "fair and balanced" question: “The President last week talks about ‘corpse-man,’ talks about 57 states, 'spread the wealth around.' How come the media attacks (Palin) because she wrote a couple of notes on her hand and he reads a teleprompter all day long?”

Morris replied, “’Cause she’s a woman and because she’s a Republican woman…. She’s an existential threat. Other people can attack their policies. What Sarah Palin does is attack their base.”

Unfortunately, the Democrats on the show, both of whom were Fox News contributors – and thus colleagues of Palin – pulled their punches.

In a segment featuring Democrat Kirsten Powers and conservative S.E. Cupp, Hannity used the issue to once again harp on “corpse-man.” Powers said, “This is a ridiculous issue… Who cares?”

Cupp whined, “There’s a double standard.” She claimed she would not care about Obama if people didn’t attack Palin or Bush when they mispronounced a word.

But there are some big differences here which have nothing to do with a double standard and which Powers failed to note. First of all, there are serious issues about Palin’s gravitas, which many conservatives have acknowledged, which do not exist with Obama. The fact is, had Obama made the kinds of mistakes that Palin made during the campaign, Cupp can bet her initials that she’d be screeching even louder now if he had gotten caught with notes on his hand. Second, it’s one thing to misread a teleprompter. It’s another to show up for a very friendly Q&A with cliff notes that indicate she has trouble remembering her own core issues. Third, there’s the hypocrisy factor. Palin had attacked Obama during her speech for using a teleprompter while she was obviously speaking from prepared remarks, herself. Obama has already proved he can master speaking off the cuff. Palin not so much.

But Powers seemed to have missed or overlooked those factors, along with all the other troubling issues about Palin’s appearance: the untruths, her flip-flop on the bailout, the $100,000 speaking fee at what was supposed to be a grass roots get-together, the disturbing behavior of some of the other speakers. “People make mistakes,” Powers said, conveniently dismissing Palin as an issue. “I don’t have a problem with the fact that Sarah Palin wrote something on her hand.”

Powers even went out of her way to agree with the conservative talking points. “We know this. There is a double standard.” She added, “Joe Biden says all sorts of ridiculous things and gets facts wrong and he’s still considered among the establishment to be very smart, which actually I think he is very smart and I think Palin can be smart and write on her hands.” But again, Biden served for 36 years in the Senate spent 17 years as either the Chairman or Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and more than a decade as the Chairman or Ranking Member on the Foreign Relations Committee. Palin, on the other hand, quit in the middle of her first term as governor of Alaska. You might say there’s a double standard for double standards.

Sadly, Democrat Bob Beckel was only marginally better in the “Great American Panel” segment. First, he said he had no problem at all with Palin writing notes on her hand. But at least he admitted he was “a little conflicted” because “she’s now a colleague here at Fox.” He added that he hoped Palin would “start to read up on some things, get up to speed and I just want to say right now… I am for her for president in 2012.”

Panelist Cal Thomas repeated the "double standard" meme.

Former Miss America Kirsten Haglund, another panelist, claimed that “the liberal media” just wanted to discredit Palin because “they see her as a threat.” Haglund went on to argue that the left only wants to discredit Palin, rather than discuss her policy. “They’re trying to make her laughable. They’re not attacking her message. They’re not talking about what she was speaking about.”

That would have been a perfect opportunity for Beckel to explain why the hand notes were emblematic of deeper issues with Palin. And I hoped he might when he asked, “What exactly was that message? Can you tell me?” He added that he could not “figure out what she was doing.”

Hannity interrupted to bark, “Stay on substance here.” What he really meant was, "Stay OFF substance here." Hannity went on to say, “If Sarah Palin said ‘corpse-man,’ reading from a teleprompter three times in a speech, she would be excoriated.” He complained that there were more Google stories about Palin’s hand notes than “corpse-man.”

By preventing Beckel from discussing Palin’s message and insisting that the discussion remain focused on Obama’s mispronunciation, Hannity had just made Haglund’s point in reverse. Funny how she never objected. Instead, she argued that Palin was a target partially because she’s a woman but mostly because she’s a conservative.

Beckel got going a little bit. “The reason (Palin) gets beat up is not because she’s a woman, it’s because she doesn’t have anything substantively yet to say. I’d like her to come up with a policy speech. That would be a nice idea.”

That was fine as far as it went but when an ignorant, dishonest harpy holds herself up as some kind of national leader or spokesperson and gets significant media and political support for her efforts, I think a bit more exposure of the charade is in order.

Fox has a lot invested in Palin; they've even gone so far as to build a TV studio in her home. So clearly, they're not about to let one embarrassment spoil their plans. But if their latest star pundit repeatedly proves that she can't get through a friendly Q&A without looking like a fool, well, you have to wonder how long their patience and deep pockets will last.