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Chris Wallace Denies Rolling His Eyes At Palin, Gushes Over Her Style And Brushes Away Her Dismal Poll Numbers

Reported by Ellen - February 12, 2010 -

Let me say this: I don’t have the faintest idea whether or not Chris Wallace was rolling his eyes at Sarah Palin at the end of their interview last week. Given her answers, I would not blame him if he had. But now that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough has accused Wallace of the deed, Wallace went on Megyn Kelly’s new Fox News show, America Live, yesterday (2/11/10) to attack Scarborough and gush over Palin. But all of Wallace’s effusiveness was over Palin’s style, not her substance. And the whole interview was framed in such a way that a new poll showing Palin’s popularity at a new low got buried in the middle. With video.

UPDATE: Video working correctly now.

After quickly denying he had rolled his eyes in some kind of “message” to his friends, Wallace said Scarborough “lives out where the trolleys don’t run at night. And the last time I heard somebody getting that kind of secret message, it was Son of Sam hearing from a Labrador retriever that he should go out and shoot people. And I think that Morning Joe definitely needs to switch to decaf.”

Wallace said that “most people” are talking about Palin, not his eyes. “There was a column today by that notoriously conservative columnist David Broder, in the Washington Post, and also a column by that other conservative, Joe Klein, in Time Magazine (Wallace was using the word "conservative" facetiously), based on that interview, saying what a formidable political figure Sarah Palin is now, that she really does seem to have captured the populous unrest and anger in the country, that she is gonna be a real player if she chooses to run for the Republican nomination in 2012… I came away from the interview with nothing but admiration for Sarah Palin.”

Nothing but admiration? As Julie pointed out in her post about the interview, Palin mixed up Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, whom she supported, and Ron Paul; she offered a very dubious distinction between Rahm Emanuel’s and Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word “retard,” and dissembled about her husband’s emails to officials while she was governor of Alaska. Wallace either didn’t notice or else he was so enamored of Palin that he did not care or, given that she is obviously considered a star talent at Fox, he knew what attitude would please his higher ups.

“It’s interesting, people talk about Palin derangement syndrome. The fact is, I threw everything at her in that half hour… about all kinds of things and there was never a beat, a pause, I thought she did a first-rate job,” Wallace enthused. As Julie noted, Wallace did ask tough questions, but he accepted Palin’s pat answers and responses that were actual lies, and did no real follow-up. And at the risk of looking like I’m putting his words under the same kind of microscope others put his eyeballs under, I could not help but notice that Wallace was praising Palin’s style, only, not her substance. He never said, “She put to rest any doubts about her gravitas” or anything close to, “She knows her policy.”

Wallace went on, “The Sarah Palin of the Republican convention in 2008 is back and the deer in the headlights of later on in the campaign is long gone and forgotten.”

Eventually, in the middle of the interview, where it was sure to get the least notice, Kelly mentioned, “You got a lot of buzz from that interview. And nonetheless the latest polls come out and now we see that Sarah Palin didn’t get that big of a bounce, I guess. They say 71% … still say she’s not qualified to be president. 26% say she is. Does that surprise you?”

Kelly was referring to a just-released ABC News/Washington Post poll that was actually far more damaging than Kelly acknowledged. In fact, it was downright deceptive of Kelly to say that Palin didn’t get “that big of a bounce.” The poll really shows Palin’s positives at new lows. As ABC News put it in their analysis,

“Palin's own ratings are weaker, apparently hurt rather than helped by her return to the spotlight. Fifty-five percent of Americans see her unfavorably, the most basic measure of a public figure's popularity, and 71 percent believe she's not qualified to serve as president, a position she said Sunday she'll consider seeking. Both negatives are at new highs.

Palin's more popular in her own party -- 69 percent of Republicans see her favorably. But far fewer, 37 percent, do so "strongly." (By contrast, in an ABC/Post poll last month, 70 percent of Democrats had a strongly favorable opinion of Barack Obama.) More problematic for Palin is that even in her own party 52 percent think she's not qualified for the presidency -- up by 16 points from an ABC/Post poll in November, shortly before the publication of her memoir, in which she criticizes the strategy of the 2008 Republican presidential campaign.

Far more Americans see Palin strongly unfavorably, 38 percent, than strongly favorably, 18 percent. Among independents -- swing voters in national politics -- just 36 percent see her favorably overall, vs. 53 percent unfavorably, and only 29 percent think she's qualified for the presidency.”

Kelly’s question, whether the poll numbers surprised Wallace, was a nice way of deflecting attention away from the negative poll results and on to Wallace who, she undoubtedly knew, would be more upbeat about Palin. Sure enough, he did not disappoint. He was not surprised by the poll numbers, he said because he thought “a storyline” had been built up about Palin and that a single interview would not change that. It was a suggestion, of course, that multiple interviews (which we know will only be friendly ones on Fox News) would make a difference. “All I can tell you is this is the first time I had ever met Sarah Palin. And you know, I wasn’t going to go easy on her… We asked her a bunch of questions on a variety of subjects and, as I say, there wasn’t a pause, there wasn’t a blink… She knew exactly who she was and what she wanted to say and I think, just speaking as a political observer, when she, at the Tea Party conference said, ‘What we need is a Commander-in-Chief and not a professor of law,’ that’s a very powerful argument… Look, is she ready to be president right now? I don’t know. But she’s not running for president now… I think she’s studying up. She said she’s getting briefings every day on foreign policy and national security and domestic policy. I think she is going to be a serious political player in the next three years if she chooses to be one.”

Maybe so. But as I said in my last post about Palin, in less than a month at Fox, she already got egg on her face. Now we know that the vast majority of Americans do not have a favorable view of her. Obviously, Fox News is hoping to rehabilitate and rebuild her image. Just as obviously, it is not working so far. The question remains, how long will they stand by her if the situation does not turn around?