23 June 1999
Epilogue: Framing Lamar (and gettin jiggy)
Synopsis: The New York Times had page one fun with another unloved White House hopeful.
Backstage at the opening
Roger Simon, U.S. News & World Report, 6/28/99
Al Gore Gets Jiggy [sic]
Ceci Connolly, The Washington Post, 6/23/99
A Flagging Campaign (Photo, photo caption)
Unattributed, The New York Times, 6/9/99
Unattributed, The New York Times, 6/10/99
Commentary by Charles Grodin
Charles Grodin, MSNBC, 6/12/99
We know you can't believe you eyes when we tell you CelebCorps
has picked out a hopeful-and when we say the corps is after Gore,
as we told you in yesterday's HOWLER (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/22/99).
In fact, the negative coverage of the Gore campaign is too voluminous
by far to keep up with. In this week's U.S. News, for example,
Roger Simon pens the lead story, covering the kick-off to the
Bush/Gore campaigns. And what does he cover in the first four
paragraphs? What else? The way the vice president's upper lip
tends to sweat when he gives formal speeches. Of course! There's
simply no setting in which this gloomy Goth crew can't find a
way to tear down Gore-and to degrade the caliber of the American
public discourse, which sadly now rests in their hands. Look also,
for fun, at this morning's Post, in which Ceci Connolly "covers"
the Gores' "Family Re-Union," an annual symposium held
in Tennessee. Connolly's theme is-what else-how boring Gore is
(as if people so able to obsess on one theme could possibly be
bored by somebody else). In the course of her discussion, Connolly
calls Gore a "wonk;" says he is "best known for
his statue imitation;" describes him addressing the forum
"in his best talk-show host baritone;" describes Mrs.
Gore as "his blond co-host;" says Gore has "a steel-trap
mind and a steel rear end;" says he "temporarily displayed
a long-rumored but rarely seen human side;" says he's "programmed
to the point of seeming robotic;" and describes him at one
point as "giggling like a girl." And then, deep in her
article-you knew it was coming-Connolly said this, with no hint
CONNOLLY: One week into his presidential campaign, Gore is
battling a serious image problem.
We don't want to say it, but say it we must: there's simply
no way to convey the sheer dumbness of this sad-sack celebrity
But if you want to see how bad it can get, take a look at page
one of the New York Times on June 9. You will find a large picture
of Lamar Alexander, speaking from a platform in a Tennessee town
square, addressing a handful of on-lookers. One can't help but
be struck by the sorry sight-there appear to be sixteen people
present, about half of whom are manning press cameras. The bold
head on the caption is "A Flagging Campaign;" the caption
goes on to say this:
NEW YORK TIMES (6/9): Lamar Alexander's campaign has yet to
arouse many voters, and his fund-raising has fallen below what
he hoped. Mr. Alexander, a Republican candidate for President,
spoke recently in Tennessee. Page A16.
The article on page A16 wasn't too cheerful, either. But that
page one picture spoke thousands of words.
The correction was brief-and hidden. Tucked inside page A2
the next day was this remarkable "Editor's Note:"
NEW YORK TIMES (6/10): A front-page picture yesterday showed
Lamar Alexander, a Republican presidential candidate, speaking
to a small group of people in Elizabethton, Tenn. In fact, Mr.
Alexander was addressing a larger audience-about 200 people, most
standing in a shady area just outside camera range. The
group had gathered for a town celebration at which Mr. Alexander
was invited to speak, and most chose to stand out of the sun,
about 20 feet from him. The caption should not have suggested
that the scene reflected on his support.
Incredibly, the editors seem to think the problem rests with
the caption, rather than with the publication of the picture itself.
We'll strain credulity and assume that no one deliberately
pushed this picture forward--that no one deliberately gimmicked
this picture as a way to crack wise on Lamar. And we'll hope this
episode makes future journalism texts, to show the bad faith of
many press corps "corrections." Presenting a grotesquely
false image on page one, the Times corrected itself in a small
note on page two. And why should the Times have made more effort?
Because two days later, Charles Grodin put the doctored photo
on national TV, and could plainly be heard saying this:
GRODIN: Then there was Lamar Alexander, a photograph of him
on the front page of the New York Times recently that I find fascinating.
There he is, he's making a speech, now look: what do you have
there, one, two, three, eight people, like four of them are working
for the media. I mean, come on! You put up a microphone in a town
square and I don't care who you are, you just get on a corner
somewhere, you put up a microphone, you've got to be able to do
better than that.
The Times should be able to do better than that too. But we've
told the analysts: don't hold your breath.
Oh yeah: By the way, what did the Gore symposium discuss?
What might it show us about the vice president? We don't know-Connolly
doesn't discuss it. She does hint that the sessions were dull.