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5 October 2000

A Howler EXTRA: Seven? Add eleven

Synopsis: When Russert told Imus about the veep’s sighing, the truth somehow wasn’t enough.

Commentary by Tim Russert
Imus in the Morning, MSNBC, 10/4/00

Gore Dares Bradley To Jointly Forgo Ads
Mike Allen and Ceci Connolly, The Washington Post, 12/20/99

It's the story we hoped we'd never have to write. Tim Russert appeared on Imus Wednesday morning, following Bush and Gore's Boston debate. After an opening bit of business, the following exchange occurred:

IMUS: Were you in the hall last night?

RUSSERT: Yeah, I was in the hall. I'm familiar with the Al Gore sighing. He did 18 in the December debate with Bill Bradley. We were tightly sitting next to each other on the set and every time Bradley would try to give an answer, "Hhhhhh." It's unbelievable.

Unfortunately, Russert's last statement was the morning's most accurate. Somehow we suspected he may have embellished when he said that Gore had sighed 18 times. So our analysts retreated to the musty stacks where we keep our files on "waste-of-time joint appearances." Sure enough, two of our favorites—Mike Allen and Ceci Connolly—had described the 12/19 event for the Post. The Bradley camp had complained about Gore's ways, the scribes said. Ceci and Mike limned it thus:

ALLEN AND CONNOLLY: Viewers could hear Gore sighing theatrically off-camera during several of Bradley's answers, prompting the Bradley camp to issue an "official deep-sigh count" of seven.

"Seven" is fewer than Russert's eighteen. And Bradley's camp had never claimed that Gore sighed "every time" Bradley spoke. There could no longer be a doubt for the specialists in our Embroidery Unit. We had a clear case of embellishment.

What's troubling here? It's perfectly obvious. Even when the real story would be fine on its own, Russert seems to need to make it a little better.

We also caught the NBC honcho embellishing about the Buddhist temple case in July (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/25/00). But that involved a serious matter. We'll grab more attention with this.


Fun with language: Back in December, Susan Page took the prize for staying on message. Writing about the Meet the Press flap, she accused Gore of "exaggerated sighs."