The 20th Annual Awards for the Year’s Worst Reporting
Here are excerpts from the Media Research Center’s annual awards for the year’s worst reporting, a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 2007 (December 2006 through November 2007). To determine this year’s winners, a panel of 52 radio talk-show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and media observers made their choices for the first-, second- and third-best quote from a slate of five to eight quotes in each category. Each judge was also asked to choose a “Quote of the Year” denoting the most outrageous quote of 2007. A listing of all the runners-up is available at the Media Research Center’s website.
Dynamic Duo Award for Idolizing Bill and Hillary
“When I watched him [former President Bill Clinton] at Mrs. King’s funeral, I just have never seen anything like it….There are times when he sounds like Jesus in the temple. I mean, amazing ability to transcend ethnicity — race, we call it, it’s really ethnicity — in this country and, and speak to us all in this amazingly primordial way.”
— Chris Matthews, MSNBC’s “Hardball,” February 28.
“Nobody can bask in applause with quite so much style — the gentle wave, the grin the shape of a sideways comma, the sense that he knows he deserves the accolades and yet is humbled by all the clapping, which makes people clap harder….He still has this way of presenting his ideas for reforms as simple, elegant solutions….Listening to the man think out loud again, it was hard not to pine for an era before bad news got really bad, before Sept. 11 showed up on the calendar every year as Patriot Day.”
— Washington Post staff writer David Segal on the launch of Bill Clinton’s latest book, Style section, September 5.
America Makes Us Sick Award
“Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform….We pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?…[T]he recent NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary — oops sorry, volunteer — force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.”
— WashingtonPost.com military columnist William Arkin in a column reacting to a report by NBC reporter Richard Engel, January 30. (Arkin later apologized for using the word “mercenary.”)
“I think a draft produces a better Army than the one we would have with all volunteers, because I think you get average Americans if you have a draft. And if it’s an all-volunteer Army, you get people who join up because of some problem in their own lives. They don’t have anything else to do, they don’t have a job, or they can’t find what they want to do, so they join the Army. And it doesn’t produce the best Army.”
— CBS’s Andy Rooney, MSNBC’s “Imus in the Morning,” March 14.
Damn Those Conservatives Award
“I’m just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.”
— Host Bill Maher on his HBO show “Real Time,” discussing how a few commenters at a left-wing blog were upset that an attempt to kill Vice President Cheney in Afghanistan had failed, March 2.
“When doctors pronounced the Rev. Jerry Laymon Falwell Sr. dead at 12:40 p.m. EST Tuesday….my first thoughts were not of what to say or write. In fact, my very first thought upon hearing of the Rev. Falwell’s passing was: Good. And I didn’t mean ‘good’ in a oh-good-he’s-gone-home-to-be-with-the-Lord kind of way. I meant ‘good’ as in ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead.’”
— Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani in her piece, “Sigh of Relief Over Falwell Death,” May 18.
Blue State Brigade Award for Campaign Reporting
Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.): “Let’s roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, let’s make certain that those resources go to the people who need it….We’re not going to solve it by pretending that issues of poverty and struggle among working families are just going to go away magically because the stock market is going up.”
Moderator Chris Matthews: “So much of what you say just grabs people like me, because it sounds like Bobby Kennedy. It sounds like the ’60s at its absolute best.”
— Exchange at AFSCME Democratic candidates forum shown live on MSNBC, June 19.
ABC’s Sam Donaldson: “[Senator Barack Obama is] an African-American. Is the country ready? Well, I think it is. And he said he thinks it is. He said he thinks he’ll lose some votes because of that, and so the question is, what does the word ‘some’ mean?…”
Moderator George Stephanopoulos: “Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m naive, but Sam, I guess I think that anyone who’s not going to vote for Barack Obama because he is black isn’t going to vote for a Democrat anyway.”
— Exchange on ABC’s “This Week,” May 13.
Madness of King George Award
“You could argue that even the world’s worst fascist dictators at least meant well. They honestly thought [they] were doing good things for their countries by suppressing blacks/eliminating Jews/eradicating free enterprise/repressing individual thought/killing off rivals/invading neighbors, etc….Bush set a new precedent. He came into office with the attitude of ‘I’m so tired of the public good. What about my good? What about my rich friends’ good?’”
— Ex-Washington Post sports reporter and “Seinfeld” writer Peter Mehlman in a “Huffington Post” blog item, June 20.
“Probably there should be a rule against it. But there’s a rule against murder. If someone had murdered Hitler — a journalist interviewing him had murdered him — the world would be a better place. I only feel good, as a citizen, about getting rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime. I certainly don’t regret it.”
— New Yorker magazine writer Mark Singer explaining why he donated $250 to the liberal “Victory Campaign 2004.”
Channeling the Nut Roots Award
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: “Russ Feingold wants to censure the President, the Vice President…”
Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore: “Good idea….Personally I’d like to see a perp walk coming out of the West Wing of the White House.”
Matthews: “Do you think they’re guilty of war crimes?”
Moore: “Absolutely….I think we need a trial, in this country, where Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush would be brought up on charges for causing the deaths of so many people….”
Matthews: “It’s interesting if you go back….the Nuremberg Trials weren’t about the genocide, it was about waging an aggressive war. I love reading some of that language. It’s interesting.”
— MSNBC’s “Hardball,” July 23.
“The list of Bush Administration crimes is very real, but I have not paid much attention to the blogs, petitions and other efforts to promote impeachment, on the theory that they are diversionary to the more important efforts to end the war in Iraq….The crimes are real and probably impeachable, and the monarchial arrogance of the Bush-Cheney administration is monumental. But the timing is wrong.”
— Former NBC and CNN newsman Ken Bode, now the ombudsman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in a column in the Indianapolis Star, July 20.
Media Millionaires for Higher Taxes
“It takes leadership. After World War II, we maintained the infrastructure we had and we built an incredible network of highways, and leaders in both parties agreed that these were priorities. Now we have this tax-averse society, rallied by the Republicans, tax-averse, where everything becomes sort of a right-wing, libertarian refusal to let government spend any money or raise any money.”
–Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift discussing the Minneapolis bridge collapse, McLaughlin Group, August 25.
“You’re also looking at a [global warming] solution here in Europe: smaller vehicles, more energy efficient, many which use diesel fuel which is more efficient. And the price of gas here is $6 a gallon to discourage guzzling. A lot of big ideas and innovations coming out of Europe.”
— ABC’s Chris Cuomo reporting from Paris for Earth Day, “Good Morning America,” April 20.
O Great Goreacle Award
Co-host Harry Smith: “President Bush getting ready to go to Europe for the G-8. The folks in the European Union want to do emissions reductions. The President said yesterday we’re not going to participate….If you were president, you would have probably signed on?”
Former Vice President Al Gore: “Yeah, yeah.”
Smith: “Do you mind if I-? [holds up a ‘Gore 2008’ pin]…There you go. You can hold it. [laughter]….Here, let’s see what it looks like. [holds pin to Gore’s lapel]…All right, all right. Save that in a freeze frame.”
— Exchange on CBS’s “The Early Show,” May 30.
“Incredible as it may seem, Al Gore is not only totally carbon neutral, but geek-chic cool. No velvet rope can stop him….’He is more popular now than he ever was in office, and he knows it,’ says Laurie David, one of the producers of Inconvenient Truth and a Hollywood environmental activist (and wife of Seinfeld co-creator Larry David) who has traveled around the world promoting the film with Gore. ‘He’s a superhero now.’”
— Washington Post reporter William Booth in a front-page profile of Gore headlined, “Al Gore, Rock Star; Oscar Hopeful May Be America’s Coolest Ex-Vice President Ever,” February 25.
Politics of Meaninglessness Award for Silliest Analysis
“Perhaps the outpouring of sympathy for [the falsely arrested Duke lacrosse players] Reade Seligman, Collin Finnerty and David Evans is just a bit misplaced….As students of Duke University or other elite institutions, these young men will get on with their privileged lives….They are very differently situated in life from, say, the young women of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.”
— “Nightline” co-anchor Terry Moran writing on his “Pushback” blog on ABCNews.com the day after the North Carolina attorney general declared the players innocent of highly-publicized rape charges, April 12.
“As part of our ongoing series of reports on the environment, ‘America Goes Green,’ we take on the question that can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear. We’ve all been there. You come to the end of the checkout line and then comes that question: ‘Paper or plastic?’ For that one brief moment, we grocery buyers are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision.”
— NBC’s Brian Williams on the May 7 Nightly News. 
Good Morning Morons Award
“So I’m running in the park on Saturday, in shorts, thinking this [warm weather] is great, but are we all gonna die? You know? I can’t, I can’t figure this out.”
— Co-host Meredith Vieira talking about global warming on NBC’s “Today,” January 8.
Co-host Diane Sawyer: “A number of people have already said, ‘Is there anything surprising, personal about [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad that we didn’t know?’ Well, it turns out, someone told me he cries a lot. That he is dramatically sentimental and sympathetic if someone comes up and expresses a personal plight. So I just asked him, are you often in tears?”"
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Yes, that’s true. Not only for Iranians, of course, they are very close to me and I love all Iranians. And anywhere, when I see people suffering, I have the same reaction….Even when I see on TV that, for example, some Americans, because of tornadoes or a hurricane, they have lost their homes, I become sad.”
— ABC’s “Good Morning America,” February 13.
Media Hero Award
“He was not what I expected. He was very dignified. He was warm, friendly. He likes the U.S. It’s George Bush that he doesn’t like. He also was very personal. He talked about how hard his life was, that he wished he could be in love but you can’t be when you are heading a country.”
— ABC’s Barbara Walters recounting her interview with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, “Nightline,” March 16.
“For the first time in the 218-year history of the Congress, a woman was voted by her colleagues to be Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, took the gavel. But in a picture perhaps even more symbolic, the new Speaker was on the floor for a time, holding her 6-year-old [6-month-old] grandson, all the while giving directions on how events were to proceed. It seemed the ultimate in multitasking: Taking care of the children, and the country.”
— ABC’s “World News” anchor Charles Gibson, January 4.
Tin Foil Hat Award for Crazy Conspiracy Theories
Co-host Joy Behar: “Is there such a thing as a man-made stroke? In other words, did someone do this to him?…”
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck: “Why is everything coming from the liberal perspective a conspiracy?…”
Behar: “I know what this [Republican] Party is capable of.”
— Discussing South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson’s illness on ABC’s “The View,” December 14, 2006. [72 points]
Co-host Joy Behar: “One thing is that Giuliani post-9/11 appeared to be very heroic. But now they’re saying that he was not that efficient in helping the people who were the recovery people, the responders.”
Rosie O’Donnell: “Also he was, you know, instrumental in making sure that all of the steel was removed and shipped to Canada right away, Giuliani — was shipped to China, sorry, right away.”
Behar: “For what purpose?”
O’Donnell: “Well, to get it out of there and to have, you know, all of the stu —but it was all gone. So there was no, like, metal to test.”
— Exchange on ABC’s “The View,” May 14.
Perky Princess Award for Katie’s Cutesy Comments
“Do you worry at all that non-believers may feel excluded and diminished at a time when we’re so divided about so much?”
— Katie Couric to The Nativity Story’s Catherine Hardwicke and Mike Rich in a 2006 “CBS Evening News” story about Hollywood movies based on Biblical themes, December 4.
“As the throngs of celebrities greeted Al Gore as a secular saint, I wondered if this might usher in a backlash against environmentalists….It seems like we’re reaching critical mass when it comes to this issue. And all the experts agree. Well, almost every expert. (There are a handful of scientists — many of them on the payroll of big oil companies — who wonder if global warming is a reality.) But my fervent hope is that Hollywood’s embrace of Al Gore doesn’t give people an excuse to condemn and mock the effort — and oppose taking steps that we as a society need to take to deal with the issue of climate change.”
— “CBS Evening News” Anchor Katie Couric writing about the Oscars on her CBSNews.com blog, “Couric & Co.,” February 26.
Barbra Streisand Political I.Q. Award for Celebrity Vapidity
“I just want to say something: 655,000 Iraqi civilians are dead. Who are the terrorists?…If you were in Iraq, and the other country, the United States, the richest in the world, invaded your country and killed 655,000 of your citizens, what would you call us?”
— Co-host Rosie O’Donnell on ABC’s “The View,” May 17.
“Over the past six years we’ve had to add to the American picture: rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeas corpus, the neglect of our great city New Orleans and the people, an attack on the Constitution and the loss of our best young men and women in a tragic war. And this is a song about things that shouldn’t happen here, happening here. And so right now we plan to do something about it — we plan to sing about it.”
— Bruce Springsteen introducing his song, “Living in the Future,” before a live concert on NBC’s “Today,” September 28.
Drive-By Media Award for Shooting at the Competition
Matt Lauer: “He [Rush Limbaugh] makes a living poking fun at Democrats, but now some think he has gone a little too far in taking on Senator Barack Obama….”
Reporter Michael Okwu: “Weeks before the Imus controversy, Rush Limbaugh started airing this ditty about Senator Barack Obama:”
Song parody: “Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.”
Okwu: “Which lead some to wonder, has Limbaugh been getting a free pass?…”
Paul Waldman, Media Matters for America: “This is basically the radio equivalent of a black-faced, minstrel show. You’re going back to Amos and Andy and all of those, kind of, racist shows in the past.”
Okwu: “For his part, Obama says he doesn’t listen to Limbaugh but says being targeted is part of being a politician….Legitimate political satire or something darker?”
— NBC’s “Today,” May 21. (Limbaugh’s parody was inspired by a black writer who used the term in a March 19 Los Angeles Times op-ed titled “Obama the Magic Negro.”
“A top Democrat is coming out guns blazing against conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. It’s an angry new shot in the dispute over the war in Iraq and Limbaugh’s charge that some veterans who are criticizing the war are, in his words, quote, ‘phony soldiers.’”
— CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room,” October 1. (In fact, Limbaugh was talking about leftist anti-war groups touting tales of U.S. atrocities from Jesse Macbeth, a soldier who flunked out of basic training and who is going to prison for making it all up.)
Not Biased Enough Award
“As we saw in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the plantation mentality that governs Washington turned the press corps into sitting ducks for the war party, for government, and neoconservative propaganda and manipulation….What’s happened is not indifference or laziness or incompetence, but the fact that most journalists on the plantation have so internalized conventional wisdom that they simply accept that the system is working as it should. I’m doing a documentary this spring called Buying the War, and I can’t tell you again how many reporters have told me that it just never occurred to them that high officials would manipulate intelligence in order to go to war. Hello?”
— PBS’s Bill Moyers, in a speech to a conference on “media reform” aired four days later on the left-wing Pacifica network’s Democracy Now, January 12.
“Comedians, such as yourself, Jon Stewart and others, are a valuable supplement, and here’s why: Good journalism at its best frequently speaks truth to power. What’s happened with journalists — again, I don’t except myself from this criticism — in some ways we’ve lost our guts. We need a spine transplant. What’s happened is comedians, in their own way, speak truth to power and fill that vacuum that we in journalism have too often left, particularly post 9/11.”
— Dan Rather to Bill Maher on HBO’s “Politically Incorrect,” March 16. 
Quote of the Year
“As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch”
— Headline over a story by McClatchy News Service reporters Jay Price and Qasim Zein, October 16.
“Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of Fox News. Fox News is worse than al Qaeda — worse for our society. It’s as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was.”
— MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann in an interview with Playboy magazine, October issue.
“Everything you said about [withdrawing some troops from] Iraq yesterday, and everything you will say, is a deception, for the purpose of this one cynical, unacceptable, brutal goal: perpetuating this war indefinitely. War today, war tomorrow, war forever!…A man with any self respect, having inadvertently revealed such an evil secret, would have already resigned and fled the country! You have no remaining credibility about Iraq, sir!…Mr. Bush, our presence in Iraq must end, even if it means your resignation, even if it means your impeachment, even if it means a different Republican to serve out your term, even if it means a Democratic Congress and those true patriots among the Republicans standing up and denying you another penny for Iraq, other than for the safety and safe conduct home of our troops. This country cannot run the risk of what you can still do to this country in the next 500 days.”
— MSNBC “Countdown” anchor Keith Olbermann addressing President Bush in a “Special Comment,” September 4.
“You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once, and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, ‘Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?’ And I said, ‘That’s what journalists do.’ And everybody in the courtroom laughed. It was the most hurtful moment I think I’ve ever had.”
— Co-host Diane Sawyer joking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” following a report on how some people try to avoid serving on a jury, July 12.