Round on both ends, high in the middle
Much merriment ensued after a photo of President Obama standing in the wrong place, while taking part in an effort to spell “Ohio”, was Tweeted out by Romney spokesman Christopher Maloney. Obama ended up spelling the word as “Oiho.”
“A word of advice to Barack Obama,” Maloney chided. “It’s O-H-I-O that has 18 electoral votes, not O-I-H-O.”
For my part, I had some fun imagining how our famously excuse-prone, irresponsible President would recycle various lame dodges from the past to explain his mistake. Would he say that he “inherited” the spelling of Ohio, and was now doing the best he could to fix it? Would he blame aftershocks from the Japanese tsunami for knocking him out of position? Would Obama accuse Republicans of trying to take us back to the past, when we all spelled “Oiho” incorrectly? Could George Bush somehow be held responsible?
But the height of hilarity was reached when the Washington Post hastily scrambled to defend Obama by claiming the image of him spelling Ohio incorrectly was a PhotoShop. There was never any reason to believe this. Post reporter Rachel Weiner simply asserted it, based on viewing a second photo that showed Obama moved into the correct position, combined with her apparent inability to believe the Lightworker would make such a silly mistake.
The Post even sent out a Tweet saying, “Don’t be fooled. This photo of Obama is photoshopped.” Other reporters credulously repeated the Post line, sadly including the normally excellent Jake Tapper of ABC News, who called the photo “BS”… and then deleted his Twitter message when he was proved wrong.
The Post was swiftly compelled to change the headline of it story, and add a marvelous correction to the bottom of the piece: “There are different photographs of Obama’s attempt to spell Ohio from a similar angle. We incorrectly stated the first one appeared photoshopped.” (The original title of the article, “Yes, Obama Can Spell Ohio,” is still embedded in the URL for the post.)
Thus does a moment of levity provide a valuable lesson in how media bias works. A supposedly reputable news organization has no business “assuming” something is Photoshopped, based on nothing but their favorable or unfavorable disposition toward the subject of the image. A few hours of ribbing Obama for a goofy mistake was hardly worth reporters sacrificing their credibility… but they reflexively did it anyway, because they apparently can’t help themselves. Why wouldn’t anyone who thought it necessary to defend Obama simply point out that it was a crowded room, everyone was laughing, and he made an understandable mistake by standing in the wrong place? (I wonder if advance teams from both parties are already en route to Mississippi, to carefully prepare for comparable photo ops.)
And the provenance of the image probably wouldn’t matter, if a Republican had been caught misspelling the name of a key state during a campaign. How many people still think Sarah Palin said “I can see Russia from my house?”