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The Most Outrageous Media Comments of 2008
Now in their 17th year, the P.U.-litzer Prizes recognize some of the nation's stinkiest media performances. As the judges for these annual awards, we do our best to identify the most-deserving recipients of this unwelcome plaudit.
And now, the P.U.-litzer Prizes for 2008:
HOT FOR OBAMA PRIZE -- MSNBC's Chris Matthews: This award sparked fierce competition, but the cinch came on the day Barack Obama swept the Potomac Primary in February -- when Chris Matthews spoke of "the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama's speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often."
BEYOND PARODY PRIZE -- Fox News: In August, a FoxNews.com teaser for the "O'Reilly Factor" program said: "Obama bombarded by personal attacks. Are they legit? Ann Coulter comments."
UPSIDE-DOWN "ELITIST" AWARD -- New York Times columnist David Brooks: For months, high-paid Beltway journalists competed with each other in advising candidate Obama on how to mingle with working-class folks. Ubiquitous pundit Brooks won the prize for his wisdom on reaching "less-educated people, downscale people," offered on MSNBC in June: "Obama's problem is he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who could go into an Applebee's salad bar and people think he fits in naturally there. And so he's had to change to try to be more like that Applebee's guy." It would indeed be hard for Obama to fit in naturally at an Applebee's salad bar. Applebee's restaurants don't have salad bars.
GUTTER BALL PUNDITRY AWARD -- Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball": In program after program during the spring, Matthews repeatedly questioned whether Obama could connect with "regular" voters -- "regular" meaning voters who are white or "who actually do know how to bowl." He once said of Obama: "This gets very ethnic, but the fact that he's good at basketball doesn't surprise anybody. But the fact that he's that terrible at bowling does make you wonder."
STRAIGHT SKINNY PRIZE -- Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Chozick: In August, the Journal's Chozick went beyond the standard elitist charge to offer yet another reason that average voters might be wary of Obama. Below the headline "Too Fit to Be President?" she wrote of Obama: "Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them." Chozick asked: "In a nation in which 66 percent of the voting-age population is overweight and 32 percent is obese, could Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability?" To support her argument, she quoted supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton. One said: "He needs to put some meat on his bones." Another, prodded by Chozick, wrote on a Yahoo bulletin board: "I won't vote for any beanpole guy."
"OUR CENTER-RIGHT NATION" AWARD -- Newsweek editor Jon Meacham: With Democrats in the process of winning big in 2008 as they had in 2006, a media chorus erupted warning Democratic politicians away from their promises of change. Behind the warnings was the repeated claim that America is essentially a conservative country. In an election-eve Newsweek cover story with the subheadline "America remains a center-right nation -- a fact that a President Obama would forget at his peril," Meacham argued that the liberalism of even repeatedly re-elected FDR offended voters. And the editor claimed that a leftward trend in election results and issues polling means little -- as would Obama's victory after months of charges that he stood for radical change. Evidence seemed to lose out to journalists' fears that campaign promises might actually be kept.
Jeff Cohen is founder of the media watch group FAIR, former TV pundit and author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.
Norman Solomon's latest book, Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State (PoliPointPress) is available now. For more information go to www.madelovegotwar.com.