Obama's '57 States' Gaffe Finally Makes New York Times News Pages

A day after Times Watch noted that the New York Times virtually ignored Obama's supposedly 'famous' '57 states' gaffe during the 2008 campaign, reporter Michael Shear rectified that omission, albeit in a story on gaffe-prone GOP candidates, "Flubs Rubbing Some Republicans the Wrong Way," in Wednesday's paper.

The Republican presidential candidates have served comedians a full platter of laughs this year - a steady diet of gaffes, misstatements, puzzled looks and long, awkward pauses.

To a remarkable degree, the candidates have turned the cringe-inducing moments to their advantage, asserting that they demonstrate an authenticity different from the slick professionalism of politicians in Washington.

But the embarrassing moments are piling up, and some veteran Republicans are beginning to wonder whether the cumulative effect weakens the party brand, especially in foreign policy and national security, where Republicans have typically dominated Democrats.

'It is an 'Animal House.' It's a food fight,' said Kenneth Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. 'Honestly, the Republican debates have become a reality show. People have to be perceived as being capable of governing this country, of being the leader of the free world.'

Shear made history with the first reference to '57 states' to appear in a news story in the Times.

And Democrats have made plenty of gaffes in the past, including President Obama, who once said he had visited 57 states.

On Tuesday, Times Watch had quoted Shear's comment on a nytimes.com podcast referring to Obama's 'famous' flub: "President Obama had that famous thing where he once said I think there were 57 states." So famous that the quote never appeared in a news story in the Times, until Wednesday.

- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site.