Top Runners-Up Quotes in MRC's Annual Awards for Worst Reporting --12/30/2008

1. Top Runners-Up Quotes in MRC's Annual Awards for Worst Reporting
The first runner-up quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." Monday's CyberAlert featured the winners; today the second place quotes.

2. List of the 44 Judges Who Selected the Winning Worst Quotes
In recognition of their time and effort, a listing of the names and affiliations of the judges for the "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

3. From TimesWatch: Top 10 New York Times Lowlights from 2008
From the MRC's TimesWatch site. "The Favored One (Obama) vs. the Fallen One (McCain): Top 10 New York Times Lowlights from Campaign 2008."

Top Runners-Up Quotes in MRC's Annual
Awards for Worst Reporting

The first runner-up quotes in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting." Monday's CyberAlert featured the winners; today the second place quotes. For all the winners and runners-up, many posted with video and audio:

The Media Research Center's annual awards issue provides a compilation of the most outrageous and/or humorous news media quotes from 2008 (December 2007 through November 2008). To determine this year's winners, a panel of 44 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers, and expert media observers each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from a slate of five to eight quotes in each category. First place selections were awarded three points, second place choices two points, with one point for the third place selections. Point totals are listed in the brackets at the end of the attribution for each quote. Each judge was also asked to choose a "Quote of the Year" denoting the most outrageous quote of 2008.

A list of the judges, who were generous with their time, appears in item #2 below. Or, you can see them online here:

The MRC's Michelle Humphrey, Kristine Lawrence and Melissa Lopez distributed and counted the ballots, then produced the numerous audio and video clips that accompany the Web-posted version. Rich Noyes assembled this issue and Stu James posted the entire package, with dozens of Flash videos, on the MRC's Web site.

The direct address for the issue online where it's posted with audio/video (click-and-play Flash video, as well as downloadable Windows Media video and MP3 audio clips), a PDF and downloadable text (Word, WordPerfect and OpenOffice):

Direct address for the Adobe Acrobat PDF that matches the eight-page hard copy version:

Now, the first runner-up quotes in the 18 award categories:

The Obamagasm Award

"In many ways, it was less a speech than a symphony. It moved quickly, it had high tempo, at times inspiring, then it became more intimate, slower, all along sort of interweaving a main theme about America's promise, echoes of Lincoln, of King, even of Reagan and of Kennedy....It was a masterpiece."

-- CNN's David Gergen during live coverage following Obama's convention speech, August 28. [49 points]

The Half-Baked Alaska Award for Pummeling Palin

"If Sarah Palin becomes Vice President, will she be shortchanging her kids or will she be shortchanging the country?"

-- NBC reporter Amy Robach on Today, September 3. [42]

Let Us Fluff Your Pillow Award for Soft & Cuddly Interviews

"When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had 'Ich bin ein.' We've had, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall'....Is the phraseology that you would like remembered: 'People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time'?"

-- Anchor Brian Williams interviewing Obama in Berlin for the July 24 NBC Nightly News. [42]

Damn Those Conservatives Award

"[For Obama] the real test is yet to come. The Republican Party has been successfully scaring voters since 1968, when Richard Nixon built a Silent Majority out of lower- and middle-class folks frightened or disturbed by hippies and student radicals and blacks rioting in the inner cities....It is a sure bet that the GOP will try to paint Obama as 'the other' -- as a haughty black intellectual who has Muslim roots (Obama is a Christian) and hangs around with America-haters....The real question is whether he [McCain] can -- or really wants to -- rein in the merchants of slime and sellers of hate who populate the Internet and fund the independent expenditure' groups who exercise their freedom in ways that give a bad name to free speech."

-- Richard Wolffe and Evan Thomas in an eight-page cover package touting "The O Team," May 19 Newsweek. [64]

The Irrelevant Reverend Wright Award

"He was assassinated by soundbites....His whole career was being summed up in soundbites that added up to no more than 20 seconds, endlessly played through the media grinder of our national press. He was angry about that....He was like a man who goes out and picks up the morning newspaper and gets hit by a cyclone!"

-- PBS's Bill Moyers talking about Jeremiah Wright on Comedy Central's The Daily Show on May 13. [49]

Madness of King George Award

"If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You're a fascist! Get them to print you a T-shirt with fascist on it!...You, sir, have no place in a government of the people, by the people, for the people. The lot of you are the symbolic descendants of the despotic middle managers of some banana republic to whom '€˜freedom' is an ironic brand name, a word you reach for when you want to get away with its opposite." -- MSNBC's Keith Olbermann addressing Bush in a "Special Comment" on Countdown, February 14. [63]

From Camelot to Obamalot Award

"They come in droves, by the tens of thousands at times, to hear Barack Obama speak....With soaring rhetoric, Obama is moving his audiences not just politically, but emotionally. Even some political commentators who've seen it all can't help but gush....The stoic eloquence channels John F. Kennedy." -- Correspondent Tracy Smith on CBS's The Early Show, February 14. [50]

"Pay Up You Patriots" Award

"There was a statistic that came out this week from the Congressional Budget Office which was just stunning to me. It said that in the last two years -- from 2003 to 2005 -- the increase in income for the top one percent exceeded the total income of the bottom 20 percent. Given that, what would be wrong with letting the tax cuts for the top one percent expire and plowing that money into education?"

-- Host George Stephanopoulos to Alan Greenspan on ABC's This Week, December 16, 2007. [63]

Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis

"East Germany Had Its Charms, Crushed by Capitalism"

-- Headline over an October 29 New York Times review of a book bemoaning the introduction of Western capitalism to the former Warsaw Pact country. [41]

Media Hero Award

Co-host Robin Roberts: "Some would say it's a team of rivals, a la President Lincoln, or is a better comparison a team of geniuses as FDR did?"... ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes." -- ABC's Good Morning America, Nov. 24. [47]

Good Morning Morons Award

Co-host John Roberts: "I want to just stipulate at the beginning of this interview, we are declaring a Reverend Wright-free zone today. So, no questions about Reverend Wright. Our viewers want us to move on, so this morning we're going to move on. Is that okay with you?" Barack Obama: "Fair enough. That sounds just fine."

-- CNN's American Morning, May 5. [47]

The John Murtha Award for Painting America as Racist

"Her attack was unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret....Palin's words avoid repulsing voters with overt racism. But is there another subtext for creating the false image of a black presidential nominee 'palling around' with terrorists while assuring a predominantly white audience that he doesn't see their America?"

-- Associated Press writer Douglass K. Daniel, October 5. Palin was referring to Bill Ayers, who is white. [50]

The Great Goracle Award

"For Uma Thurman, whose credentials on the subject of sexy are impeccable, there was no question that 'the man's adorable.' 'Of course he's sexy,' she said. 'He seems to be flourishing and following his calling. It's just the most enviable thing in the world, like watching a beautiful racehorse run.' Al Gore, sexy man. The thinking girl's thoroughbred."

-- The Washington Post's Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan in a December 12, 2007 Style section item about Gore's Nobel Prize. [46]

MSNBC = Maudlin Sycophantic Nutty Blathering Chris Award

"He's come from a white family and a black family, and he's married to a black woman, and they're cool people. They are really cool. They are Jack and Jackie Kennedy when you see them together. They are cool. And they're great-looking, and they're cool and they're young, and they're -- everything seems to be great....He may not win this thing because everybody in America is not going to be in a room with him somewhere....[But] if you're in [a room] with Obama, you feel the spirit. Moving."

-- MSNBC's Chris Matthews talking about Democratic candidate Barack Obama and his wife on NBC's Tonight Show, January 16. [31]

The Crush Rush Award for Loathing Limbaugh

"Let me ask you about this Limbaugh factor. If Hillary Clinton wins this squeaker in Indiana...many could say that the margin of error...was generated by mischief-making by a radio talk show host, a talk jock....Anyone who voted to screw up the political system of this country with the purpose of mischief should carry that with them the rest of their lives. What a ridiculous way to use the vote for which people fought and died, to use that vote to make mischief. I hope you're proud of yourself."

-- MSNBC's Chris Matthews during live primary coverage May 6, talking about Rush Limbaugh urging listeners to vote for Clinton to keep the Democrats in chaos. [45]

Barbra Streisand Political IQ Award for Celebrity Vapidity

"Is Cheney a goon? I don't mean that to be like a smart ass, but he seems like he might be a goon....My feeling about Cheney -- and also Bush, but especially Cheney -- is that he just couldn't care less about Americans. And the same is true of George Bush. And all they really want to do is somehow kiss up to the oil people....Is there any humanity in either of these guys?"

-- CBS Late Show host David Letterman interviewing former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, June 11. [43]

Admitting the Obvious Award

"I think there is a problem, though, with the media gushing over him [Barack Obama] too much. I don't think he thinks that he's all that, but the media does. I mean, the coverage after, that I was watching, from MSNBC, I mean these guys were ready to have sex with him."

-- HBO's Bill Maher on Real Time, August 29, the night after the end of the Democratic convention. [55]

Quote of the Year

"Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race"

-- Headline over November 6 Reuters dispatch claiming no liberal tilt in favor of Barack Obama.

# Tomorrow (Wednesday): The second runners-up quotes.

List of the 44 Judges Who Selected the
Winning Worst Quotes

In recognition of their time and effort, a listing of the names and affiliations of the judges for the "Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The Twenty-First Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting."

As explained in item #1 above, the panel of 44 radio talk show hosts, magazine editors, columnists, editorial writers and expert media observers received a ballot and each selected their choices for the first, second and third best quote from a slate of five to eight quotes in each category.

The judges, in alphabetical order:

- Lee Anderson, Associate Publisher and Editor, Chattanooga Times Free Press

- Chuck Asay, editorial cartoonist via the Creators Syndicate

- Brent H. Baker, MRC's Vice President for Research and Publications; Editor of CyberAlert and Editor the NewsBusters blog

- Mark Belling, radio talk show host, WISN-AM in Milwaukee

- Robert Bluey, Director of the Center for Media an dPiblic Policy at the Heritage Foundation

- Neal Boortz, nationally syndicated radio talk show host

- L. Brent Bozell III, President of the Media Research Center

- Priscilla Buckley, retired Senior Editor for National Review

- Bill Cunningham, nationally syndicated radio talk show host from WLW in Cincinnati; nationally-syndicated by Premiere on Sunday nights

- Mark Davis, talk show host, WBAP Radio in Dallas; columnist for the Dallas Morning News

- Midge Decter, author, member of the Heritage Foundation's Board of Trustees

- Bob Dutko, radio talk show host, WMUZ-FM in Detroit

- Jim Eason, retired radio talk show host

- Barry Farber, radio talk show host

- Don Feder, consultant at Don Feder & Associates, writer of Don Feder's Coldsteel Caucus Report

- Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis, Media Research Center; Senior Editor of the NewsBusters blog

- Steven Greenhut, columnist, Orange County Register

- Kirk Healy, radio talk show host, WDBO Radio in Orlando

- Quin Hillyer, Associate Editor, The Examiner (of Washington, DC)

- Cliff Kincaid, Editor, Accuracy in Media

- Mark Larson, Program Director and talk show host on San Diego 1700 AM

- Jason Lewis, talk show host, 100.3 KTLK-FM in Minneapolis

- Kathryn Jean Lopez, Editor of National Review Online

- Brian Maloney, radio analyst, creator of The RadioEqualizer blog

- Patrick McGuigan, Managing Editor of The City Sentinel in Oklahoma City; contributing editor for Tulsa Today

- Jan Mickelson, radio talk show host on WHO in Des Moines

- Rich Noyes, Director of Research, Media Research Center; Senior Editor of the NewsBusters blog

- Kate O'Beirne, President, the National Review Institute

- Marvin Olasky, Editor-in-Chief of World magazine; Senior Fellow at the Acton Institute

- Janet Parshall, nationally syndicated radio talk show host

- Henry Payne, editorial cartoonist, The Detroit News

- Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, Editorial Director, The American Spectator

- Dan Rea, host of Nightside on WBZ Radio in Boston

- Chris Reed, editorial writer, San Diego Union-Tribune

- Mike Rosen, radio talk show host, KOA in Denver; columnist for the Rocky Mountain News

- William A. Rusher, Distinguished Fellow, Claremont Institute; syndicated columnist

- Matthew Sheffield, Executive Editor of NewsBusters, the MRC's blog

- James Taranto, Editor of

- Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist; panelist on FNC's Fox News Watch

- R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., Editor-in-Chief of The American Spectator

- Clay Waters, Editor of the MRC's

- Walter E. Williams, economics professor, George Mason University

- Thomas S. Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Human Events

- Martha Zoller, radio talk show host for WDUN in Gainseville, GA

For links to Web pages for the judges:

From TimesWatch: Top 10 New York Times
Lowlights from 2008

From the MRC's TimesWatch site. "The Favored One (Obama) vs. the Fallen One (McCain): Top 10 New York Times Lowlights from Campaign 2008." Intro and highlights below. For the full rundown online:

History will tell that the New York Times actually endorsed John McCain as its preferred Republican nominee, albeit in a hold-your-nose fashion. History will also tell that the paper began souring on its former favorite "maverick" and moderate Republican almost immediately after he clinched the nomination and becoming the only thing standing between the White House and a historic Democratic victory for either the first woman or first black president.

Even before the presidential race narrowed down to an Obama-McCain match-up, the Times did its best to kneecap GOP candidates, reserving special hostility to its hometown Republican, New York Gov. Rudy Giuliani, portraying him as a racist mayor who exaggerated his post 9-11 herosim. The Times displayed bias by omission as well, refusing to run a story about Democrat John Edwards' mistress until he confessed to the infidelity, putting forward two excuses -- that Edwards was not in the running for vice president, and that the stories were anonymously sourced -- both contradicted by the paper's own reporting.

But given the historically long campaign and the simply overwhelming amount of biased coverage, this year's Times Watch campaign wrap-up focuses on the paper's coverage of the general election, which pitted the historic beacon of hope, Democrat Barack Obama, versus the temperamental, inarticulate appeaser of right-wing racists, Republican John McCain.

Here, in increasing order of gruesomeness, are the 10 absolute worst stories appearing in the New York Times during Campaign 2008.

10) Obama's Anti-War Op-Ed OK, McCain's Pro-War Op-Ed Rejected

In July, the Times refused to run an op-ed by John McCain that laid out recent successes in Iraq, said Obama was wrong in opposing the surge, and accused the Democrat of having "learned nothing from recent history."

Times' op-ed editor David Shipley emailed McCain's staff: "I'm not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written."

Yet the McCain op-ed was in response to one from Obama, "My Plan for Iraq," that had appeared in the Times July 14....

9) Cindy McCain vs. Michelle Obama

On October 18 the Times ran an unsympathetic front-page profile of John McCain's wife Cindy under the byline of Jodi Kantor and David Halbfinger, "Behind McCain, Washington Outsider Wanting Back In."

The story itself rehashed old controversies to little effect, but became worse in retrospect when it was revealed how the Times put it together -- trolling Facebook for classmates of McCain's teen-age daughter. Reporter Jodi Kantor's message to an unidentified person on Facebook included the charming requests, "we are trying to get a sense of what [Cindy McCain] is like as a mother" and "I'm trying to figure out what school her 16 year old daughter Bridget attends."...

Kantor gave Mrs. McCain a level of scrutiny she withheld from her laudatory profile of the spouse of the Democratic candidate in which Kantor dismissed Michelle Obama's "For the first time...I am really proud of my country" statement as a "rhetorical stumble" and suggesting the media was overplaying it.

Along with colleague Michael Powell, Kantor helped Mrs. Obama soften her image in a big front-page interview June 18, "After Attacks, Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction." The long, laudatory piece was anchored with a large photo, taking up half the upper fold of the front page, of Michelle listening thoughtfully to her husband's famous race speech back in March....

8) Larry Rohter's Phony Fact-Checking

Throughout the campaign, reporter Larry Rohter proved his pro-Obama bona fides in his slanted "Fact Check" stories, which under the guise of evenhanded analysis consistently tilted the scales toward the Obama campaign....

7) Obama's Lincolnesque Race Speech Erased Rev. Wright's Wrongs

Barack Obama's friends briefly caused concern in the Barack Obama campaign when clips featuring Obama's minister Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his inflammatory anti-American preaching began circulating on the web. Obama was obliged to make a much heralded "race speech" in March, delivered in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. When Obama had finished, the media rose as one to applaud. The Times in particular assured its readers that Obama's politically necessary speech in fact marked the second coming of Lincoln and JFK.

The Times treated the speech precisely the way the Obama campaign wanted it treated -- as a transcendent statement on race in America past, present, and future (with Obama's long connection to Rev. Wright a secondary consideration) and not a desperate response to the specific bizarre remarks by Wright, who ranted from the pulpit of Trinity Church in Chicago that America deserved 9-11 and that the government used the AIDS virus to wipe out minorities.

Janny Scott's "news analysis" of March 19, "A Candidate Chooses Reconciliation Over Rancor" compared the speech to Lincoln, JFK, and LBJ....

6) McCain Disqualified at Birth?

Soon after the paper endorsed John McCain, albeit in a hold-your-nose fashion, as its preferred Republican presidential nominee, the Times began to call McCain's age and even his presidential eligibility into question. Reporter Michael Cooper got the ball rolling in a February 24 story, printed the week after the paper's notorious affair allegations: "McCain's Age, Analysts Say, Is Likely to Figure in His Selection of a Running Mate."...

5) Gaffe Machine McCain vs. Mistake-Free Obama

Throughout the long campaign, John McCain was portrayed as a gaffe machine, his every utterance scrutinized for potential mistakes, while Barack Obama ran a supposedly gaffe-free campaign yet got away with enormous factual whoppers.

The Times leaped on an apparent McCain mistake about troop levels in Iraq in "2 Campaigns Flare Up Over Iraq Troop Levels" by Michael Luo and Sarah Wheaton from May 31....

By contrast, the Times consistently ignored Obama's gaffes, like seeing fallen heroes in a Memorial Day audience, or counting up 58 states in the Union, or his evident belief that the climactic scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" (in which Cary Grant hangs off Mt. Rushmore) was actually shot at Mt. Rushmore, asking a park ranger, "How did they get up there in the first place?"...

4) Sarah Palin Meets the New Traditionalists at the New York Times

John McCain inspired the 2008 GOP National Convention in Minneapolis with his surprise selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, and in the process turned some Times' female reporters into social traditionalists, fretting whether Palin, a mother of five soon to be a grandmother, would be able to juggle the duties of mother and national office....

3) A Stark Supreme Court Double Standard

A May 28 Supreme Court preview story by law reporter Neil Lewis warned nearly 20 times that McCain would appoint "conservatives" to the Court -- yet no labels were applied to Obama's potential picks....

2) Bizarre: McCain's Celebrity Ad Racist?

The Times reacted badly to an effective McCain camp ad likening Obama's "celebrity" status to lightweight celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, suggesting the ad was not only silly and unfair but....racist.

The back and forth of racial accusations between the Obama and McCain camps made the August 1 front page ("McCain Camp Says Obama Plays 'Race Card'"). Reporters Michael Cooper and Michael Powell suggested it was the GOP, not Obama, injecting race into the campaign, and relayed some dubious anecdotes to suggest Obama was a victim of racist Republican attacks....

1) McCain Affair Allegations Backfire on the Times

Anonymous allegations of a John McCain affair with a telecom lobbyist surfaced in a February 21 front-page story and promptly backfired, as the paper did what McCain himself had been unable to do up to that point in the campaign -- rally conservatives to his side....

END of Highlights

For the complete "Top 10 Lowlights of the New York Times" rundown -- full explanations for each item, links and pictures -- go to:

-- Brent Baker