Discussing "Lipstickgate," Kurtz asked: "Why, exactly, did the mainstream media go hog-wild over a manufactured story that was pushed by the right?"

Video ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Howard Kurtz described the "lipstick controversy," regarding a comment made by Sen. Barack Obama, as "ridiculous, trumped-up, phony" and asked, "Why, exactly, did the mainstream media go hog-wild over a manufactured story that was pushed by the right?" Kurtz asserted, "Just about everyone knows it was essentially pushed along and made up by Drudge, Sean Hannity, and the New York Post. ... Surely the media wouldn't fall for this," adding, "And even as they [the media] were saying, 'Well, you know, this isn't quite the way it happened,' it didn't matter. They'd still do segment after segment on it."

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On the September 14 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz, CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno, and Houston Chronicle White House correspondent Julie Mason criticized the media for its reporting of what Kurtz called "this ridiculous, trumped-up, phony lipstick controversy" over Sen. Barack Obama's comment that "[y]ou can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig" while discussing Sen. John McCain's policy proposals. Kurtz teased the segment by asking, "Why, exactly, did the mainstream media go hog-wild over a manufactured story that was pushed by the right?" During the segment, Kurtz asserted: "No one really seriously believes that Barack Obama was talking about [Gov.] Sarah Palin when he used the well-worn barnyard phrase. Just about everyone knows it was essentially pushed along and made up by [Internet gossip Matt] Drudge, [Fox News host] Sean Hannity, and the New York Post, which endorsed McCain, by the way, in a front-page editorial. Surely the media wouldn't fall for this."

Kurtz also said of the media, "[E]ven as they were saying, 'Well, you know, this isn't quite the way it happened,' it didn't matter. They'd still do segment after segment on it."

Also during the segment, Sesno said of the media's coverage of Obama's comments: "[Y]ou know, we've talked about it before, this echo chamber that we're in. Turn a catchy phrase, put out a nasty enough attack, have, you know, something personal and specific enough, and we can't resist it." Kurtz replied, "We're like addicts," to which Sesno said: "We're like addicts. And make it -- as I say, make it catchy and nasty enough, and everybody jumps on. It's a feeding frenzy."

Further, when Kurtz aired a video clip of Obama's assertion that the McCain campaign "seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of the context, throw up an outrageous ad, because they know it's catnip for the news media," Mason responded: "It's true. I hate to say it. It might be a new low for the news media this late in the game for us to become so distracted with something as trivial as this. And we're not talking about the issues. I wish we were more high-minded."

As Media Matters for America previously documented, on the September 9 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Time magazine senior political analyst Mark Halperin characterized the media attention to the lipstick controversy as "a low point in the day ... and one of the low days of our collective coverage of this campaign," and stated: "[T]o spend even a minute on this expression, I think, is amazing and outrageous." And on the September 10 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, NBC News political director Chuck Todd said of media coverage of Obama's comment: "I think the McCain campaign is laughing, laughing their butts off this morning. That any of us have taken the bait on this lipstick thing, I mean, this is a joke. It is laughable."

From the September 14 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: When we come back: lipstick and livestock. Why, exactly, did the mainstream media go hog-wild over a manufactured story that was pushed by the right?

[...]

KURTZ: I seriously thought about passing up entirely this ridiculous, trumped-up, phony lipstick controversy. No one really seriously believes that Barack Obama was talking about Sarah Palin when he used the well-worn barnyard phrase. Just about everyone knows it was essentially pushed along and made up by Drudge, Sean Hannity, and the New York Post, which endorsed McCain, by the way, in a front-page editorial. Surely the media wouldn't fall for this. After all, look at what this guy said a few months ago.

McCAIN [video clip]: In 1993, we rejected the then-Clinton universal health care proposal. It was rejected by the American people. I don't like to use this term, but the latest proposal I see is putting lipstick on a pig, as we used to -- as we used to say.

KURTZ: This Lipstickgate was all over cable and led all the network newscasts.

DAVID GREGORY (host, MSNBC's Race for the White House) [video clip]: Tonight, lipstick madness.

ALAN COLMES (co-host, Fox News' Hannity & Colmes) [video clip]: Top story tonight: pigs in lipstick.

WOLF BLITZER (host, CNN's The Situation Room) [video clip]: Lipstick on a pig.

KATIE COURIC (anchor, CBS Evening News) [video clip]: That lipstick comment --

SEAN HANNITY (co-host, Fox News' Hannity & Colmes) [video clip]: We've got this lipstick comment that we've been talking about all night.

BRIT HUME (co-host, Fox News' Special Report) [video clip]: The issue of the day, today, all day: lipstick on a pig.

KYRA PHILLIPS (co-anchor, CNN Newsroom) [video clip]: Lipstick, smears, pigs --

HEATHER NAUERT (host, Fox News' America's Election HQ) [video clip] The lipstick war.

DIANE SAWYER (co-anchor, ABC's Good Morning America) [video clip]: What do we call it? Lipstickgate, I guess.

STEVE MURPHY (Democratic strategist) [video clip]: They're all guilty of, I guess, pig-ism here.

JAKE TAPPER (ABC News senior national correspondent) [video clip]: Barack Obama today said that John McCain was cynically making up a controversy about something that Obama simply never said.

BRIAN WILLIAMS (anchor, NBC Nightly News) [video clip]: If so many know it's happening and the machinery behind it, how do things like this still happen?

KURTZ: You want to disagree with that?

SESNO: No. I just wish I'd bought lipstick futures at the right moment, you know? It is this -- you know, we've talked about it before, this echo chamber that we're in. Turn a catchy phrase, put out a nasty enough attack, have, you know, something personal and specific enough, and we can't resist it.

KURTZ: We're like addicts.

SESNO: We're like addicts. And make it -- as I say, make it catchy and nasty enough, and everybody jumps on. It's a feeding frenzy.

KURTZ: Julie, let's see how Barack Obama characterized it when he was asked about the great lipstick controversy.

OBAMA [video clip]: They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad, because they know it's catnip for the news media. [edit] See, it would be funny -- it would be funny except, of course, the news media decided that that was the lead story yesterday.

KURTZ: Catnip for the news media.

MASON: It's true. I hate to say it. It might be a new low for the news media this late in the game for us to become so distracted with something as trivial as this. And we're not talking about the issues. I wish we were more high-minded. But it is a funny story, and everyone was talking about it for a day, and then it was gone.

KURTZ: I think it was about 48 hours. And even as they were saying, "Well, you know, this isn't quite the way it happened," it didn't matter. They'd still do segment after segment on it.

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Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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