Media Mostly Ignore Democrat Saying 'F--k the President'

As NewsBusters previously reported, the three broadcast networks completely ignored the revelation that an unknown Democrat said "F--k the President" during a heated meeting of the House Democratic caucus Thursday.

A further examination has identified that despite corroboration by other sources, practically no American media outlets reported the news:

  • Not one single newspaper
  • Not one single wire service

A review of LexisNexis identified that the so-called most trusted name in news, CNN, reported this matter only once, but did so rather delicately during the 7 AM broadcast of "American Morning":

JOHN ROBERTS: Eighteen minutes after the hour. President Obama's tax cut deals got members of his own party livid. To give you an idea of just how high frustrations have boiled over here, multiple reports this morning that one Democrat uttered the "f" word and the president in the same sentence during a heated debate.

Uttered the "f" word and the president in the same sentence? Is that what happened?

Not according to the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman who told Keith Olbermann Thursday evening:

HOWARD FINEMAN: There was, there was sotto voce apparently, you know, not too loud, an "F the President.” There was a, there was a “No f-ing way.” There was a “He F-ed it up.” You know, we had a fairly liberal use of the F-word inside those closed doors, and there was a lot of anger. 

That's a bit more graphic and vulgar than uttering the "f" word and the president in the same sentence. As such, in the only report that CNN did on this subject, it poorly conveyed what actually happened.

Compounding the peculiarity of this media boycott is that according to ABC's The Note, the Democrat Congresswoman that was speaking when one of the f-bombs was dropped spoke to the press about it after it happened:

During a speech by Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., one of only a handful of House Democrats to back the President’s plan, a colleague interrupted with his own colorful opinion.

“I don’t think the curse word was directed at me,” Berkley told reporters following the caucus meeting.  

So if Berkley spoke to reporters about this, why didn't any report it other than ABC's The Note, Fox News, MSNBC a number of times, and CNN once.

For those thinking the reason might be the sensitivity of the word being used, consider that when Vice President Dick Cheney dropped an f-bomb to Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) on June 25, 2004, the press were all over it.

The event got reported by the Associated Press, UPI, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the New York Times although the Gray Lady wasn't specific about the word Cheney used.  

On cable television CNN covered it more than a dozen times. CNBC reported it four times. 

On broadcast television, ABC's "Good Morning America" and the CBS "Evening News" shared the event with their respective viewers.

The incident got so much coverage that Slate published a piece that day called "When Do Papers Print the F-Word?" Howard Kurtz the next day even explained to Washington Post readers the paper's decision to share Cheney's vulgarity.

More recently, news outlets weren't shy about covering Vice President Joe Biden whispering in Obama's ear as he signed healthcare reform into law, "This is a big f--king deal."

Frankly, this dropping of the f-bomb was all over the place: AP, Gannett, UPI, Agence France Presse, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and USA Today.

On cable television, CNN covered it more than 20 times, Fox twelve, and MSNBC five. Readers are advised that Fox and MSNBC don't transcribe all of their programs.

On  broadcast television:

  • ABC covered it that day on "Good Morning America" and "World News with Diane Sawyer"
  • CBS on its "Morning News," "Early Show" and "Evening News"
  • NBC on its "Today" show and "Nightly News"

Add it all up and it appears fine to report f-bombs when they are said by Republicans or express a positive sentiment about a piece of legislation the press supports.

But when they're dropped in reference to a president the media loves, not so much.

Exit question: If a Republican had said "F the President" when George W. Bush was in the White House, do you think it would have gotten much coverage?

Pat Leahy
Noel Sheppard's picture