Former NYT Editor: Sarah Palin 'Bears Some Guilt Here' for Tabloidish Book Getting TV Coverage

Palin-trashing author Joe McGinniss is booked for several TV interviews this week.  The New York Times reports the list includes Morning Joe, The View, The Joy Behar Show, and The Colbert Report. On CNN's Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz added Piers Morgan Tonight. "TV seems to have the idea that if it's a book, if it's between hard covers, it has a certain stature that allows it to be covered, but there are a lot of crappy books out there."

Wrong. Tabloidish books about Barack Obama have generally not been featured like McGinniss. But Steve Roberts, a former Washington bureau chief of The New York Times and husband of TV journalist Cokie Roberts, actually argued on CNN that Palin somehow "bears some guilt here" for these tabloid tales, since she's become a celebrity and starred in a reality TV show: 

And look, but she bears some guilt here, Howie. Yes, I think the McGinniss book is a heap of trash from everything I've read about it, but she has played this game herself.

She, as Michelle says quite rightly, she has played the celebrity game. She wants to be a celebrity. She has been on reality TV. In some ways, she changes the standards herself.

Roberts also tried to blame the Internet (read: blogosphere) for loosening journalistic standards, unlike the New York Times. Ahem, the same New York Times that splashed Kitty Kelley's tales of Nancy Reagan sleeping with Frank Sinatra in their paper while he was there, in 1991?

I actually notice a difference. I mean, I worked at The New York Times for 25 years. There are editors. There are filters. There are standards. There are processes your material goes through. What has increasingly happened in this Web culture is that there are no filters, there are no editors. Now, many people say this is great because it's the Wild West, and there are more voices. But what has been almost entirely eliminated in many ways is this notion of accountability and verification in a lot of the Web publications.

Kurtz then turned to the new book on the Obama White House by Ron Suskind. That case was different, claimed Roberts, since they are a serious subject, and Sarah Palin is somehow a joke that deserves what she's getting:

Ron Suskind  has a reputation, a pretty reliable reporter, former "Wall Street Journal" reporter. He's written several major books in the past. But even there, there is the implication that he has blown up some of these stories into feuds and has taken sort of the more extreme version of events. But they are very different. The Obama White House is a serious subject. Sarah Palin is not a serious subject in anything like the same way.

As Kurtz wrapped up the segment,  he went back to Roberts to question that Palin dismissal:

KURTZ: Before we go to break, who said Sarah Palin is not a serious subject? You?


KURTZ: You? What do you mean she's not a serious subject? She was the vice presidential nominee. So a serious book about her would certainly be worthy of consideration.

ROBERTS: Yes, but what I'm saying is that she has cast herself in many ways much more as a celebrity, as Michelle said, much more as a reality TV star.

COTTLE: She's more Donald Trump.

ROBERTS: She's the one who has defined herself as less serious, not the rest of us.

KURTZ: Which still doesn't give any author or writer or journalist the right to publish unattributed crap.

Roberts claimed "I agree completely," but everything he said up to that point suggested she brought this on herself.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis