President Obama infuriated the leaders of Poland on Tuesday while honoring Jan Karski with the Medal of Freedom. He said Karski smuggled into a “Polish death camp” to see the Holocaust. (Um, no, that’s a Nazi death camp located in Poland). Despite the international incident, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired nothing on the gaffe.
But shamelessly, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today both found “news” in the scoop-let that the Romney campaign misspelled “America” in an iPhone app. (CBS skipped both.) The gaffe also recalled the so-called “fashion faux pas” of 2005, when Vice President Cheney wore a parka to an anniversary at Auschwitz -- except the Poles weren't furious at that one.
Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan fulminated then against the winter wear across the top of the Style section, and was followed up by stories on the PBS NewsHour (Gwen Ifill) and MSNBC’s Countdown (Alison Stewart sitting in) as well as a pundit panel with CNN’s Judy Woodruff.
MSNBC’s shows included on Nexis aired nothing on Obama’s “Polish death camp” gaffe. The PBS NewsHour shamelessly mentioned Medal of Freedom winners -- including Karski -- without mentioning the death-camp gaffe. The Post stuck a small item on A-3...which also including the Romney misspelling.
CNN blew it off quickly on “John King USA” in its little news update, never discussing it with his pundits:
KING: For now, though, let's get back to Lisa Sylvester with the latest news you need to know right now. Hi, there.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Before President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to one-time Polish resistance courier Jan Karski yesterday, he said this.
OBAMA: For one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale and smuggled him into the Warsaw ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.
SYLVESTER: That reference to a Polish rather than a Nazi death camp provoked outrage and demands for an apology, including from Polish officials. Here's what they got.
CARNEY: The president misspoke. He was referring to Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland. And as we made clear, we regret the misstatement.
SYLVESTER: And now to the Hague...
This is one way that omissions help Obama preserve his reputation as (a) intelligent about history and (b) friendly and not a jerk who sticks it to our allies. The Post's David Nakamura at least captured how badly the Poles greeted a White House attempt on Tuesday to say Obama just misspoke:
But that did not sit well with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who called on the White House to issue a stronger correction.
The president's inaccurate words "touched all Poles," Tusk said. "We always react in the same way when ignorance, lack of knowledge, bad intentions lead to such a distortion of history, so painful for us here in Poland, in a country which suffered like no other in Europe during World War II. . . . This is something that we cannot ignore."
But the journalists in the tank for Obama could easily ignore it at ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, PBS, and NPR.