It's always interesting to see how the several thousand readers who voted in the MRC's "public ballot" differed from the 48 media experts who selected our Best Notable Quotables of 2011 (a panel which included talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Neal Boortz, Human Events editor-in-chief Tom Winter and Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby). This year, there were six categories where our readers and the judges disagreed -- although sometimes the margins were extremely close.
Let's start with the biggest disagreement, in the "Media Millionaires for Higher Taxes Award." By a healthy margin (68 to 53), our judges chose an April 17 quote from CBS's Bob Schieffer, as he was questioning Rep. Paul Ryan on Face the Nation: "Why do these rich people need another tax cut? I mean, they’re already rich....Why cut their taxes some more?"
But readers preferred a November 6 quote from outgoing ABC This Week host Christiane Amanpour, who was badgering House Speaker John Boehner from the left: "Some 75 percent of Americans agree with an increase in tax on millionaires as a way to pay for these jobs provisions. Do you not feel that by opposing it you’re basically out of step with the American people on this issue?" Amanpour's nagging garnered 1,069 votes on our public ballot, nearly double the 612 for Schieffer.
On to "The Grim Reaper Award for Saying Conservatives Want You to Die." Our judges narrowly (64 to 61) gave the nod to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who on CNN back on September 25 said Paul Ryan's Medicare plan "would kill people, no question....That counts as cruelty to me."
But readers overwhelmingly (1,192 to 455) preferred a quote from MSNBC's Chris Matthews on April 11, who said the Republican plan to "offer a big slash in Medicare" would "kill half the people who watch this show."
Looking at our "Damn Those Conservatives Award," a pair of left-wing radio hosts battled to a near draw among both readers and our judges. By a fairly small margin (63 to 54), the judges tapped Mike Malloy for saying after the killing of Osama bin Laden "SEAL Unit 6, or whatever it's called" needed to "drop in on George Bush" because "Bush was responsible for a lot more death, innocent death, than bin Laden."
But our readers narrowly (1,102 to 1,024) selected a quote from Ed Schultz, who on his May 24 radio show slammed conservative Laura Ingraham as a "right-wing slut" and a "talk slut." That quote was so offensive, Schultz on May 25 went on MSNBC to apologize to Ingraham, and was suspended for several nights without pay.
For the "Media Hero Award," our readers liked Chris Matthews' tribute to Bill Clinton, in which he crowned Clinton "President of the World." That took 837 votes on our public ballot, vs. just 437 for our judges' pick: Barbara Walters on The View hoping that disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner would emulate Clinton and cling to public life: "We had a President named Bill Clinton who went through a great deal of trouble, weathered the storm and is now not only respected, but he’s beloved by many people with a very good marriage. So, I think Anthony Weiner should hang in there."
But among our judges, Walters only beat out Matthews by a razor-thin 61 to 59 points -- basically, a tie.
In our "Flunk the Founding Fathers Award," the readers selected a goofy quote from Washington Post writer/blogger Ezra Klein, who on December 30, 2010 dismissed the Constitution as "confusing, because it was written more than 100 years ago." That quote snagged 894 votes, vs. 669 for Time's Richard Stengel who, in a July 4 cover story that depicted the Constitution going through a shredder, astonishingly claimed: "If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn't say so." For our judges, Stengel's inanity was worth 75 points, vs. 69 for Klein's.
Finally, we asked our readers and judges to choose a winner in the "MSNBC = Mean-Spirited, Nasty, Belligerent Chris Award," for Chris Matthews' loopy on-air statements. The judges narrowly (66 to 62) picked a quote from back in March when Matthews trashed the just-declared presidential candidate Newt Gingrich: "He looks like a car bomber. He’s got that crazy Mephistophelian grin of his. He looks like he loves torturing."
The Gingrich-bashing drew 449 votes from our readers, but 769 votes went to another wacky Matthews' moment from back in January when the Hardball host asked ex-GOP chairman Michael Steele what it was like to be black at a Republican convention: "You go to a Republican event, you get a feeling that you are all told, ‘Individually now, don’t bunch up. Don’t, don’t, don’t get together. Don’t get together, don’t crowd, you’ll scare these people.’ Is that true in the Republican Party? Is that still true in your party? Did you fear that if you got together with some other African-Americans, these white guys might get scared of you?”
Steele burst out laughing at Matthews' zaniness: "No! What are you talking about?!"
For videos of all of these quotes (or audio clips of the radio quotes), check out our complete awards issue -- with many more categories and many more quotes -- at www.mrc.org.